Reading the Blackboard Tea Leaves

If you are trying to do some tasseography about the announcement yesterday that Blackboard has acquired acquired Moodlerooms and NetSpot, here are a variety of links that have come to me via email, listservs and tweets.

Everyone should keep in mind that owning those companies is not anything close to owning Moodle. The two companies acquired are leading providers of Moodle (which is free and open sourced) service solutions to the education market. Moodlerooms is in the USA and NetSpot is in Australia and they are both official Moodle Partners. Part of the announcement said that each will continue their current programs to support clients with no changes to their leadership or their support and service models.

Why is Bb moving in this direction? Two reasons culled from posts by the company's CEO & CTO (see below) are "...this shift is the result of the broader perspective that has come over the past few years as we have updated our vision and mission. Rather than focusing just on the LMS market, we're looking at the entire student lifecycle within the education institutions we serve... online learning continues to grow all around the world, applied to increasingly diverse learning challenges every year. As usage deepens, needs not only expand, they also become more specialized. The result for education institutions is the need for increased choice among systems with different strengths and deployment models to best suit their particular situation.”

Blackboard Announces Continued Support for Angel – this is a change from the previous “expiration” date of October 2014 for Angel and from Blackboard’s tendency to eventually discontinue other products has acquired.

Senior leaders from Blackboard, Moodlerooms and NetSpot signed a Statement of Principles affirming that their work would continue a number of key initiatives currently supported by Moodlerooms and NetSpot, including contributions of software code to the open source community, financial support for the Moodle Trust, and continued support for community gatherings like Moodlemoots.

Blackboard Launches Open Source Services Group – “a new effort to support clients using open source education technologies. With the announcement, the company will continue to focus on its flagship Blackboard Learn™ platform as well as ANGEL and Edline, while also helping institutions successfully manage open source learning management systems (LMS) including Moodle and Sakai."

Blackboard Appoints Sakai Foundation Board Member Charles Severance to Lead Company’s Sakai Initiatives – “a longtime leader and one of the founders of the Sakai community, to a senior role to lead the company’s initiative on the Sakai open source learning management system.” And here is Chuck Severance’s own blog posting giving a fairly extensive explanation of why he accepted this position and his excitement for the future.

Ray Henderson (CTO and President, Academic Platforms for Blackboard) describes their plans in his blog post: Evolution Unbound: Blackboard Embraces Open Source – “…should we expand our offerings to include multiple LMS products, particularly the open source products that are now more widely adopted? Our answer is yes.The long game for Blackboard is to bring the full complement of our solutions across the student lifecycle to more institutions”

Michael Chasen (CEO) and Ray Henderson write An Open Letter to the Education Community – “The high level change is this: Blackboard is becoming a multiple learning platform company that supports both commercially developed software as well as open source solutions.”


Blackboard Acquires Moodlerooms, NetSpot (Sacramento Bee article) 

Blackboard, MoodleRooms, NetSpot: First Reactions (Inside Higher Ed)
Tony Bates’ blog

Blackboard Buys Mooderooms & Embraces Open “This announcement will make my OER friends nervous, but I think it has the potential to bring new investment and energy to open platforms. 

You Can Acquire Open Source Companies, But You Can’t Buy Open Source Community

Blackboard Inc. Buys Moodlerooms and NetSpot, with Eye Toward Open Source


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