EDUCAUSE takeaway #1 - Google/Pearson LMS partnership? Not so much

Aside from "Don't fly in or out of Philadelphia International, ever" there was a lot to be learned about the state of the art in ed tech at EDUCAUSE. Some perspective on the new Pearson LMS was definitely in order.

This hasn't been a particularly prolific week for me on this blog...things are looking up a bit next week now that EDUCAUSE is behind me. For now, though, I wanted to share a bit from the biggest US ed tech conference for higher education. The biggest overall takeaway for me was the growing importance and maturity of web platforms for education. Learning management systems, content management systems (and hybrids of the two), databases, and the like have come a very long way from the default choice of Blackboard. Even Blackboard is rapidly building out mobile platforms and introducing new features rapid fire to keep up a growing cache of competitors.

Related to this is the apparent Google/Pearson partnership announced in the leadup to EDUCAUSE. As written in the Chronicle of Higher Education (and echoed across the educational blogosphere),

One of the world’s biggest education publishers has joined with one of the most dominant and iconic software companies on the planet to bring colleges a new—and free—learning-management system with the hopes of upending services that affect just about every instructor, student, and college in the country.

I didn't write about this when it was first announced since Google has long maintained that it didn't want to get into the LMS business, sticking instead with Google Apps for Education and integrated search capabilities for schools. I figured this deserved a bit of actual journalism, so I held my pen until I could speak with some people at EDUCAUSE.

As it turns out, sources close to Google made it very clear that there was no "partnership" between the two companies. As one source noted, that would be like saying the my company had partnered with Apple just because we announced an iPad App. Nobody particularly wanted to be quoted, hoping to put something a media relations debacle behind them and focus instead on what Pearson's new LMS really represented: a powerful entry into the Google Apps Marketplace.

There's no doubt that Pearson's LMS provides a great free alternative in the LMS space for schools already using Google Apps. Along with 5 other learning management system listed in the Marketplace, OpenClass offers users easy single sign-on from Google Apps and a fully hosted environment so that schools don't need to make further data center investments to use a quality LMS. According to the Marketplace writeup,

OpenClass integrates seamlessly with Google Apps for Education, enabling easy setup and single sign-on and includes tools that support the automatic import of content from external sources. Users can launch OpenClass directly from within their Google Apps experience and access their Google applications through OpenClass.

Currently optimized for US Higher Ed institutions.

Features • Collaborative spaces for students to interact with coursework • Ability to create and edit course content directly from within the platform • Deep integration to Gmail, Google Docs and Calendar

It is not, however, the result of a partnership between Pearson and Google. I applaud Pearson for building an open platform that can be so easily accessed via Google Apps, used in thousands of schools, but it's important to keep it in perspective as many in the educational press were talking about the doom of other LMS vendors and the disruptive potential of OpenClass.

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