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Innovation

Blackboard embraces and extends into open source movement

Anyone seeking a case study of how a proprietary software company can "embrace and extend" itself into the open source world should stop thinking Microsoft and start thinking Blackboard.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Anyone seeking a case study of how a proprietary software company can "embrace and extend" itself into the open source world should stop thinking Microsoft and start thinking Blackboard.

(Picture from the University of Alaska. Bonus points if you find a link to Russia from the site.)

Blackboard has a long-running feud with open source, ably chronicled by our own Christopher Dawson. Open source Learning Management Systems (LMSs) like Moodle, Sakai and OLAT have been seeking its market share for five years now.

Part of the solution was to open source tools for use with its proprietary suite. Blackboard may have been overly-aggressive in pushing this as a true open source solution but it wasn't finished yet.

Phase Two involves signing alliances with educators and lining up scaled resources from within the open source ecosystem.

Today's news brings an example.

It's a deal with Northwestern University (Go Wildcats) to integrate its Blackboard Learn platform within Google Apps as a single sign-on. The Building Block itself is open source, Google Apps is based on open source, but here's the imprimatur of a major University (and big customer) linking a proprietary LMS into it.

Earlier this year Blackboard signed a deal with Flat World Knowledge, the open source textbook publisher we've written of here, to integrate Flat World textbooks with Blackboard Learn.

Given Blackboard's position as a market leader, and its open source Building Blocks for handling the integration, the move by Flat World is logical and justifiable.

The result, however, is that despite open source a proprietary LMS is more entrenched than ever within its marketplace.

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