Blackboard Doubles Down on Development and MOOCs

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Blackboard World was last week and Blackboard CEO, Jay Bhatt and Bb Teaching and Learning President, Ray Henderson, exclaimed the companies efforts to keep on top of the elearning market. Both articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education focused on the announcements by the company in regards to its future plans.

MOOCs: For those of us working in Higher Education, the MOOC phenomenon is progressing through the hype cycle and garnering more and more attention (lock step with the amount of capital it also is attracting). Blackboard’s original foray into massive courses began with Coursesites, the Blackboard Learn experimentation site where teachers can host courses for free as they try out Blackboard’s flagship LMS. The recent announcement at BBWorld is a nod to the company’s interest in maintaining tight relationships with its higher education clients as they think about MOOCs and their potential as a lead generator and marketing engine for the schools. Blackboards play at creating its own solution helps to ensure that at least some clients won’t have to go with Coursera, EdX or other providers to engage huge numbers of students.

The company announced at its annual conference here that it would create a new MOOC platform that colleges could use free if they were existing Blackboard customers…

Many colleges looking to experiment with MOOCs have signed up for Coursera or edX, two popular platforms that are growing fast. And one of Blackboard’s competitors in the course-management software business, Instructure, already offers a MOOC platform for its customers, called Canvas Network.

Colleges “want this,” said Mr. Henderson, referring to support for free online courses. “If they don’t get it from us, they could get it from someone else, which initiates a new relationship that is potentially a risk to us.”

Blackboard also announced that 15 additional institutions, including Temple University’s business school and Syracuse University, plan to offer MOOCs using Blackboard’s software starting this fall.

bb (2)Doubling Software Development: Mentioned really only in passing, the Chronicle led with the message that Mr. Bhatt, Bb CEO was doubling investment in the company’s core products, including Blackboard Learn and increasing development spending to try to solidify its customer base and improve the LMS as competition from companies like Instructure are riding high on usability and rapid development techniques.  It will be interesting to hear how and if Moodle fits into the category of “core products” and if development will be picking up at both Moodlerooms and Netspot to improve  their own enterprise products and code bases (namely Moodlerooms’ Joule platform).

In any event, the next few years in eLearning stand to be interesting. With MOOCs currently in the limelight, a fierce competition among the various LMSes available on the market is ramping up. Investment in the product through software development will increase and community building through free services, network effects and social aspects of each platform will become ever more important to the success of each software company.

The only question I have is where’s the Moodle-based MOOC platform?


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