Monday, March 30, 2009

Is Blackboard Losing Clients?

There's lots of speculation about how much ill-will has been created in the education community by Blackboard's predatory business practices, but not much hard data either way. The real question is how many former Blackboard/WebCT clients have left the flock since the merger (acquisition?) of the two giants that was first announced on October 12, 2005.

Now it's 3.5 years later. I thought it would be interesting to try to compile a list of schools/consortia/orgs that have switched away from either Blackboard or WebCT to any of the other alternatives, or vice versa. To that end, I've thrown together a simple wiki where anyone can enter information about changes they've made to their IMS/VLE adoptions during that time frame.

Besides the home page, there are three additional pages on this wiki:

In addition, there is a discussion forum for those who are so inclined.

For those who have missed it, on March 26, 2009, Desire2Learn announced their Million $ Mission in a letter from D2L CEO John Baker to Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen. That same day a Facebook fan page was also created to show support for this offer as a resolution to the ongoing patent battle between the two companies.

Please share this widely. Let's try to get lots of entries on this wiki. (Of course, Blackboard could help us out by publishing a list of new clients added and clients lost, but I'm quite certain that will never happen.)

I saw two things during the past couple of days that made me decide to try to gather this info.
  • First, I was intrigued by the listing of the IMS choices of the 64 teams in the NCAA basketball tourney. Those schools seem to be a pretty good cross-section of larger universities in the U.S. The only IMS that appears to be under-represented in the field is Angel (only 1 school). Otherwise, the scoreboard says Blackboard = 49 (77% of the 64 schools), Desire2Learn = 9 (14%), Sakai = 2 (3%), and Moodle = 2 (3%).
  • Second, Leonard Low of Australia left a comment on the previous post (Blackboard's Last Chance) stating that "The disapproval of Blackboard's conduct over the last few years has been so strong that 100% of the tertiary institutions in my city (5 of them) - all of which once used WebCT - have now already migrated, or are in the process of migrating to, other platforms. They could have kept us all if they'd conducted themselves with a modicum of integrity." How common is that point-of-view? I hope we find out.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blackboard's Last Chance

Desire2Learn has lobbed a softball directly at Blackbeard (err, Blackboard). We'll see if the Presidential Pirate (Michael Chasen) can hit the ball out of the park.

From the D2L Patent Info blog, we read that D2L's John Baker made the following proposal to Blackboard's Chasen:

  • Blackboard drop its recently-filed suit in a timely manner.
  • In return, Desire2Learn will donate $1,000,000 to non-profit schools and educational organizations.
  • Blackboard is invited to join us with its own donation.
  • Up to 50% of the Desire2Learn donation will be directed toward schools in need in and around Washington, D.C., the home of Blackboard.
Obviously, Blackboard hasn't been willing to do the right thing up to this point, and the amount of badwill that they have incurred over these lawsuits has to be a great deal more than they estimated when they undertook this path against D2L. Here's a chance to do the right thing - quite possibly the last chance for Blackboard to begin repairing their image with much of the educational community.

Baker is giving Chasen a chance to be the good guy (not sure that he is interested in such a moniker), and I think he would be wise to take it. Blackboard will most certainly disagree with my next statement, but I believe that the lawsuit is a major contributor to their continued loss of clients.

The 2008 ITC survey "Trends in e-Learning" (will link when website comes back up) was completed by 139 schools. 58% of those schools report that they are using one of the BlackCT products for their LMS. A year earlier the same survey (not exactly the same repsondents) showed a 77% usage rate for BlackCT (that's Blackboard and WebCT combined for the unitiated). "This continues a trend in the decline in usage of Blackboard/WebCT over the past four years." Additionally, 37% of the respondents indicated that they were considering a switch in their LMS platform in the next few years. Obviously, many of those are Bb users. The survey last year also indicated a large number of schools considering a Blackboard dump.

Here's a chance to put this nonsense to rest - to save everybody a ton of money (except the lawyers) - and to put education/teaching/learning at the forefront as it should be. Even Chasen should be able to see that slow-arcing pitch and lay the wood to it. (I was reading today about how men overdo the use of sports analogies, so I couldn't resist.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

8 Week Courses for Online AA Degree

Registration opens soon for both summer and fall terms at Lake Superior College. We will now be offering enough sections of online courses in an 8-week format to allow students to compete the Online A.A. (Associate in Arts) degree on a more flexible schedule. Courses run for 8 weeks at a time instead of 16, although the traditional length courses will still be offered and are in fact still the standard offering in our schedule. However, I do expect the 8-week courses to be quite popular. In addition, students will now have 5 different entry points (start dates) during the school year.
Here's our new video:

and here's the new print ad:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Twouble in Twitterville

Even though I love Twitter as a way to stay connected with really smart people, I still think that this video is hilarious.

The inane commentary shown in this video is the reason that I almost gave up on Twitter about a year ago. The tweets were basically worthless and I didn't care at all about which bagel shop someone had stopped at. However, then as I added the right people to the network, I started to learn something useful from it every day. Now it is the one web-based tool that I would least want to give up. Still, that is funny and very well done.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Student Introductions in Online Courses

Why not throw away this tired, old assignment? "Please post an introduction of yourself to the rest of the class on the discussion board."

This is the type of response you'll get to this opening week assignment. (This is an actual student post, although YMMV)

"My Name is Kristine. I am currently working towards my LPN degree. I would like to complete my RN someday too. I stay busy, as I have a husband and a 3 year boy & a 2 year old daughter! I also have 5 horses and 4 dogs. They all keep me very busy, but I love it. We live on a farm in rural MN. I am very excited about this course, it should be very interesting!"

Musical Introductions

Change the assignment. Tell students to use a free music service such as iMeem or Seeqpod (or any of several others) to create a 3-song playlist that tells you a little something about them. You might ask them to write why these songs speak to them or what these songs say about who they are as a person.

2008 Web Tools Embed

Creating the playlist is free and easy. They can simply link to the playlist in the discussion board, or with just a little bit of effort they could actually embed the playlist into the threaded discussion area for the introductions (assuming your VLE allows students to edit html, which they can in Desire2Learn).

Comic Strip Introductions

Change the assignment. Tell them to go to and create a comic strip that tells a little something about them. Pretty much open ended - you never know what you're going to get!


Once again students can either link to there completed Doo or embed it in the discussion post. Another option would be to have a wiki set up where students would just edit the page and add their playlist or comic strip so that you have them all on one page for comparison and future reference.

These are just two examples of how you can use free web-based tools (Web 2.0, if you will) to spice up an otherwise boring assignment. These tools are easy for students to learn, totally free to use, and fun. Nothing wrong with having a little fun while you learn.

This post is based on a portion of a workshop I presented with Kim Goudy at ITC09 titled: "It's NOT my Job to Entertain Students." See the presentation wiki here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Twitter Favorites from ITC09

At the eLearning 2009 (ITC09) conference last month there was a fair number of active Twitterers who were keeping up with the various activities by tweeting their experiences for others in attendance as well as many followers who were not at the conference at all. Sharing links, making comments, making plans for dinner and other get-togethers, and several other purposes were enabled by Twitter. Below are some of the almost 400 tweets that included the tag ITC09. There were many others that didn't include the tag.

One of the best examples of how Twitter changed the conference for me was when I was sitting in a not-too-special presentation and saw a tweet about how a discussion about accessibility formed in another room after the presenter didn't show up. I was curious about how that was going and two minutes later I was able to join the discussion. I was also able to get almost immediate feedback about sessions where I was presenting to see what worked best and what didn't.

There were several blog posts, including several live blogs of sessions, but I think there was more Twitter activity than blog activity related to the conference. This highlights the importance of having wifi available throughout the conference site to enable this kind of communication. This is a sampling of the tweets about the conference.

  1. Barry Dahlbarrydahl a little less than 1% of photos on Flickr have CreativeCommons licensing. @BryanAlexander ITC09
  2. Chris/cmdukecmduke a new blog post > What’s missing in online course quality? (ITC09)
  3. Monica Marlom2sE Moved chairs in a circle to have a conversation rather than lecture for our #itc09 session- what an amazing group 2 share with, thank u all!
  4. hardball8hardball8 #ITC09 "mass personalization strategies" discussed here:
  5. Chris/cmdukecmduke - the Managing the Back Channel section is outstanding.
  6. Chris/cmdukecmduke RT @ajwms @sherrymn @cmduke Live blog for "Understanding the Nature of Mobile Learning"
  7. marsmars2marsmars2 - Itc09 is awesome - so many great ideas! Whoa!
  8. Chris/cmdukecmduke liveblogging Measuring Quality in ONline Courses Using Multiple Metrics at #itc09
  9. Gabriel Mcgoverngabrielmcgovern Brian keeps suggesting other people for the #ITC09 keynote. I disagree, listening to Brian is like a mashup of all those individuals.
  10. Michael AmickGoamick ITC09 Brain Lamb keynote finds that limiting image searches to freeuse results inbetter images for educational use-besides legal to use yah!
  11. Chris/cmdukecmduke @mccant there's a good conversation going in a CoverItLive backchannel -
  12. Michael AmickGoamick In Session "It's not My Job to Entertain Students" ITC09 "But it is your job to ENGAGE students" Barry Dahl and Kim Goudy
  13. Sherry Nixonsherrymn @rashford I agree. Had a conversation with @cmduke after. We are concerned on the impact debate may have had.
  14. AJ Wmsajwms @fleep: community of educators provides a great way to learn and try. Not for all but it is new way to see the future.
  15. AJ Wmsajwms @barrydahl: SL is a creepy treehouse where higher ed is trying to show how cool we are. Not many students are in SL. #itc09
  16. Gabriel Mcgoverngabrielmcgovern Best tip of #itc09 yet: 80% off at Thanks Stephen!
  17. Gabriel Mcgoverngabrielmcgovern #ITC09 wireless seems much better then the presenters ethernet connections. Bizarro world. How did the hotel screw up the land line?
  18. Chris/cmdukecmduke @BryanAlexander #elearn2009 answer to my question: Clear Forest Gnosis -
  1. jj johnsonjjjohnson01 #itc09 thanks for attending our presentation. Good conference; can't wait until next year!
  2. jj johnsonjjjohnson01 Last day for #ITC09. It's been a great conference this year. Kudos to the organizing committee and staff!! I'm voting for Nashville!
  3. AJ Wmsajwms @barrydahl think ITC is ready for The Rev?
  4. Abject Learnerbrlamb I generally hate hit-and-run trips, and I wish I could have seen more of Portland. But I did get to go to Powell's and hang out with @jstein
  5. Abject Learnerbrlamb Judging from the new Twitter adds, and some @brlamb replies, I made some friends at the talk today. Relieved it went OK, it was a big room.
  6. busynessgirlbusynessgirl Wishes there was a website
  7. Sean McKayseanmckay 12.9% of online growth rate for online enrollments exceeds the 1.2% growth of the overall higher education student population #itc09
  8. busynessgirlbusynessgirl Presenters need to spend more time ontheir real topic and less time leading up to their topic.
  9. Matthew Evinsevinsmj If you didn't go to the cheatability session, use this survey to determine how cheatable your course is - #itc09
  10. AJ Wmsajwms totally stealing @brlamb's joke about who never raises their hand at talks. Asked them to raise their hand.
  11. Abject Learnerbrlamb Man, I just looked at the schedule, and my keynote is scheduled to begin at 8 AM. Who the hell would actually want that? I'd better sleep.
  12. jj johnsonjjjohnson01 @fleep @barrydahl Thanks for the debate at lunch! Barry cheated (great debate technique, btw), but good info from both sides.

  13. Matthew Evinsevinsmj Apparently I'm using twitter too much when @barrydahl pulls up his netvibes account for the conference and the top few tweets are from me!
  14. Paula Ascherpascher The cheatability factor session this morning at eLearning was great. Thanks John and Jared!
  15. Bryan AlexanderBryanAlexander Live-blogging course management comparison session, Epsilen vs Blackboard:, at #itc09.
  16. Paula Ascherpascher Entertaining the idea of using for online class intros and assignments