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Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I'm baffled!  Today Blackboard announced the acquisition of Moodlerooms and NetSpot, Pty.

See Ray Henderson's bloghttp://www.rayhblog.com/blog/2012/03/evolution-unbound-blackboard-embraces-open-source.html

See Moodlerooms' news announcement: http://www.moodlerooms.com/news/news__node/127/

Also THE Journal has an article with a quote from Martin Dougiamas:  http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/03/26/blackboard-buys-out-moodlerooms-netspot.aspx

Can someone help me understand this?  What are your thoughts?

 
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Art Lader
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Documentation writers

Now THAT'S pretty interesting.

Have to wait and see what it really means, right?

Art

 
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Picture of Frances Bell
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I am curious to see how community support evolves (here and at their own community space). I had a log in at the Moodlerooms Community space (did you too Art?) and from my recollection it was a very inactive space.

Moodlerooms seem to have traditional ticketed help desk support but as Moodle.org shows there is space for a lot of community-based support.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Interesting? Depressing I would say. Go through the history of open source aquisitions by the "enterprise" to see why.
 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

The path of evolution is clear... isn't it?

It looks to me like they're finally accepting what many Blackboard users have been saying all along. Everyone I've met in education who has to use Blackboard hasn't had a good word to say about it. I've often watched as tutors and researchers hang their heads and "admit" that their institution uses Blackboard.

The question is, can they make amends to rescue their reputation?

 
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Picture of Joseph Thibault
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

love the logo.

 
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Picture of Vicke Denniston
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

My institution just (within the last 30 days) left Blackboard for Moodlerooms. I think hosed describes how I feel right now, after having encouraged this move

 
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Picture of Don Hinkelman
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

As a co-owner of Moodle, I welcome this move because it affirms the value of a collaborative community of open source developers, teachers and learners is more powerful than a proprietory, closed source financial entity for promoting good education across the world.

It will be good for the community in the short run if Netspot and Moodlerooms increase their contributions to the Moodle Trust. If they do not, I will be puzzled and skeptical. I am also skeptical in the long run, as Matt implies, because Blackboard has a long reputation of being financially motivated and driven by legal shinanigans. Moodle is more driven by a spirit of collaboration. Can Blackboard change?

By the way, Blackboard has long expressed interest in becoming a Moodle Partner directly, but their offers were rather self-centered or perhaps out of desperation. This acquisition shows they were truly serious or truly saw the end of a commercially-viable proprietory system.

I am curious who benefited from the financial windfall of the acquisition. Presumably, the Moodle Trust did not and as a co-owner of Moodle (among millions of co-owners) we did not directly benefit. I hope those who received millions of dollars realize that much of the value of their enterprise was created by thousands of teachers enthusiastically sharing with another teacher how to make a forum or a quiz in this lovely LMS.

 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Co-owner, lol? Did something change in Moodle's structuring?

This affirms little or nothing.  Blackboard is about making money and protecting its market share, and it has moved through its segment with that in mind.  In fact,  one could argue that with the sudden and increasing success of canvas as contrasted with Moodle that Bb is simply looking at trying to offer an open source allternative to Canvas.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Wow.  From Ray's post:

SAKAI as well:
"As we considered who might best guide us in our strategy and acceptance within the Sakai community we immediately thought of Chuck Severance. Chuck was among the founders of the Sakai project and enjoys a well- earned reputation in ed-tech circles for both his technological insight and skills as a community organizer. I’m pleased to share that Chuck has joined us to lead our effort to develop a supportive relationship with the Sakai community, define how we can contribute to its future platform development, and assist us in building a services practice that’s well suited to the unique needs of this emerging community"

HMM:
"And so it happened that the University of California selected Blackboard to build and support their online courses to be delivered on Sakai and Moodle"

And:
"And we invite everyone to reconsider the caricature of Blackboard they may have written to firmware from prior years"

Bb has a little bit of credibility to win back for me personally, having sullied my reputation with the WebCT>Bb migration I did training for, where it was a case of "Shoot the messenger" and "reduce trust with the shift to Moodle"  My firmware has quite a lot to be changed.

I will watch with interest.  I'll probably choose an optimistic and hopeful view.  How much in the way of staff transplants and blood transfusions can shift a culture?

Netspot and Moodlerooms probably have had an offer they couldn't refuse.  In a little pinprick of self centredness, it explains why my questions in LinkedIn, Moode docs, the blog and the MR contacts page re the fate of MR Flexpage For 2+ have gotten no response: bigger fish to fry.

Personally my thoughts are with the folk in MR and NS who are not the bosses, especially the few I have met.  I trust all goes well in the mental re-organisation required.

-Derek

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Blackboard was bought out by Providence Equity Partners venture (vulture?) capitalists, who specialise in leveraged buyouts, last year. Presumably they borrowed the $1.64 billion they paid and need to see a significant return on that ASAP. Leveraged buyouts are usually about a fast turnaround and how to extract the biggest possible return in the shortest possible time regardless of the long-term outcomes. If they destroy Moodle and/or Blackboard in the process, that's just business.

Kevin Carter - vulture capitalism

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Matt

How could you call "providence equity", (impartial) divine care or guidance, vulture capitalists?
;-(

Whatever those humorists rhyme, sorry, I find your graphic distressing.
 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Visvanath,

It's not Providence Equity in particular, it venture capitalists in general. They like to portray themselves as innovators and job creators whereas their track records don't support such claims.

As a very hammed-up, grotesquely simplified description: The initial idea of venture capitalism came from the UK's Mayfair set, namely Jim Slater, James Goldsmith and Tiny Rowland who managed to asset strip large portions of the UK's manufacturing industries via levaraged buyouts, causing massive unemployment and political and social unrest. Attempts to control inflation with idealised, simplified monetarist policies only exacerbated the problem (AKA the Thatcher years). The US adopted their means with vim and vigour with the help of James Goldsmith.

We handed over control of our national economic policies to a bunch of sociopathic opportunists and expected long term prosperity and stability.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hi Matt

I couldn't follow your "grotesquely simplified description" of venture capitalism until I came to "AKA the Thatcher years". Yes, that I remember very well. Reagan providing the entertainment for Thatcher's looting.

Talking of "handing over control of our national economic policies to a bunch of sociopathic opportunists" the Swiss did that too, letting the banks run the country. There was indeed generations of old school bankers in this country, but since the "Thather era" they were continuously swallowed by monsters.

The financial crisis showed some signs of awareness in the public but now the banks saying they have everything under control the system is slipping back to the former state - except at the international level. There the country is right now hammered by the USA an Germany.
 
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Picture of Phil Hill
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

FWIW - Providence Equity Partners is a private equity firm, very different than venture capital. Private equity tends to buy for cash flow, restructure (occasionally sell assets), get company in shape, then sell in few years. Venture capital tends to invest in growing, early-stage companies, typically funds the cash flow, and looks for exit by IPO or M&A from bigger company.

I do believe that this is relevant, in that Providence now understands the true company status, prospects. Clearly this change in strategy is influenced by new ownership and their evaluation of Bb cash flow potential.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
I went to http://www.moodlerooms.com -> Company -> Meet Our Team http://www.moodlerooms.com/company/meet-our-team/. Can't remember meeting any of them in moodle.org?
 
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Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Visvanath,

Although I still am reeling from the acquisition announcement, I believe it is unfair to castigate Moodlerooms about their support for Moodle.  I know many folks at Moodlerooms, respect them, and know they have a deep commitment to Moodle.  Most of the persons listed on the Moodlerooms Executive Team are involved in the business end of the company.  But, come on, Tom Murdock? He posts on Moodle forums.

 
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Picture of Tom Murdock
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Hi all, 

Thanks for the balanced reaction on this extraordinarily surprising news.  I wanted to weigh in with a few points that have been mostly covered but that are critical to us at Moodlerooms.

First, we've spent many years working to become a trusted company in the Moodle Partner network.  I started the company with friends and used combinations of angel investments, bootstrapping, and venture capital to fund the services, products, and staff that we have today.  During that time, we've grown to more than 90 employees and I'm really proud of our record with clients, as well as the contributions we've made to core with royalties and occasional code (like CC and LTI in the 2.2 release). 

Although we've made plenty of mistakes, I contend that we totally "get" the Moodle ecosystem and have spent a great deal of time teaching people (including clients and investors) about the independence of Moodle.  Along these lines, I believe that the "Statement of Principles" posted here (http://www.blackboard.com/About-Bb/News-Center/Press-Releases/Strategy-Update/statement-of-principles.aspx), reflects the kind of humble position that I think all companies should make to a community like Moodle.

Secondly, holding companies accountable to stated principles is really critical.  Six years ago, Moodlerooms argued that many schools had "given away" their rights to their own data (as well as other rights) and that they had to demand those back.  Since then the LMS market has shifted towards interoperability (this was our drum-beat, but we can't take credit for its success).  Success stories like IMS Common Cartridge and LTI (supported by all the leading LMS systems) are testimony to high requirements from the education market.  Although every system does not have to be open source, it makes sense for the market to share open standards.

Third, in order to understand the "big shift" in Blackboard strategy, you have to look at their diverse portfolio of companies: Collaborate, Analytics, and Mobile are big parts of their business.  In a world of diverse LMS systems, it makes good business sense to support multiple paths to your products.  I think it also makes sense that Blackboard wants experienced teams of Moodlers (Netspot and Moodlerooms) to be thoughtful about ways to connect Moodle to their other product lines.  Moreover, if a school needs to have multiple LMS systems in order to support the diverse needs of its constituents, why wouldn't Blackboard want a Moodle Partner company to provide outstanding support for those users?

I'll stop my list here, but I'll state the obvious: with this merger, we have outlined some very positive intentions for the community in our list of principles.  We fully intend to live by those rules.  From the start, Moodlerooms has expressed affordability, sustainability, and openness as its critical goals.  In the coming months, I am confident that we will likely improve upon our delivery of those goals.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Don't you have any qualms about the fact that the company you sold to

  1. owns software patents; and
  2. in the past has used one of its more more spurious patents in a highly un-competitive way to try to kill one of its competitors?

I notice that the statemet does not address patents at all.

Fortunately, GPL3 is very clear on the subject. smile

Anyway, I hope your spoons are long enough.

 
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Art Lader
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Documentation writers

> I am confident that we will likely
> improve upon our delivery of those goals.

FWIW: I worked for Tom at Moodlerooms for several years. Never once have I know him to mislead, dissemble or stray from the truth. Never.

To me, his word is gold.

 
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Picture of rick burkett
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

That is because 1 of them was founding CEO of Blackboard, and three of them are from ANGEL.  It looks like after the old "We are not Blackboard" line did not work twice for them.thoughtful  Of the remaining three, one is essentially a ventural capitalist that came out of the engineering/construction business (though I did meet him at a Moodle Moot).  Another is the CFO.

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

I'll post more fully later once the dust settles (very busy here too!), but I wanted to add a few facts here to add to the mix:

  • I was not involved in their deal at all (I found out only days ago myself) and have not been paid anything to support their deal.
  • I think it's prudent to wait and see how it works out.  There are a lot of strong Moodle supporters involved inside Moodlerooms and Netspot, and they all have the best of intentions towards the software and the community.  I see my job right now as helping them (like any Moodle Partner) to make good on those promises.
  • Moodle itself has not, and will not, be purchased by anyone.  I am committed to keeping it independent with exactly the same model it has now.
  • We still have a lot of other Moodle Partners!

Finally, I'm finding it really useful to read everyone's analysis and opinions to help shape my own actions - thank you so much everyone for your support.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Martin,

Hope you're enjoying our melodrama! ;)

 
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Picture of Mr. SplashyPants
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

"I was not involved in their deal at all (I found out only days ago myself) and have not been paid anything to support their deal."

Threading the needle Martin?  Technically, you weren't involved in the specifics of deal in that you didn't negotiate it, and technically you found out only days ago that the deal actually went through (but you've known about the Bb/Moodlerooms talks for a while now) and technically you weren't paid to support it, but you made millions off this Moodlerooms buyout. 

 

Getting your personal buyoff and support on the deal was a key part of Chasen and Henderson's decision to pay for Moodlerooms.  You are a significant shareholder in Moodlerooms.  Blackboard required your support before the deal was closed.  You made millions off this deal.  Don't feign financial disinterest in the transaction.

 

"...I'm finding it really useful to read everyone's analysis and opinions to help shape my own actions..."

You owe the community full disclosure of the financial interest you had in this deal happening.

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

This is completely false and an utter troll.  It doesn't even make sense.  Grow some balls and step out from behind your pseudonym so I can sue you for defamation.  I could use the money.

 
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Picture of Mr. SplashyPants
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

 

Martin - it makes perfect sense.  It's very simple:

 

What we want to know is do you have, or have you ever had, any stock, stock options or any form of equity in Moodlerooms?  YES OR NO?

 
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Picture of Daniel K. Schneider
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I think that you should give Martin a break.

Look at the larger picture. Most PhD students (yes Martin started out like that) who invested into turning their code into something that is usable messed up their career and finally wound up with a job that is rather boring. Others like these dozens of Europeans who wrote unusable IMS LD applications that went straight to the garbage can and then moved on publishing papers on other unusable stuff got nice research jobs.

It would be ok for me if he got some cash out of it. I actually find it quite shocking that most universities (e.g. ours) use Moodle and never donate anything. I don't like any LMS (Moodle included) and would not contribute anything either. Therefore I must accept that the VERY few guys who actually were able to create something that is sustainable do try to get a little financial compensation. Now it's up to you and other Moodlers to refuse any contact with any company that is in touch with BB and also to make sure that rich Universities (lot's) start contributing a bit to Moodle...

 
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Art Lader
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Documentation writers

Well, I am sorry to hear that Martin did not make millions from this deal. I wish he had.Many, many millions.

In fact, I specifically wished that way back in 2003 in this thread. -- http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=1758

For me, that has not changed.

 
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Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Martin,

Thanks for your comments and reasoned approach to the issue.  Even though I'm still in a state of disbelief, I agree it is best to wait and see how this works out.   I know many of the folks at Moodlerooms and have a lot of respect for them.  Some of my concerns are (mainly focused on Moodlerooms because I'm not familiar with NetSpot, however these comments likely apply to NetSpot as well):

  1. There is even a larger giant influencing all this.  Blackboard is owned by Providence Equity Partners who had to be involved in a decision of this magnitude.  The bottom line with conglomerates is mega $£€¥.  On the other hand, Moodle was not purchased (as you clearly state); only two Moodle Partners were acquired.

  2. Blackboard does not ('do not' for most of you English speakers smile )  have a good track record on maintaining acquired products.  Those products are discontinued, proprietized or morphed into Bb products.  You, Martin, are the main gatekeeper for Moodle and are trusted by the Moodle community to remain independent.  However the real danger, in my opinion, is that Bb will pressure Moodlerooms into developing MRs' Power and Joule products into more proprietary products (e.g. 'enhanced' Moodle) to an extent that essentially prevents users from moving back to Moodle core. This is a key issue. If it does happen, then I question whether such a company should be a Moodle Partner. I really, really want to believe Ray Henderson, but I also grew up with the story of Little Red Riding Hood

  3. Will Blackboard fully embrace the open source model and provide financial resources for open code development, or will Bb merely be content to reap the profits from the hard work of others?

  4. Will Blackboard expect a presence at Moodle Moots?  These events have a tradition of being locally organized and focused on Moodle.  Two major Moodle Partners have been very supportive of the Midwest Moodle Moots I've organized, but there has always been a condition associated with their support: Moodle only; no Moodle LMS competitors (e.g. Bb, D2L, etc.).  Frankly, I do not want to see Bb at Moodle Moots.

  5. What is next?  Blackboard makes major strikes behind the scenes, without warning, and by keeping many people in the dark (WebCT, Angel, Elluminate, Wimba, Moodlerooms, NetSpot, etc.).  That is the big corporate model; it is Bb's model.  It is driven by profit and domination.  Even you, Martin, note you were caught by surprise on the most recent acquisitions.  It is now up to Blackboard, Moodlerooms and NetSpot to demonstrate they have a commitment to the Moodle community and the open source model.

There are many other issues.  Some of the above will pass; others will arise.  Thanks, Martin, for your hard work at maintaining an open, community supported product.

-Floyd

 
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Picture of Vicke Denniston
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Floyd,

just got done with a Webinar with Moodlerooms/Bb and Bb says no to the presence at Moots.

 

To be honest, I did not believe much of anything bb had to say in today's meeting, but their reputation may be damaged beyond repair with me

 
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Picture of Joseph Thibault
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

In my opinion I think this is great. Now the success of Blackboard begets the success of Moodle.

More funding, more market share, more developers, more community and more public awareness.  

As is the case for Moodlerooms especially, their model very closely resembled Blackboard's already (especially with joule's release).  The acquisition makes perfect sense as the proprietary software underlying Blackboard's LMS products are less valuable over time (because of the level playing field provided by Moodle and other open source LMSs).  It's a good day for Blackboard (which just became the biggest LMS company in the world) and a great day for Moodle (which is now supported by the largest LMS company in the world).  

I look forward to following this news and generally I think it will open lots of doors and create a lot of opportunities for teachers, students, colleges, schools and others involved in the elearning community.  

 
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Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Joseph,

Thanks for your positive, optimistic counterpoint to those of us who are a bit more skeptical!  wink  There are several points we all need to keep in mind:

  1. Blackboard did not purchase Moodle!  Only two Moodle Partners, out of more than 50 worldwide, were acquired.  This does not give Bb ownership nor control of Moodle.

  2. There are other Moodle Partners, I think of Remote-Learner (US, CA, UK) in particular, who are very committed to open source software and who I believe will continue to do so in an independent manner.  Remote-Learner has not been mentioned in any of the announcements or discussions.  Their ELIS add-on for Moodle has been released to the open source community.

  3. The Blackboard Open Services Support Group may provide a great opportunity for many open source projects and Moodle, in particular.  Let's hope so!
 
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Picture of Brian Lockwood
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 
Is this not a fuss at very little. Were commercial partners silly enough to damage moodle (which would require martin's unlikely cooperation) then moodle could fork. It is a rather nice test of the open source model. Imho . Brian. Btw. Don't feed troll if you can possibly help it. No one worth listening to takes any notice anyway.
 
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Picture of Mike O'Connor
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Like many people in the Moodle community Catalyst has viewed the recent purchases of two Moodle  partners with some surprise, and quite some interest.

We congratulate those two partners on their sale and look forward to Blackboard contributing  their significant resources to the Moodle project.

We view the Moodle future with great confidence and excitement, enhanced by this development.

As a company and as individuals Catalyst and its staff are involved with many open source projects.

One common theme around open source is that the software cannot be bought out and closed off.

Once the cat has escaped the bag, it is out forever. As long as there is a community of support and,  more importantly, a community of users, the software will sustain and grow.

In short, trust in the GPL and your own communities. Learn more about the power of the GPL.

The commercial entities, whether they are Catalyst, Blackboard, RemoteLearner or Moodlerooms,  have to follow you, not the other way around.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Mike, I'm partly with you, but in some respects I don't fully understand the processes within Moodle core development that influence the core 20 programmers and what develops, and I suspect this has partly to do with MP, MP clients, voices and influence.  I made a decision last year "live with it or lump it", and I live with it.

You say "One common theme around open source is that the software cannot be bought out and closed off.
Once the cat has escaped the bag, it is out forever. As long as there is a community of support and,  more importantly, a community of users, the software will sustain and grow.
In short, trust in the GPL and your own communities. Learn more about the power of the GPL"

My questions and my interest (well spread around on these forums) has to do with Moodle Core.  ie what you download and install.  And basically what providers download and install.  Extra fixes and plugins cost $$.

You say (Moodle) "cannot be bought out and closed off." but it can be shaped to suit stronger voices.

Moodle still in my opinion has some bits missing Out Of The Box.  [Insert here all the possible "one man's vital is another man's trivial" responses - but I'm not talking about obscure stuff - just solve the scroll of death problems, enable bulk course create, have subscribe by the thread in forums etc.  Users, NOT developers all have such a list.]

So: where does the development roadmap come from?  Who determines priority?  The first answer that is most common here on the forums is really a non-answer and is "Code it yourself, this is Open Source" but even if you pay you can't guarentee it getting into the core. If you don't you have a maintenance problem.

The second answer is "vote on the tracker, get involved".  The fact is some items with NO votes go to the top of the queue [and rightly so].  Some items with lots of votes laugish.  The case in point you may be familiar with is the 2008 tracker item http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-16660 the most voted (187) followed by second (127) and has mature, tested patches but is still not in core.

I remember the first time in my early naieve days I saw a post "This needs to be fixed, a MP client wants it" and I had to find out what a MP was and who these clients were.  This is the we are all equal but some are more equal than others aspect.

My worry is that more voices coming into the mix [eg from Bb Inc via the new Bb/Moodle partners] to determine the future of Moodle core will not be the community, but other interests.  You say: "more importantly, a community of users, the software will sustain and grow" true, but it's the direction I am interested in.  Do we really need a lot of $$ put into Mobile support, yet more new assignments and hubs when scroll of death + book not in core (add a few more items here) are still a problem with core Moodle and there are robust fixes/patches available, and the big players have done all this fixing in 1.9 to solve the problem and moving to 2+ is a pain.  Off soapbox now.

You say "Learn more about the power of the GPL" yes, but here, where Moodle core is concerned, with the partners system, tracker, and the way decisions are made, it's not as simple.  Community is only one voice that can be swamped by others.

Remember the song "If I ruled the World"?  I'd community-wise debate the core useablilty/functionality enhancements needed, prioritise, then I'd put regular Moodle development on hold for a month per cycle and catch up with a few of these little basic needs in core Moodle.  Have more small enhancements in the roadmap. http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Roadmap.   Get rid of some high polling tracker items, and help smooth the way for 1.9 > 2.x transitions. A romantic view of reality I admit.

At present I'm pondering the possibility of a Distro for small Moodle needs (Like CLAMP is for Unis or Moodle in Schools is for Schools).  The tweaks that all good Moodles have in some form or other built in and packaged into a distro for download.  Book, A decent format, ForumNG, Dialogue to replace journal, Moodle in Schools iCal/simple formats fix, a good media plugin, a PDF plugin, notify teachers of self enrolled student etc.  I know there would be a lot of debate on this, but it would save hundreds of smaller institutions having their sandboxes to upgrade their stuff for each new version.  Maybe.

-Derek
Who really should be working.

 
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Anne Krijger
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Derek,

This may deviate a bit from the original thread...

There is a flow chart somewhere in these fora where Michael de Raadt explains what the process is on deciding what is developed and what is integrated in the core.

But is basically comes down to this;

If there is a paying customer, via a Moodle Partner (MP) or otherwise, chances are very high a certain feature will be developed. This does not (yet) mean it will be part of the core.

I the feature is deemed interesting and (fairly) easy to encorporate by the Dev team at HQ, it will be included in the core.

Everyone has influence on both parts of this process.

If you provide a ready made feature in GIT-form where all the Dev team at HQ needs to do is 'pull it in' and test it, they will be more likely to include it.

The same goes for voting for a feature; if a lot of people vote for it, it is more likely the Dev team at HQ will spend their time developing it. There are of course hindering factors, specially if it is hard to implement, or if it does not fit the view of the powers that be.

IOW; you can not force HQ to implement a feature, they still have the last say in what they do, but you do have influence on the process. And yes, the more money you bring to that process does increase the chances of having your feature implemented in the core.
Open source does not mean the core team @ HQ can work for free.

Anne.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Derek, your post is a bit confused (not helped by the TeX filter), but I think what you are really trying to talk about is that there are two key issues with an open source project:

  • The license, which ensures your basic freedoms in relation to the software, and in this regard, the GPL is pretty much the strongest for safeguarding your freedoms to use the Moodle code that is released.
  • The governance model, by which the decisons are made as to which code changes get into the official release.
Your concern is about the latter.
 
There are two main governance models used by open source projects:
  • Some sort of formal democratic process, with some sort of elected committee as the sort of 'supreme court' where decisions get escalated to if they can't be resovled some other way; or
  • A benevolant dictator model, where one person (often the project founder, as in the case of Moodle) is the final arbiter of decisions.
Now, the interesting thing is, that if you observe open source projects, it really does not make much difference which model is used. Most decisions are just obvious (e.g. someone has submitted a good bug fix / feature, do we integrate it? YES!) or easily resolved by discussions within the community. Very few decisions have to be escalate to whowever has the final say about contentious decisions.

If you are interested in this topic, OSS watch has some interesting stuff about different governance models: http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/governanceModels.xml

But, as I say, mostly it does not come to that. It he case of Moodle, there is now a very open submission process for proposed changes (thorugh the tracker and git) and most of the day-to-day decisions about what gets in are made by the integrators Eloy Lafuente, Sam Hemelryk, Aparup Banerjee and Dan Poltawski. There is a somewhat irregular summary of what they do at http://moodle.org/mod/forum/view.php?id=7966. You can see that most patches that get submitted are accepted. Patches that are reject are almost always rejected because of code quality (and often those are then fixed, and resubmitted and integrated in future weeks). Of course, code that is submitted for integration has mostly been peer-reviewed, and if necessary discussed in the forums, before it is submitted. Only occasionally do the integrators have to query Martin about a decision. (If you are interested in what goes on during integration each week, watch this dashboard: http://tracker.moodle.org/secure/Dashboard.jspa?selectPageId=11350)

There is then a question of what controls which patches are submitted. That is basically a matter of who has the necessary skills and resources. Those with the resources get to decide what to do with them. However, if you are going to try to submit what you develop for integration, you had better start dicussing it early with the community, to make sure that what you do is generally useful enough to be accepted, and that the approach you plan to adopt is technically sound.

The other vital part of an open source project, after licence and governance model, is the software architecture. Basically, you have to have some sort of plug-in architecture, so that you can develop an eco-system of shared functionality beyond what is shipped in the standard distribution. I think that if you consider almost any popular open source project, it takes that approach. (Moodle, Linux, Apache, Firefox, ... all do. Actually, what about LibreOffice, do they have a plug-in system?)

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Testers

Hi Floyd -

Indeed, we at Remote-Learner remain committed to Moodle and Open Source. Here is our response.

mike

 
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Picture of Vicke Denniston
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

So Joseph, how long have you worked for BlackBorg?

 
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Picture of Joseph Thibault
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

hahaha, funny.  

I've built courses using Bb for 2 years but have been working with Moodle since 2007 in various capacities.  

 
Average of ratings: -
The fox I once modeled, vertex by vertex, so to me it is no ordinary fox
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Let’s make the most of this desire to be open & collaborate to support learning even more effectively:

In a UK JISC forum I saw Tim Hunt’s link to this involvement of Blackboard with Moodle partners.  Here some very round about thoughts:

I might be wrong but I thought Blackboard had acquired Wimba, Elluminate & Texttools.  I also got an email from Blackboard today with:

“For us at Blackboard openness is very important. We are committed to providing our clients with an open, extensible learning management system that allows them the flexibility to customise in order to fit the needs of their institution. It also extends to the way we work with our clients to build our technology.”

And yesterday the Guardian newspaper front page was all about openly publishing academic papers…openly declaring tax returns… Anyway thinking of low cost open ways of communicating with students & parents in a way that’s shows up in Moodle, Blackboard,  Fronter …. I’m wondering if the likes of the Moodle community, Blackboard & the likes of Mitel (BT) (with their Linux base IP telephony)..Google Voice…. can find a way in this spirit of openness, of collaborating to facilitate leaving verbal feedback on parent’s & students phones (mobile devices) - & a text transcript in the VLE (ULCC ILP).  Many teachers/lecturers will soon have IP handsets which might be used for quick and effective recording of feedback.  Although my College supports students of14yrs & above, I’m also a governor at my sons primary school, so am thinking broadly of how technology might be used more effectively.

 

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hmmm....

I'm more than happy to be prooved wrong but I don't have a good feeling about this.

I honestly have no idea what MoodleRoom's financial contribution is to the upkeep and development of Moodle but I can only guess it's significant. Wages must be paid and money speaks. I really hope that this does not result in Moodle being steered off in a direction that we might not want to see it go.

Anyway, I'm watching closely with my worried face on!
 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I think you have to ask yourself if you want BB having ANY influence in Moodle direction?  I have a dog who bites me rather regularly when I try to put him in his container.  I rather expect that the next time I try to contain him he will indeed... bite me again.

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

I really don't understand "...Moodle being steered off in a direction that we might not want to see it go".  Anybody can suggest and contribute GPL code but it's always up to me to include it in core (after it gets heavily reviewed by our team), otherwise it goes into Moodle plugins.  Moodlerooms and Netspot have been some of the biggest contributors among Moodle Partners recently, with IMS LTI, IMS CC and the refactored Assignment module for 2.3.  Has that worried you?

 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

LOL,  your behavior, MD, has been one of the most worrisome things about Moodle.  smile

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
A great philospher one wrote something I'd like you all to hear... "if you haven't got anything nice to say then perhaps it's better to say nothing" wink
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
Not in any way... but they weren't owned by Blackboard then. We'll have to see.

What I meant was that I'm guessing that MoodleRooms is a significant contributor to Moodle financially through the Moodle Partner programme. I'm hoping that the mere fact of that doesn't end up being used to lean on Moodle HQ.
 
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Me at the Moodle Moot NZ11
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

There are lots of good comments here, and some completely bizarre ones of course - got to love an open community!

I don't want to replicate what others have said, just to make a brief statement in my capacity of Managing Director of one specific Moodle Partner, and Moodle Certification Manager:

I wouldn't sell our Moodle Partner company for any price, because for me Moodle is much more about community, and doing something wonderful with open source software and education in the world.  If money was the highest priority for HRDNZ we would be investing in property, or maybe new oil wells wink

After speaking one to one with Martin he has our total trust and support, and this will continue as he tries to grapple with a very complex situation here.  I have no doubt that Martin has the best interests of Moodle and the Moodle user community at heart, as he always has.

 
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Picture of Marc Weiss
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Stuart,

I am glad to hear that. If our Moodle Partner sells - even though I am in the US - I may be converting US Dollars to NZ Dollars and e-mailing you. LOL

Marc

 
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Picture of Cindy Stillwell
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Hi Marc,

No worries about Remote Learner selling out!  Thanks for your commitment to Moodle and to RL.  We are here for the long haul with Moodle!

 
Average of ratings: -
Me at the Moodle Moot NZ11
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

You actually make a very good point Marc that many people may miss here.

It's easy for people to feel disempowered by this right ?

But as customers and consumers it's you who have the power !

If customers of NetSpot and Moodlerooms feel they are not getting a good enough deal, or do not want to support the business stratey we see emerging, then you can simply "vote with your wallets".  In the USA Remote-Learner are a great option, and in Australia you have Pukenui.  Both really great Moodle Partners.

(I have no business agenda here as we only host sites within New Zealand).

So, instead of just remewing your annual contract and fees, ask for alternatives.  Now, I wonder how Blackboard and the venture capital people would view 75%+ of Moodle customers switching Partners as a reaction to their aquasition ?  If services are being switched from one Moodle Partner to another then the overall financial support for Moodle is still safe (funding continuing development).

Remember, it's not just about what the big boys want, it's also about what the community want, and what they (you) will actually do.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Stuart,

Good points but corporations have a big bag of tricks to prevent migration from their products and services. In fact, it's a core strategy for all of them to make their products and services "sticky", i.e. difficult to change or get rid of. Obvious examples are proprietary formats, proprietary customisations, spreading FUD about switching issues, pushing long-term contracts that are difficult and/or expensive to get out of, contracts that require large downpayments on expiry so that they can offer to waive the downpayment if you renew the contract (so called "balloon" contracts), etc. These are just a few.

Check out this site to find some of the typical corporate practices for keeping hold of lucrative contracts: http://www.corporatewatch.org/

 
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Picture of Dave Willmore
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

We are hosted by Moodlerooms.   Originally, we used WebCT and were in the process of upgrading when Blackboard bought out the product set.  You all know about the patent issues, the problems with their Blackboard 9.x launch.   So we evaluated our situation and sent out an RFP.    Moodle 1.9 hosted by Moodlerooms won and we were happy to be rid of Blackboard.

This purchase by Blackboard of Moodlerooms feels like a slap in the face emotionally.  Yes, I know that business must do the best possible for their shareholders, and I am not privy to all the information that led to Moodlerooms selling out.   Intellectually I understand, but emotionally I am angry and feel betrayed.

What do I see happening:

  1. Hosting prices going through the roof
  2. Moodlerooms Moodle development slowing down and eventually ending

 

 
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Picture of S Moodle
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

This purchase by Blackboard of Moodlerooms feels like a slap in the face emotionally.  Yes, I know that business must do the best possible for their shareholders, and I am not privy to all the information that led to Moodlerooms selling out.   Intellectually I understand, but emotionally I am angry and feel betrayed.

What do I see happening:

  1. Hosting prices going through the roof
  2. Moodlerooms Moodle development slowing down and eventually ending

This story hit Slashdot (http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/03/27/1441243/blackboard-buys-moodlerooms-and-netspot)

I'd like to think that Blackboard feels threatened by Moodle and tries to use Microsoft's old strategy via Embrace->Extend->Extinguish.  But really, buying a couple of hosting companies is not going to "kill" Moodle.  I can migrate my Moodle install to any hosting company in less than an hour.  Just try doing that with Blackboard.  big grin

 
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Sarah Ashley
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I can migrate my Moodle install to any hosting company in less than an hour.

Hi Jeremy,

On a serious note here, we are moving to Lambda Solutions (Moodle Partner). Can you really migrate a Moodle site in an hour??? How do you do that?

smile

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

He must have read the Moodle docs on migrating 

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Now the strengths of free and open source software come to the fore. Even in the extreme case that Blackboard somehow managed to buy out, take over or undermine Moodle HQ, I'm pretty sure the remaining Moodle partners, universities, etc. would fork it away from them. That's what happened when Oracle acquired OpenOffice.org. Now we've got LibreOffice.org and it seems to have been given a new lease of life.

I think the main source of worry is for employees of Moodlerooms and Netspot. There's a lot of valuable expertise in those companies (their main value?) and I think they could easily find work elsewhere if that should ever become necessary. Let's hope not. I think they're in a strong negotiating position and if they haven't already done so, now's a good time to get unionised.

Mmm... neo-liberal free-market venture capitalists dealing with free and open source software which is based on SocioCultural Theory which was developed by Communists in Russia (Vygotsky et al). Could it get any stranger?

I'd also like to add a vote of confidence in Martin Dougiamas. Moodle is his baby, he's an educator and a developer, and I'm pretty sure his heart is in the right place.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Although any open source project can be forked, and that is a great insurance policy for users and developers who believe in freedom (as opposed to just openness), I don't think you should under-play how much work it would be.

I bet that growing LibreOffice out of OpenOffice was a hell of a lot of work from some very dedicated people. I would not want to under-appreciate the effort they had to put in. (I don't acutally know the history, and Wikipedia does not say much.)

So, let's hope we never have to fork Moodle, and, knowing Martin, I do not expect we ever shall.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Well, yes and no.

If your Moodle site is big enough, then it can take more than 1 hour simply to copy the data from one server to another, even over the fastest network. But in many cases it will take less than that, and at the mechanical level, that is all you have to do.

But, there is more to it than that. You have to actually get (either buy, or hire from some other host) the servers, and it will take some time to esure you are getting servers that are powerful enough, and then actually provision them.

You also need to worry about any third party plugins you are using. In particular Moodlerooms have wrapped a lot of other stuff around Moodle in {whatever that is called}, and I don't think they have released the source-code of all that.

Finally, after doing the move, you need to allow some time to test that everything is working, and make sure all your links to other systems like LDAP are still working properly and if not, to reconfigure them.

So, I suppose you could say that moving your Moodle from one host to another takes one hour, in the same way that moving house takes one day. Sure it takes on day to pack everything into the moving van, and get it from A to B, but that ignores a lot of preparation before, and sorting out later.

At least, using Open Source, you have choies of other houses to move to (even build your own). With closed source, you don't have the choice.

 
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Picture of Bryan Ollendyke
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Whole thing makes this discussion about a drupal lms a bit more interesting -- http://groups.drupal.org/node/219814

Our two communities can learn a lot from one another, especially since I don't think BB will buy up Drupal shops ;).

 
Average of ratings: Not very cool (1)
me at a FIRST robotics competition
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Just to add my piece. Private equity firms use leveraged buyouts to squeeze profits out of "underperforming" companies. Underperforming often means a lot of money spent on R&D and support and not as much money on sales, marketing, and aquisitions. Essentially private equity finds a company that has created excess value and then extracts that value (often to the detriment of the original company and the consumer). One popular strategy is to use private equity money to create near monopolies, which then mean higher profits. Here is an informative podcast about Bain Capital's attempt to create a paper empire.

This seems to be the approach being used by the firm controlling Blackboard. They hope to create such a huge player in the educational software market that they will have an ongoing revenue stream without as much overhead (in development and support) as would exist in a more competetive market.

Of course, in the short term this strategy could succeed and benefit open source software. Blackboard gets more customers, more money flows to Moodle HQ, more developers work on Moodle, woot!

However, it could also mean other Moodle partners are driven out of business because they can't compete against such a huge firm. Also the business model could fail and the aquired Moodle partners end up being collateral damage. And I think importantly we go from two independant Moodle partners creating code for core and for their clients to one Blackboard owned Moodle partner creating code. This has the potential to decrease the contributions to Moodle.

I sure hope the halcyon view becomes reality, because like many members of the Moodle community, I not only have a professional history with Moodle I also have a part of my personal identity wrapped into the Moodle story. To me Moodle is not just software, it is a community that thinks deeply and cares about education. Blackboard can't buy that and may not be able to effectively participate in that community either.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I think the education sector is a funny old beast. It seems to defy the logic of commercial secctors, I think mainly because it's built on people with a broader vision than the bottom line. For me Moodle seems like a perfect match for schools, colleges, universities and NGOs, and Blackboard seems to embody everything that's wrong with so called "education reform".

I think there's a tremendous amount of good will and support towards Moodle. If Blackboard, through Moodlerooms and Netspot, are perceived to be undermining it, I think they'll face a lot of resistance initially and there'll be a strong, non-fiscal motivation to move away from them. Moodle users feel protective of their favourite LMS!

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

There's more PR here: http://www.gilfuseducationgroup.com/blackboard-acquires-moodlerooms-netspot

BTW, before the 1950s, PR used to be called propaganda.

 
Average of ratings: -
Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Here's an interesting interview with Ray Henderson and Lou Pugliese

http://thejournal.com/Articles/2012/03/27/Blackboard-Speaks-Out-on-Open-Source-Move.aspx?=THENU&Page=1

 
Average of ratings: -
Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I can't speak to the specific circumstances of Providence Equity Partners but the vast majority of investment capital comes from pension funds, therefore the idea of "shareholder" becomes quite abstract. Pension funds are legally required to give absolute priority to one thing: maximising the return on investments for their pensioners. This led to the massive amount of "downsizing" and "reorganisation" that began in the 80s, better known to you and I as asset stripping, since this often produces high short-term yields on investments and leaves the acquired companies saddled with massive debts while the venture capitalists move on to the next victim/acquisition. Venture capitalists often pay themselves their own fees (as bonuses which are subject to capital gains tax which is significantly lower than income tax) out of the debt that they borrow on behalf of the acquired company. These are the famous "job creators" we're told about by the media.

I don't envy the employees at Moodlerooms and Netspot or their clients.

 
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Picture of Burn229 Moodle
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I'm very familiar with Providence Equity. I was a long time client of one of the companies when they merged Schoolfusion, Teacherweb, and Schoolworld into Edline. I will not say which one but let's just say I watched the comapny grow form 3 people to 40^. PE approached the majority owner and presented an offer. The offer was accepted and PE sold the owners on the idea of creating a super platform with all 3 companies.

Little did they know they only wanted the technology and the clients. The goal the entire time was to roll everything under the Edline name and platform. I don't feel bad for the owners because they walked away with millions but it's the business ethics of PE which is the concern. Schoolfusion and Schoolworld are no longer sold and all those clients are being forced into Edline. Such a shame.....  

The Edline platform is junk code built upon junk code. Edline is inferior to Schoolfusion and Schoolword. The goal the entire time was suck up 2 major players which leaves only Schoolwires and EChalk left in the WMS market. Edline is now free to overcharge and offer a crap product.

The same thing is going to happen with Moodlerooms/Netspot. PE is in this to increase their market share and make profit to appease investors.

This is not a Blackboard issues but a PE issue. My advice to anyone is stay away from anything that PE owns because you will end up locked into a crap product and have to go through the headache of getting out of it.

Anyone that is a Moodlerooms/Netspot client take my advice and get out while you can. I hear Remote-Learner is offering specials for anyone that wants to switch.

 
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Picture of Chris Murad
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I share most of the concerns with the community here.

As with many of the soothsayers here I would say that the biggest areas of concerns are:

  • Joule - Will BB/PE lock this down even further and use the propiarty Joule code in BB or in another fashion 
  • Moodle Partnership- Will the Moodle Trust increase with increase money flowing into these Moodle Partners.
  • NetSpot's - BB to Moodle Converter - Remote-Learner for a time held rights to this in the United States - Will this be pushed by the way side?
  •  MoodleMoot's - Espcially the West Coast Moodle Moot - What kind of tension will this create - this is going to be very intersting...


I will be paying close attention and I genuinly hope the outcome is more positive than negative - Like Colin , this is much more than software to me, this is a close community and I am proud to have some part of it.

 
Average of ratings: Very cool (2)
Lindy anime style
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Hello folks,

Like many on here, I was quite shocked by this news.  And although my first reaction was rather strong, a little time to reflect (and a friendly reminder from my partner using this image) led me to a few thoughts that I hope are worthwhile sharing.

Core moodle is still core moodle!  While anyone can write (proprietary or otherwise) code that plugs in to Moodle, it is the choice of an organisation whether or not to use it! 

What I hope is that the organisations working with these partners take the time to learn about open source communities, and to evaluate how the code they are paying to have created could be shared with the community to everyone's benefit.  Maybe I'm naieve.  I would still encourage anyone using a Moodle partner (and not just Moodlerooms and Netspot clients) or a third party programmer for custom coding to ask about sharing the code they need with the community.  It may be that its written for a proprietary software, and can't be shared.  So be it. 

I do think that Bb now has a rather large assortment of softwares on offer, and plenty of educational organisations want to be able to use a blended solution.  They are not necessarily interested in open source for open source sake - they need the tool that will get the job done.  If this acquisition means Bb's suite of softwares will soon talk nicely to Moodle - Awesome!

What they do need to be aware of, is that the more you rely on proprietary code, the more at risk you are when the company goes in a direction you don't want to follow.  Although core Moodle code may move away from where you want to go, there is always the option to customise it and get support as you need it.  When you add proprietary code, you also generally agree to use the proprietary product as the owner dictates, or not at all.  I love that Moodle offers a middle ground!

 

I also love that Moodle.org is very open about what drives core code development.  Although partners have a voice, as do the Moodle HQ team, Martin Dougiamas makes the final decision based on well-known core principles

 

And I thank him for it, as I'm sure many others on here do as well.  Martin, this must be a trying time, but thank you for all the effort you've personally put into such a wonderful product and vibrant community.

I trust both Martin and Moodle HQ.  But for those with a dash more scepticism - consider this:  Moodle is GNU licenced.  It cannot be locked away (even if branches choose to fork in other directions).  While the older versions may not be supported anymore, there's nothing to stop folks using and adjusting them as they wish long into the future (except, perhaps, common sense!).  And I sincerely believe it cannot be destroyed, because there are so many folks in the community who want to see it continue to grow.

 

I am one of them, and right now, I'm off to see what's the latest news on 2.3 big grin

 

But I'm keen to keep an eye on the conversation here, as I really appreciate the background information and thought provoking comments all ready offered.  Remember folks, Keep Calm, and Moodle On!

 
Average of ratings: Very cool (5)
Picture of Nick Hepner
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

This topic has been getting a lot of attention very rapidly in the learning community. It's been spilling over into our boards over in Drupal. I wanted to take a minute to mention that we're actively working on an effort to make Drupal an effective LMS and there's a lot we could learn from the Moodle community towards that effort.  Any help, feedback or momentum towards this effort would be appreciated. http://groups.drupal.org/node/219814

 
Average of ratings:Not cool (4)
Martin in black and white
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Thanks Nick, but we already have an LMS.  Any of your help, feedback or momentum towards this effort would be appreciated.

 
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Picture of David Colucci
Anyone want to start a new Moodle Reseller Company with me?
 

In my opinion, Blackboard only stands to do one thing on this deal and that is drive the price up of Moodlerooms.

If they do that, the next company in line to supply Moodle services at a reasonable cost will likely topple the BB Giant.

Will this help the LMS community?  Maybe!, if BB is humble about the acquisition.  Lets face it though, we're talking about a company that has just passed 85% of the marketshare of LMS's and it's owned by a corporation uninterested in the Open-Source concept.

Either they should keep the price down, or in a few years they will find themselves buying me out of a company that closely resembles Moodlerooms, its marginal prices, and extensive offerings.

Corporate rich guys better take a long walk down the alley and hang out with the Open-Source environment to get an idea of their plans.  Otherwise, they will be shopping their way to the monopoly, and down the isle entitled "Open-Source".

In my opinion, it was a real Jack-Ass deal on Moodlerooms' part.  Moodlerooms would have been valued 25X its current net worth in about 5 years.  ...IMHO.

 
Average of ratings: -
not cusack
Re: Anyone want to start a new Moodle Reseller Company with me?
 

Hi David,

Im not sure if it's as sinister as that. Bb has a terrible track record, I agree, but to me this seems to be a simple attempt at diversifying and hanging with the cool kids, smoking open-source cigarettes big grin

Large corporations have one objective: making more money. Since the traditional model of buy-starve-kill doesn't work with Moodle being the large, strong community that it is, PE/Bb has to join them rather than fight them. Lots of money is to be made from hosting/supporting LMSs, even if the software is free. IMO, Bb just want a piece of that pie, which conveniently also improves their damaged image. This whole thing is damage control (Bb has an image problem, just read the slashdot comments in the article linked above), a PR stunt ("See? We're cool too! We now do FOSS!") and a buy-in into a lucrative business sector. It makes sense on many levels. 

I'm not familiar with MoodleRooms, but Netspot is big in Australia. At last year's MoodlePosium in Canberra, NetSpot was the host of pretty much every uni there... many of whom were previously were running WebCT/Bb. Bb wants that hosting/support business back, that is all. 

I do hope, however, that NetSpot and MoodleRooms continue to provide excellent service to the Moodle community.

Martin, or anygone else for that matter: are Moodle Partners required to support Moodle development in any way other than financial contributions to the Trust?

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Don Hinkelman
Re: Anyone want to start a new Moodle Reseller Company with me?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

[Bb's] attempt at diversifying and hanging with the cool kids, smoking open-source cigarettes

Ha, ha!  I love that analogy!

Large corporations have one objective: making more money.

Well now, Guido. Read that book by Walter Isaacson and compare the Apple philosophy under Jobs with the Hewlett Packard philosophy under Leo Apotheker. Under Leo, a finance guy, HP talked about market shares, return on investment, and even quitting their core business (PCs) to focus on "greater margins". Jobs on the other hand, was a product guy, and said things like, "we love music" or "this is insanely great". The engineers and designers ruled Apple and Steve insisted that profits were always second priority. Well, Apple made great profits but only because they did their core mission with such passion and singularity.

So I would say...

The best corporations have one objective: making great products and services.

 
Average of ratings: Cool (1)
Martin in black and white
Re: Anyone want to start a new Moodle Reseller Company with me?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Ha, funny analogy.  big grin

As for your other question, no, Moodle Partners are not required to contribute to Moodle in any other way than by their 10% royalty payments.  However, the bigger partners all do additionally contribute to the code in some way (either by coding, or bug fixing, or specification development, etc), because they want to be (and also to be seen to be) a true part of the open source community.  It's about respect.

Likewise, their clients often have particular concerns (eg bugs) that need addressing, and we (Moodle HQ) prioritises those concerns.  It's a very symbiotic relationship of goodwill and co-operation.   And everybody in the world gets to use the resulting software for free.  Win-win-win.

 
Average of ratings: Coolest thing ever! (3)
Picture of Brian Lockwood
Re: Anyone want to start a new Moodle Reseller Company with me?
 

For people who run their own servers in SMEs this BB-Moodle issue seems a lot of fuss about very little. Despite reading a huge amount of worry in this thread I still do not understand most peoples worries however..

Moodle Partners (MPs) might have a justified worry. I understand why MPs are a good idea so far as funding Moodle is concerned. Are they worried about a firm that is big enough to threaten their business model getting a foothold in the Moodle Partners market place?

As the number of partners in a region is controlled it might reasonably be arguied that the market is distorted from the freedom that prevails in a pure Open Source market.

For example, one might wonder why an advantage of being a Moodle partner is

"Access to our private database of Moodle knowledge"

Why do partners need a private database of knowledge? Does this not run completely counter to OSS principles? I can see someone trotting out the tired old FUD arguments there.

If BB... is not to threaten commercial Moodle enterprises from the MPs group the perhaps they should change practices such having closed databases of knowledge back to an OSS model.

Currently it is arguable that they (MPs) are a cartel since membership is rationed by region.

As for the idea that Apple is ruled in a benign way by Engineers rather than Money? Words fail me!

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of kent stanton
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

There is a significant risk of damage to the Moodle community in this development. Among higher-ed IT folks in the US, Moodlerooms plays a significant role in making Moodle a viable option in the LMS debate. That's because Moodlerooms is a large enough company to be seen as a reliable partner. And MoodleRooms has done a good job of reducing the perceived risk that some see in using open source.  This is not be underestimated. At large institutions, switching to a different LMS is disruptive and costly regardless of what product is used. So the idea that if MR goes to the dark side, you can just switch to some other hosting partner, is just not realistic.

I don't know what Blackboard's intent might be, but this definately puts them in a position to add FUD to the LMS decision making process. And we should not underestimate the role that FUD can play. For many in higher-ed (at least in the US and outside of IT) the relationship among Moodle, MoodleRooms and Joule/Power is fuzzy at best. I agree with others that this puts BB in a position to muddy how Moodle is perceived as part of an engage and destroy strategy.

We can't know what BB is thinking exactly, but it would be childish to think that the strategy is based on anything other than the absolute maximization of profits. 

The community needs to be asking whether there are other Moodle Partners in the U.S. that can replace the role that Moodlerooms is currently playing. And if not, how can alternatives be created and nurtured.

 
Average of ratings: Cool (2)
Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Kent., welcome to Moodle.org. I'm Michael Penney. I started with Moodle running on a B&W G3 in 2003 at Cal State Humboldt. In 2005 moved to a clustered server, integrated with Banner and LDAP and went campus wide. In 2007 we did the same with Peoplesoft as Cal State had settled on that as the system wide SIS. We had ~7000 students and faculty, but we added our active alums to our Moodle site for communication purposes, so that brought us to ~45,000 users. At the same time my Cal State colleagues Jason Cole and Kevin Kelly were bringing San Francisco State's 30,000 users into Moodle. Today there are 10 Cal State campuses at or near full production with Moodle. 

I left Cal State to work at Moodlerooms for a few years, and I've been a V.P. at Moodle Partner Remote-Learner for the past 2 1/2 years. Remote-Learner is one of the first Moodle Partners, starting back in 2004. We have data centers in Kansas City, Canada, and the UK. We have ~4 million users on our servers. We've got a state of the art server setup and top notch staff. Here is our response to the purchase: 

http://info.remote-learner.net/blog-0/

Thanks again for posting here, and welcome to the Moodle projectsmile.

 
Average of ratings: Very cool (4)
Picture of Joseph Thibault
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Since my glass is half full (generally) I have to say that businesses do not always just base their strategies on the "absolute maximization of profits".  It's the goal of business, but so is sustainability.  I think Blackboard sees the writing on the wall (or maybe on the Moodle.org forums? after all, this is the largest open source LMS community) and views Moodle as a way to strengthen its model moving forward for the foreseeable future.  

I guess I just want to assume that not all "suits" have ill intentions.  

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Don Hinkelman
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Amen, Joseph. Maybe the coexistence/coevolution of Linux and Red Hat are a parallel. Red Hat just passed a billion dollar mark, and Linux seems healthy enough.

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Dave Willmore
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

"Amen, Joseph. Maybe the coexistence/coevolution of Linux and Red Hat are a parallel. Red Hat just passed a billion dollar mark, and Linux seems healthy enough."

This is not really an apt comparison.    Red Hat in this equation is equal to Moodlerooms.    To make this equation match our current situation it would be Microsoft buys Red Hat.  

 
Average of ratings: -
Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Joseph,

Re: businesses do not always just base their strategies on the "absolute maximization of profits"

The pension funds that provide the capital for venture capitalists are legally required to do this, therefore Pension funds > Providence Equity Partners > Blackboard Inc. > Moodlerooms and Netspot. Pension funds have no interest in sustainability, quality of services, fairness, ethics, mission statements or whatever, just the bottom line.

 
Average of ratings: -
Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Well, in an earlier post I listed a number of issues and questions related to the acquisition.   After reading through all the comments in this forum and doing more reflection, I now offer several conclusions...  smile   In some ways these comments restate what others have already said in this forum.

  1. The acquisition does not, and will not, change Moodle. Moodle HQ still controls the gateway to Moodle core and will continue to do so.

  2. Moodle has a large community of users, contributors and developers who will not tolerate attempts by any large company to influence or change the direction of the project in ways that are contrary to the original vision and mission of the Moodle project.

  3. There will always be independent Moodle Partners who refuse buyouts.

  4. The risk posed by this acquisition is not to Moodle itself, but to Moodlerooms and NetSpot. I say this very sympathetically.  Moodlerooms is a good company dedicated to Moodle; I know many of the people there. I believe they want to see continued development of Moodle as an open source project. The risk to Moodlerooms and NetSpot? They now have to answer to 'higher powers' - Blackboard and Providence Equity - whose bottom line interests may conflict with the spirit of open source software.  That will not be a small task.

  5. Moodle, as a community-supported, open source LMS, will continue on its charted path.
 
Average of ratings: Very cool (4)
not cusack
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Great summary, Floyd! I agree with all those conclusions. 

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Dave Willmore
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

"They now have to answer to 'higher powers' - Blackboard and Providence Equity - whose bottom line interests may conflict with the spirit of open source software.  That will not be a small task. "

Every company, and individual for that matter, has a bottom line that they strive to meet or exceed.  This is true of Moodle HQ as well.  The issue is what philosophy does one follow to meet or exceed their bottom line.

I cannot speak for Netspot, but Moodle HQ and Moodlerooms have operated by offering improved product and services at a good price offering great value to their customers.  Those that voluntarily support Moodle HQ financially can be considered customers.

This is not Blackboard's or Providence Equity's philisophical mode to increase their bottom line.   Both have shown in recent past that they will buy and terminate rivals eleminating or limiting intelectual invention in educational technology in an effort to force others into their product sets.  Those product sets are built to make it very hard for the customer to divest themselves to turn to other products.   Blackboard has used the courts in an attempt to stifle all competition.   They have shown no interest in the care or nurturing in their user base.

Moodle core will be fine.   Change and inovation may slow, or others may step up to fill the void that may be left by the exit of Moodlerooms and NetSpot from the free (as in freedom) community.  No matter what those companies say, they are now part of 'them' and not us.

Could Blackboard truly be changing their culture and philosophy of doing business?   Yes.    But this is one frog that won't let the scorpion take a ride on his back.

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Bryan Williams
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

This thread is sure a lively one, but it includes some inaccuracies and high drama. It should be kept in mind that there are over 50 other Moodle partner companies throughout the world providing a full range of services to all vertical markets that use educational technology. Moodle isn't the leading LMS in just one area, nor is its well-being dependent on any one or more Moodle partner company. 

While in the top 5 in terms of size, neither of the two companies which Blackboard bought are "the largest". Furthermore, the two companies purchased primarily provide services to the higher-ed market, an area where Blackboard feels most vulnerable to Moodle's ever growing popularity.  Blackboard likely feels increasingly vulnerable now that they are owned by big money people and their ROI demands.

The acquistion of Moodle partner companies is in keeping with Blackboards market disruption strategy, which began some time ago. Recall that last year they tried this, only to apparently abandon their efforts. Also of note, concurrent with the recent announcement was mention that Sakai was assimilated in the deal. Mellon Foundation had poured millions of dollars into the Sakai open source platform.

As Martin has stated, Moodle has been free since the first day he released v.1.0 over 10 years ago, and will continue to remain free and unencumbered going forward. This latest announcement is intriguing and will get its 15 minutes of attention, before fading away. If you appreciate Moodle and want to see it stay around for a long time to come, have your organization patronize an authorized independent Moodle partner company or make a donation directly to the Moodle Trust.

Bryan Williams, Chairman
Remote-Learner
an authorized Moodle partner company
US - Canada - UK

 
Average of ratings: Coolest thing ever! (4)
Picture of Joseph Thibault
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

One clarification to Bryan's post: Coursesites.com has not been abandonned and has over 28,000 professors registered on the service.  

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of nitin kumar
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Perhaps, we could use term BBoodle....now...or Bakai, just joking..

People old enough to remember Linux, may see some parallel, though Linux has been a successful story. It was projected as a potential replacement of windows at consumer level, but it was unsuccessful. But it has been extremely successful at developer level to run the backend servers that are hidden. So I think in long run, it will show again that any open source product may not be successful in long run when facing users in general public. That is what Google, and Facebook etc are not open source. but people love them.

All this discussion is from the point of view of Moodlers. But you also need to see the situation from the point of view of a university, specially in US. Many were planning to transition from BB or Angel, and Moodle seemed a good option. Moodle Room was competting for lot of businesses, it was cheaper, and good. Many of them transitioned to MoodleRoom, and now they are in clutches of the same devil they were trying to escape

This whole episode will put a questionmark on if the universities can trust Open Source.

1. Blackboard already got the main person of Sakai movement. What stops BB from buying other Moodle partner companies. That is why universites will think seriously about going with Moodle parners

2. The second issue is of support to Moodle, and funding. Lot of funding comes from moodle partners, and Moodle Room and NetSpot were the biggest contributors. Now that is in hands of BB, and that support could dry after the initial flood.

If I put myself in the shoes of BB executive, this was a very smart move.

A. Since BB cannot acquire Moodle and Sakai, the approach is to aquire funding sources, and support, give money, support, and when other support dries up, then starve the open source code. Without Moodle partners, Moodle is of not much use to universties, as hosting by themsleves is expensive. Also, current moodle partners may be hit, and more companies may be reluctant to enter the market as moodle partners.

I respect Dr. Chuck, Sakai's main man. As BB, executive, I will give him a large group, funding, etc to initate open source group. Then after some time, cut funding, frustrate the person, who will then leave, and therby killing by "overfeeding". So my advice to Dr. Chuck is that please enjoy the money. It must be good.

B. From a business perspective, as BB executive, I will start to raise price of support of Moodle, and offer more expensive features. In this way try to raise the bottomline cost of ownership of moodle to be closer to BB. Other Moodle parners may not be able to add the features.

C. MoodleRoom and (perhaps Reomote Learner) were competitors for many universites wanting to change from BB or Angel. Now with this purchase, perhaps Moodleroom may not even bid.Many universites will hold their transition plans on hold for some time.

D. Perhaps should may buy Instructure Canvas also as that is also open source. 

Overall, I think whoever in BB pushed for this strategic decision, he/she should get big bonus. It was a fantastic business move, though very bad for customers and the world of education. But this is the state of LMS market, which I think is dying and loosing overall total market in US, with price competitions.

Overall, the Losers and gainers of this move in my opinion are:

Gainers: BB, Desire to learn, Dr Chuck ( Money)

Losers: Students, teachers, universites, Moodle, Sakai, Dr. Chuck (vision and principles), Sakai,

 
Average of ratings: Fairly cool (1)
Picture of Troy Williams
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Haha,  classic! I'm sorry but your post could be ripped to shreds.  I will respond to one comment:
"This whole episode will put a questionmark on if the universities can trust Open Source"
Whatever!
+ I'm in my early thirties… maybe I am old smile

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Daniel K. Schneider
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I can't resist adding some fun to this debate. Found out about this debate by reading Slashot.

I both use BB and Moodle and in a very similar way.

(1) Moodle (variant one). Create a class, add 9 assignements like this

  • assignment 1
  • assignment 2
  • ....

Each assignement only links to a grading rubric. No text, no forum, nothing else. My whole learning environment is a MediaWiki (course materials, student productions, forums) plus two traditional webservers (special purpose files, student productions). In other words: I just use Moodle to create and publish grades.

(2) Moodle (variant two), because I am co-teaching the class

  • A technical support forum
  • A few links to documents
  • A button that will open a LAMS sequence

(3) BB. Way more sophisticated use since I work as an adjunct faculty in a teaching college and BB is a "standard" there.

  • Add 8 links to the weekly programs in the wiki
  • Add 8 assignments for student production upload associated with a grading rubric

In other words: Why would anyone use an LMS for teaching as opposed to evaluating ? Most good teachers I have heard of, create their own teaching environments with whatever tools are appropriate. These have to be widely different with respect to learning goals. Do you need Moodle for learning contents (Word files or IMS CPs ? Why do you want to cope with creating and uploading files for each class when you just could make your stuff available in an environment that you own ? Are hooked on quizzing ? Any LMS can do that. In other words, what is the difference between Moodle, BB or any of these LMS things ?

To put it more bluntly: Moodle started off with socio-constructivism and other modern pedagogies in mind, got there half way and then stopped. I got a Moodle server since its beginning and except for hundreds of new control options I frankly can't figure out the difference between version 1 and version 2.2 (except for the grading rubrics for which I am quite glad). So why do you need Moodle as opposed to just any random LMS ?

Sorry I couldn't resist ... (ducking my head)

 
Average of ratings: Not very cool (2)
Picture of Don Hinkelman
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

So why do you need Moodle as opposed to just any random LMS ?

It's the community, Dan. A collaborative, open group of innovators who love education. Not only that, it's place where all the women are strong, the men are good looking and the kids above average.

If you moved the community to a "random LMS", yes, I would follow. There are better wikis, better blogs, and better quizzes here and there. But there is no place with better beer, literally. I sit down in an izakaya (Japanese pub) regularly with a bunch of folks who talk about what new module or plugin they are creating. We do conferences and workshops together. I connect with teachers across the world who co-design courses with me.  I work at a school where we have a question bank of 2000+ growing, improving questions to build fun and funny quiz exercises from. We have a repository where we write textbooks and share them (on Moodle).

Finally, the music here is pretty good. Martin plays some mean rhythm.

 
Average of ratings: Very cool (3)
Picture of Daniel K. Schneider
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Don, I take this community argument smile But if it exists as strongly as you seem to imply, then nobody should be afraid of Blackboard smile

I'd have problems with your statement that quizzes are fun and that file-based textbook writing is an efficient tool for collaborative writing. But that definitly would transcend the discussion about BB trying to put their feet into open source.....

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Bryan Ollendyke
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 
I think all invasion of massive conglomerate into oss communities will frighten people. As for text book authoring check out drupal.org/project/elms a drupal distribution developed by Penn state specifically for online text authoring.
 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Glenys Hanson
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Don and moderators,

I'm sure I rated you "Coolest thing ever" but it seems to have been downgraded to "Very cool". There are other weird things with ratings going on if you look through them.

For example:  Tim Hunt - Wednesday, 28 March 2012, 09:51 AM, you see "Coolest thing ever" at the bottom of his post but if you open it up you see "Very cool".

Same for Matt Bury - Wednesday, 28 March 2012, 02:08 AM

And by Stuart Mealor - Wednesday, 28 March 2012, 12:32 AM

????

Glenys

 
Average of ratings: Cool (2)
Martin in black and white
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

You are absolutely right, Glenys!   ... I thought I was seeing things there's definitely a bug there.  It seems to be related to people CHANGING their rating - the re-calculation or saving is not quite right.  I've filed MDLSITE-1753 for it in the tracker for the guys here to look at.

 
Average of ratings: Coolest thing ever! (1)
Dan at desk in Moodle HQ, Perth
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
(For your info before the fix gets deployed on moodle.org)

Turns out that the average displayed on the posts on the forum is correct.

When displaying the ratings people who rated posts as 'Coolest thing ever' are being displayed as 'Very Cool' which explains why some posts are average of 'Coolest thing ever' but when viewed have a ratings of only 'Very Cool'.

Now you all have an excuse to rate my post 'Coolest thing ever' to see this in action wink
 
Average of ratings: Cool (4)
Anne Krijger
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

So what is all the fuss about?

Mainly BB's effective communication.
They bought two companies who currently are among the bigger Moodle partners in the US, NZ, AU and Asia/Pacific.

One of these companies has been run by the former CEO of BB for almost two years now.
I don't remember a big fuss about that.

So what's different now?
One big factor is the communication.
Apparently the 'news' has hit some high traffic sites like Slashdot.

And I don't think that is a coincidence.
My guess is that BB _do_ indeed want to expand their services in the Open Source arena and by acquiring these two companies they can now claim;
"Company [BB] Now One of World’s Largest Education Open Source Service Providers".

As a side  effect most people (except those in a small community) now think that "Moodle is acquired by BB".

That alone can and probably will have a huge impact in the next couple of months maybe even years.

Although I have no idea who actually _is_ in control of Moodle nor what the requirements are to become and possibly loose a Moodle Partner title, I'm fairly sure that neither of the acquired companies have a big say in that. My guess is that it's mostly Martin himself. That probably why they went on an audience with him prior to this announcement and, depending on which version you read were told that, as long as they stick to the rules they could stay a Moodle partner or he thought this acquisition was a good idea (my guess is his words will have met to former more than the latter smile).

So as long as these companies remain good Moodlers there would be no reason to revoke their Moodle partner status. The same way as being run by a former BB CEO is not a good reason to do so.

So yes, this does seem a bit strange, but my guess is that it is mostly about BB needing to be able to at least say they are also a leader in the Open Source Education market as well as actually expend their services in that domain.

Anne.

PS @Martin As opposed to Mr Pantsman, I for one would not begrudge to see you be rewarded, not just in lots of good Karma, but also hard dollars. The idea you had and stuck with has generated loads of both so it's only becoming some of it comes back to you.

So maybe it's time to change those Moodle partner contracts and add a section on corporate buyouts for next time BB wants to expand smile

 
Average of ratings: Very cool (3)
Russell Waldron
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Several of the larger universities in Australia use Blackboard, and most of them also have at least one department running Moodle. In the last 3 years, a number have shifted (wholly or partly) from Blackboard to Moodle. (Have any gone the other way?) 

Several (most?) Australian universities face or have faced a major project to transition hundreds of academics with minimal Blackboard skills onto Moodle. 

A month ago, Netspot was a desirable partner in that project because it could muster experience with both platforms and both organisations. Today, the same is true, but Blackboard Inc. must weigh up the loss of Blackboard licence fees against the gain of Netspot service fees. As a financial loss-mitigation strategy, the short-term yield couldn't be high enough to fund the takeover. However, buying an integrator makes sense as a diversification plan when Blackboard's software market is challenged by competitors "in the cloud" and  "competing with free" in the future.

I am betting that Blackboard Inc's value would not be enhanced, even in the short term, by shutting down Netspot's migration-to-Moodle service. Other MoodlePartners could expand into the gap. Blackboard Inc's owner must be counting on Netspot rapidly recovering from this blow to their credibility in the Moodle-using world.

We do not suddenly have a bomb in the room. MoodlePartners can contaminate the Moodle development project accidentally or imprudently, and that risk has been managed over the years. I'm not sure that a purity test for Moodle Partners will help. We have little reason to believe that that NetSpot's future contributions will be so poisonous that they should be shunned instead of evaluated. 

If we were to invite/challenge Blackboard Inc. to demonstrate their goodwill, what is the most useful thing they could contribute to the Moodle community? 

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of Carlos Kiyan Tsunami
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Is this a part of the evolution of Blackboard's business strategy? 

If we look at 2006 when Blackboard merged with WebCT, they mentioned that they would keep intact the two products (see picture), but finally they merged into one product. Should it be due to that  business model was not feasible?


 Perhaps taking into account the successful experience from the model of Google Android open source, Blackboard has rethought its business model, and proposes a similar strategy. Is this related that many universities are making the move?

I hope that this merge will not only benefit the closest circles of Moodlerooms and Blackboard, like it seems to happen with Google’s Android model, in which the latest upgrades are available for certain companies and not for all.

 
Average of ratings: -
Matt Bury
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Carlos,

I think you've got a good point. It would certainly appear that BB have been trying to diversify their portfolio of software and service offerings. Perhaps this is because of the perceived shortcomings of BB LMS and the subsequent migrations to Moodle. (There's the infamous North Carolina Community Colleges BB vs. Moodle assessment.)

Perhaps they want to ditch/de-emphasise BB LMS and go open source? - No point in flogging a dead horse!

 
Average of ratings: -
Russell Waldron
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

Matt, I think Blackboard can make its products more attractive, and become a better "citizen", without going all the way to Open Source.

Moodle.org discussions clearly show a decade of understanding that removal of choice or loss of mobility inhibits uptake by teachers and engagement of students.

Blackboard has not yet demonstrated the capacity to base a business strategy on liberating their customers. 

However, I wonder whether there is an opportunity for Bb there. Any potential client should be able to see in Bb's acquisition history the risk of sudden interruption to business. Right now I expect that if my institution's licence is voided (perhaps by a takeover or financial distress), I could suddenly lose 100% of the functionality in my Blackboard courses. That cannot happen to my Moodle courses.

If Bb were able to provide a plausible exit strategy, Bb could neutralise that compelling argument against using their product. Blackboard should be considered a more desirable and trustworthy platform if they credibly predict the costs and risks of emergency migration out of Blackboard.

NetSpot and MoodleRooms do have the demonstrated expertise and understanding to design such an exit strategy. This would be a powerful way for them to expand the potential market of Blackboard Inc.

 
Average of ratings: -
Picture of David Colucci
What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

The similarity in market share is close, back-when.  What do you think Microsoft would have done with Red Hat if they had purchased them in 2003?  Where would Linux be right now?  Where would Linux-partners be right now?  What would have happened to the concept and focus of the Red Hat company?

Operating system Market Share in 2003 is below this paragraph.  Windows owned 56% of the market and Linux occupied 18%:

image

Since the very moment I heard that Moodlerooms was the for-profit offering of the open-source Moodle versions, the analogy of Red Hat and Linux has been in my mind.

Red Hat has done very well over the years.  Although, they do not have the clout that they once had around the early 2000's, it seems to be thriving.

Having heard the Moodlerooms acquisition by corporate owned BB, I have only a hypothetical analogy with which to make a comparison.

LMS Market Share in 2010 and history is below this paragraph.  BlackBoard owns more than 50% of the market and Moodlerooms occupied about 1/2 of the Moodle market, likely at around 10% or less (my assumption of numbers):

Image2

 

 
Average of ratings: Cool (3)
Picture of Michael Penney
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi David "Since the very moment I heard that Moodlerooms was the for-profit offering of the open-source Moodle versions, "  - there are ~50 for profit offerings of Moodle from each of the 52 Moodle Partners (some partners specialize in themes, etc. and don't offer hosting). 

Novell bought SUSE in 2003 and Red Hat remaned independent, so maybe SUSE is a better data point for making predictions about the effects of the purchase on marketshare, etc.? 


 
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Picture of David Colucci
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

In 2003 Novell occupied very little of the Network OS market.  In fact, I'm currently wondering how they are staying afloat.

Since we are referring to key players in the LMS market.  The analogy should be kept to key players in another market.

 
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Russell Waldron
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

Is that market share calculated on 

  • number of institutions (if so, where are the thousands of independent K-6 and K-12 schools?)
  • number of server instances (if so, where are the thousands of small training businesses and consultants?)
  • number of learners (if so, where are the hundreds of thousands of K-12 school students and OU learners?)
  • number of {assignments submitted + forum posts + questions answered + peer-assessments} by learners (if so, where are the millions of transactions in district/state K-12 education systems?)
  • value of learning outcomes achieved (OK, now I'm just dreaming!)

Or do the published reports rely on simple numbers of licence/support contracts and ignore everything involving less than $X,000 cash?

The true "LMS Market" is not just the monetised exchanges: it is a world of cultural projects. Students and teachers on Blackboard and Moodle are now patching over their limitations by using Slideshare, GoogleDocs, Ning, Edmodo, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of other services which provide better platforms for aspects of learning and teaching and monitoring and administration. We don't count them in this market share? I see good teachers put up with awful administrative inefficiencies if they can effectively empower their students and engage/develop their community.  

I wish we could stop reporting of "LMS market share" based on something other than "Learning".

 
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Picture of Phil Hill
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

That graphic comes from my work with Delta Initiative. The full graphic, with the CC license and attribution can be found in this post:

Emerging Trends in LMS Market

The data is based on % of north american non-profit institutions using a specific LMS as their primary LMS. The data from 2005 - 2009 is based on the campus computing project, and the rest is based on additional sources such as Blackboard public documents (rich source of data, since they were publicly-traded until last fall), public media reports, etc.

Admittedly, this is not the best method for collecting data and is non-america / higher ed, but it is probabaly the most reliable year-over-year, which allows for trending information. The real point of the graphic is the big picture and major trends.

You make a good point about the LMS market being broader with additional tools. Another post that might be relevant for this discussion is below. Short summary - I believe the enterprise LMS is being replaced by various learning platforms and tools.

Farewell to the Enterprise LMS, Greetings to the Learning Platform

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

I suspect David should have made some clarifying statement in his use of your graphic then - a Graphic headed LMS Market Share All Institutions does not reflect your comments that this refers to %age N.American non-profit institutions using a specific LMS as their primary LMS. Particularly when it is then stated that much of the information comes from Blackboard's own documents.

I am not commenting on your use of the data for your purposes as I have not seen/read your report which may well indicate these facts fully, but its use in the post above I believe is out of context in not providing that kind of detail while allowing the graphic heading to stand! North American higher education is not the total LMS market, neither are non-profit making institutions, or those that will show up in Bb documents or public media (presumably again US media) reports.

Edit: This is even more the case having found your graphic in your report and realised that the version used in this thread is not even the complete graphic you presented in your blog as it appears to cut out the reference to costs in the bottom of the graphic. Surely graphics used to support any argument should be used in full and with the necessary accompanying facts to support them as queried by Russell. David's use of a part graphic, out of context and not referenced to your original blog post, has the potential to be very misleading as used.

Richard

 
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Picture of David Colucci
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

The intent was to draw a response.  I am genuinely interested in the answer to the questions that were presented.  Very few statements are made about the graphic.  In fact, I believe it is quite simply an analytical stir, trying to get people's opinions about what they would expect BB to do with the newly acquired Open Source for-profit company.

The picture is take out of its context I'm sure.  That is because it is meant to be used for a stir of opinion, and out of its original context purposefully.

If you Google the words "LMS Market Share" for pictures, this one comes up as one of the top ten results.  Does that make it out of context for the purpose of asking a few people some questions?

It seems to me that the BB people here are starting to get defensive.  Any particular reason for that?  Please explain as I'm sure many would love to hear this.

 
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Picture of Phil Hill
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

Good points, particularly about context. The footer that was removed from this graphic shows more of the context (see below). David is correct that the doctored image shows up in Google image search, but so does the full image.

I just jumped in to share the full image and explain the context.

Finally, we are independent consultants who have helped in many LMS selections and market analyses - not tied to any vendor. The difficulty in global market share is that I cannot find independent data - it is all based on self-reporting by vendors themselves or open source communities. I would love to do a global graphic if anyone can point me to non-vendor provided data.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

As far as I can see the 'doctored image' (I'd prefer to just say cropped, I have never intended to imply in any way that the actual data of the image has been altered - only that it was out of context and therefore potentially misleading) that comes up in the google image search is just pointing to the one used in this thread. The full image appears about 4th in the list.

At least if the whole image had been used it would have contained not just the cost section at the bottom, but also the source (both the Campus Computing and deltainitiative are referenced) and its actual meaning ('This data represents how many US campuses use a particular LMS as their campus standard') and the CC license! Hopefully this would have helped in avoiding the impression apparently deliberately aimed for by putting the image 'out of its original context purposefully'

So yes, I do believe cropping a picture and using it deliberately out of context is not appropriate for this discussion - and no, I have no links to Bb or any defence of their position: in fact I am an active member of this moodle community and have been for some time.

Richard

 
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Picture of Phil Hill
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

Poor choice of words on my part - I agree that "cropped" and "out of context" are better descriptions.

 
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Mark and Son Brandon
Re: What would Microsoft done with Red Hat, back-when?
 

Russell,

I have to agree completely with your analysis...market share based on reported "sales" or dollar values or "customers" does NOT do justice to Moodle.

I register all of our schools moodle sites, but I would bet that probably only 1 in 5 or even 1 in 8 Moodle sites that are running, take the time or want to register to be "tracked" by Moodle.org.     the marketshare people talk about is mostly just large scale "guesswork" and nothing more!

Mark Hilliard

USA

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Here's a bit of weirdness, including a theme song by Linkin Park and a quiz: a blog post by Dr. Chuck of Sakai.

http://www.dr-chuck.com/csev-blog/2012/03/reflecting-on-a-week-of-sakai-blackboard-and-open-source/

It's long, but it's worth a read. About halfway thru, you begin to see Sakai has some financial issues.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
'Blackboard', a new definition needed
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
The entry for 'Blackboard' moodle.org's glossary says,

"Probably the largest commercial competitor to Moodle, Blackboard recently purchased WebCT (10/21/05). Unlike Moodle, Blackboard is basically a commercial, closed source VLE"

which dates back to Jan 2006, see http://moodle.org/mod/glossary/showentry.php?courseid=5&eid=6395&displayformat=dictionary.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. What should be the current definition?
 
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Anne Krijger
Re: 'Blackboard', a new definition needed
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

You mean something like;

"Probably the largest commercial competitor to Moodle.
Blackboard acquired WebCT in 2005 and incorporated it in their productsuite.
Unlike Moodle, Blackboard's product is basically a commercial, closed source VLE.
In 2012 Blackboard gained a major interest in Sakai and Moodle and thus became one of the  World’s largest Education Open Source service providers."

Anne.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: 'Blackboard', a new definition needed
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Except that my understanding of the previous debates, and of moodle itself, is that Blackboard DO NOT have a 'major interest in Moodle' simply by acquiring two Moodle Partners - Partners may be involved in the development and support, but Moodle is open source code controlled primarily (or wholly?) by Martin and Blackboard have not bought an interest in Moodle itself.

Or is my understanding of the situation (or of your post) incorrect?

Richard

 
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Anne Krijger
Re: 'Blackboard', a new definition needed
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Richard,

I did indeed NOT mean they have any control.

What I did mean is that they have an interest in Moodle as an Open Source tool in such sense that they make money from services linked to/using Moodle.
In the same way as I make money doing Moodle related work.

Although the Moodle related revenue of the two companies they bought may be small compared to the total revenue of Blackboard (a couple of million $ vs about 450 million $)? Blackboard now is a major player in the Moodle service market.

Or so I understood.

Which still can be worrying, if you are a 'Moodle player' in the market they want to expand in. There's a new old player in town who has shown he knows how to play hardball.

Specifically if you have a competing product to Moodlerooms's Joule, I think the news must have warranted a 'new strategy' meeting.

Anne.

 
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Picture of Bryan Williams
Re: 'Blackboard', a new definition needed
 

Richard, your assumption is correct. Blackboard has no interest directly in Moodle, or any say-so in the direction that Moodle goes in. That is entirely controlled by Martin - always has been and will continue that way. 

Blackboard has purchased 2 of the 50+ worldwide Moodle partner companies (one in the US and one in AU) as part of their new strategy to offer something for everyone. Of note is that they also inserted themselves into another open source LMS project (Sakai), which never gained market acceptance the way that Moodle has.

This move by Blackboard was a defensive one to help them stem the flow of customer loss they have experienced over the past several years. Time will tell whether it was a good move, or simply prolonged the inevitable.

 
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Picture of John Rodgers
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I suppose one area Blackboard is losing market share to D2L is the small community college market here in N.A. In the University market, on the other hand, the erosion is Moodle related.

Many speculate small community colleges wanting to migrate from Blackboard move to D2L rather than Moodle because they are more comfortable with the support of a large company (justified or not) and don't have the IT infrastructure to support their own installation.

Acquiring a Moodle partner can nicely position Blackboard to capture the erosion in this segment. (We aren't us anymore, buy the new us)

 
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Picture of Doug Cullen
Re: Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms and NetSpot
 

I fond this interesting at the very least. The real question is what happens with MR now.

Does BB really support open source and even contribute to the Moodle code base?

Or does MR become a sales lead tool and defector detector. Image you're considering a new LMS and you send a RFP to MR. Is your BB rep getting a red hot memo from above to do whatever it takes to keep you on board? Will MR begin steering clients to BB using classic cars sales techniques? "Sure you could get Moodle at a great price, but don't you think your students and staff deserve all of the "advanced features" of BB? BTW You do know that a lot of code in Moodle is written by amateurs"

And for the more concerned, will BB be working towards collecting and selling demographic data? Your LMS systems contains lots of data about your students and staff, data that has real commercial value. Yes there are laws and contracts that restrict the use of some of that data, but start thinking about what you LMS provider can learn even with restrictions. They know which school LMS students access and therefore their geographic information and age group (elementary, middle or high school) which can then be linked to demographics, they know the IP address being used to access your system so they potentially known where they live. They know when and how long you LMS is being accessed.

If they can start to integrate "services" within the LMS they can gain even more. Integrate a websearch tool and gain access to search info. Add a way to access the a ebook provider (you know, a great tool to make it easy for a teacher to recommend some books to students) and gain insight into students preferences)

And that's without some of the less altruistic methods that web businesses have already implemented to collect personal data to sell. We've already experienced Facebook tracking all of your web surfing even after you have logged out. Well, they say they aren't tracking just helping, but researchers point out that they exposing your data in any event. Image the value in being able to track the web traffic of your students all of the time. And with control of RM, BB could implement tracking to all of their hosted Moodle installations.

 
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