Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Growth of Non-Blackboard LMS Options

Michael Feldstein has provided a very interesting analysis of the current LMS market in the U.S.:
The Evolving LMS Market, Part I
December 21, 2010

Using data from the Campus Computing Project, Feldstein illustrates how it likely is a myth to frame the LMS landscape discussion as "Blackboard vs. Open Source". The growth of not only Moodle and Sakai -- but also Desire2Learn -- signifies a measurable movement away from the Blackboard conglomerate (Bb, WebCT, and ANGEL).

I'm struck by a number of points
  • Desire2Learn and Moodle have made huge gains in the U.S. market and specifically within a few market segments.
  • Blackboard's share is slipping significantly.
  • Sakai's growth among public research institutions is worth following.
Here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we are using Desire2Learn as our centrally supported course management system. However, Moodle has been implemented in many of our schools and colleges for various reasons and we are collectively considering the future of Moodle on our campus.

After reading Michael's post and seeing the trends among public research universities, my fear is that my colleagues and I might be overly distracted by the emergence of Moodle and not focused enough on Sakai.

UPDATE: Recently, Delta Initiative stated that an archive of their 12/16/2010 webinar "New Choices. The State of Learning Management in Higher Education Systems" will be posted online within 10 days of the event. It will be very interesting to compare their findings with those of the Campus Computing Project and Michael Feldstein. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Unanswered questions raised for D2L

Like Barry Dahl, I too will not be attending next week's Desire2Learn users conference in Chicago. My reasons were more run-of-the mill: family time and coaching duties primarily.

In his latest blog post, Barry takes a principled stand (I suppose mine is based on principles too) and is actually boycotting the conference.

I appreciate the issues and questions Barry raises about D2L and their handling of the last (latest?) chapter in the Blackboard-D2L edupatent saga. He speaks for all of us when we ask collectively, WHAT THE HECK D2L?? I think we have all gone on our merry ways tending to the daily fires and to our local projects and have set aside our nagging curiosity stake in the issues.

I do hope that those attending the conference receive some answers to these questions.

If I were to attend the D2L conference, I would also like to ask a question related to the release of Learning Environment 9.0 that my institution launched this week. "Why didn't you do more to better accommodate the transition of the navigation bars to .NET?" Custom links, customized tool names, and many graphical elements have been hosed by the upgrade.

By not attending the conference, I will certainly miss the UNconference and the hallway conversations with D2L staff and peers from around the world. My biggest regret is missing a great chance to connect with 7 faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who are attending for the first time. For those attending, if you see them in your sessions or at lunch, do make them feel welcome!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blackboard's Patent is Down to its Last 30 Days

Last week, Ray Mosteller revived the discussion of the Blackboard-Desire2Learn saga by articulating a number of questions pertaining to the settlement between Blackboard and D2L. One of Ray's questions caught my attention. He wrote, "What ever happened to the USPTO rejection of all claims in the Blackboard ‘138 (Alcorn) patent? Or the USPTO re-examination of the ‘138 patent. Is this still ongoing? Is there a chance that the USPTO could revive the ‘138 patent?"

Last we heard, the US Patent and Trademark Office was re-examining the patent and had issued a series of "non-final" decisions that invalidated all 44 (then later all 57) of Blackboard's claims related to the '138 (aka Alcorn) patent. I assumed that Blackboard had appealed that decision, but I cannot find evidence of that.

My attempt to uncover the current status of the patent re-examination led me to the attorney, Michael Spiegel, representing the Software Freedom Law Center and its ex parte re-examination request with the USPTO. Spiegel graciously informed me that a final Right of Appeal Notice has been sent to Blackboard regarding their last opportunity to appeal the USPTOs decision to overturn all claims in the '138 Alcorn patent. Blackboard has 30 days from March 12 2010 to file their appeal. If they do not, then the re-examination is complete and the USPTO decision is mercifully declared final.

In reviewing the publicly available Right of Appeal Notice, this statement by the USPTO nicely summarizes the nature of this infamous patent:

"The claimed invention is merely a combination of old elements...The combination is an adaptation of an old idea using newer technology that is commonly available and understood in the art and thus obvious."

Note: I've posted the USPTO's Right of Appeal Notice here (PDF, 1.3 MB). The document contains a record of all the arguments made regarding the existence of prior art to invalidate Blackboard's claims.

Many thanks are also owed to SFLC's former patent attorney Richard Fontana who "did all the heavy lifting in this case", according to Spiegel.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jon Mott: Bridging the Gap Between the PLE and the LMS

Back in August 2009, Jon Mott gave this presentation at OpenEd 2009. He reports on their work at BYU to create a new learning environment based on PLE principles.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in the future of the CMS/LMS to watch this presentation. I took away the following points:

1. PLE values (student-centric, openness) more closely match the values of the institution than do the values of the CMS

2. Lack of continuity for the learners from semester to semester exists in the current CMS. We typically turn off access to course sites at the end of the course. It’s the “chief demerit of the course management system” Mott says.

3. Stand-alone gradebook. This is a highly important progression in the future of the course management system. Integration with various systems will be key, but de-coupling this critical tool is the first step.

4. Get rid of the dropbox? He says that instructors can now tell students, “Don’t upload your paper, just give me the URL for where your paper lives on the web”. Furthermore, he says, "Maybe one of the requirements for being digitally literate in 2009 is being able to publish a web viewable document”. Bingo. How many institutions offer easy ways for students to publish on the web? However, I do know that many instructors value the ability to zip and download all the submitted papers for an assignment in order to more efficiently read and grade (likely after printing!) — something the digital dropbox currently offers.

Good stuff! I’ll be following Jon Mott and his work at BYU more closely these days. Some of my colleagues saw him speak at ELI 2010 recently and posted their summary and comments here.