Blackboard, Ray Henderson, and Progress

When Blackboard acquired ANGEL back in May of 2009, there was a lot of noise about how the acquisition was going to change the company. I wrote a post then called Three Tests for the ‘New’ Blackboard, which outlined some indications I was going to be looking for to see whether there was substance behind the hype. The first sign I got that something was changing happened within days (hours?) of my publication of that post, when Ray Henderson publicly accepted my challenge on Twitter. How well have he and Blackboard done since then?

Really well, actually:

  • Challenge 1, drop the patent suit: Done. To be honest, I did not expect this to be the first one ticked off the list. But it was. Blackboard and Desire2Learn settled in December of 2009.
  • Challenge 2, support IMS Common Cartridge, including export: Done. I wasn’t following this too closely, so I don’t know exactly when this was released, but some time this year Blackboard provided full support for IMS Common Cartridge, including export.
  • Challenge 3, support IMS Learning Information Services: In Progress. Yesterday, Ray Henderson declared in a blog post that Blackboard is “committed to supporting” LIS. To my knowledge, this is the first time that Blackboard has made an unequivocal, public commitment in writing to implement the standard. This declaration has been backed up by activity in the LIS working group that indicates Blackboard is actually taking steps to implement the specification.

If Blackboard succeeds in implementing LIS by the 2011 IMS Learning Impact conference, then Ray will have met all three challenges within 24 months of coming to Blackboard. That’s pretty impressive.

Update: I received an email response to this post from Ray (who is at an IMS meeting today), which I reprint in part here with his permission:

  1. Common Cartridge: we actually have NOT shipped this, just demo’d it. My public statement was to show progress at the 2 IMS meetings this year, and ship by end of year. We’re on target for that.
  2. IMS Basic LTI: this was another area I clarified earlier–that we’d ship LTI. We got conformance cert at this meeting. And so we’ll ship that too, by end of year.

Related story: I mentioned in my blog a mega relationship between Bb and McGraw. We really are using basic LTI as a production technology — and one for a major strategic partner — in 2011. Adoption is key, and I’m delighted to see it brewing up.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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4 Responses to Blackboard, Ray Henderson, and Progress

  1. To be fair, there is a huge difference between dropping a lawsuit and settling with the other side. Dropping it means acknowledging you were wrong and moving on. Settling with D2L really doesn’t help the industry as a whole, since Bb could end up suing other companies. If there was some kind of commitment to drop the whole silly patent idea, that would be true progress. Oh, and make the whole interface less clunky and more easy to understand. And what about fixing some bugs that have gone untouched for years now? IMS support isn’t going to mean much when there are so many complaints out there about so many basic features.

  2. Alan Shapiro says:

    That is wonderful but there is so much more that I believe Blackboard needs to do to keep ANGEL customers.

  3. Andy Parker says:

    Good points that Ray seems to be making progress to change the Blackboard culture. At BBWorld and BBSummit Asia Pacific he also talked about improving the quality of the software. It would be fantastic to see progress in this area.

    If we’re talking implementation of IMS Common Cartridge and basic LTI , I hope that the tick Blackboard give this is for a solution which is workable for end-users, unlike some of the recent ticks they’ve given themselves (blogs, wikis) which many Blackboard users consider poor alternatives to the existing blog and wiki platforms

  4. You have plenty of blog and wiki options with Blackboard. There is the wonderful Learning Objects wiki and blog tool as well as open source integrations with Media Wiki and WordPress. The Blackboard wiki and blog platform is designed to meet specific needs for using wikis/blogs in the classroom. It is not a general purpose blogging or wiki platform.

    Ray has made progress on client satisfaction, client perception of initial software quality at release, and reduced the time it takes to close reported defects (he had an update on these in the BbWorld keynote this last summer). He’s also made some structural changes to improve the QA process at Blackboard including bringing in some new leadership to restructure the QA process over the summer. Personally I’m quite excited about the things that have been happening.

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