Blackboard Patents the LMS

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more uproar about this yet. The ever-brilliant US Patent and Trademark Office has apparently granted Blackboard a patent for…well…pretty much anything remotely related to learning management systems. As I read it, Blackboard basically owns the patent on any sort of groupware at all that is used for teaching purposes. This could have very serious consequences for both proprietary and Open Source competitors–and I define “competitors” as loosely as possible. (You could probably slam Drupal with this under the right circumstances, for example.)

For your convenience, I have copied the “Summary of the Invention” section from the patent:


In accordance with these and other objects, provided is a system for providing to a community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising a plurality of user computers and a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network. Each user computer is associated with a user of the system having predefined characteristics indicative of a predetermined role in the system. Each role provides a level of access to data files associated with a course, and a level of control over data files associated with a course. The server computer has means for storing data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to each file, wherein the level of access is associated with the ability of a user to access the file, means for determining an access level of a user requesting access to a file, and means for allowing access to a file associated with a course as a function of the access level of the user.

The user roles comprise a student role associated with a student user, an instructor role associated with an instructor user, and an administrator role associated with an administrator user (roles may be mixed; for example when an instructor of one course, is also a student in another course). The instructor user is provided with an access level to enable the creation and editing of a plurality of course files associated with a course. The course files include an announcement file, a course information file, a staff information file, a course documents file, an assignments file, a dropbox file, an asynchronous communication file, and a synchronous communication file.

The student user is provided with an access level to enable reading of course files associated with a course. The student user is also provided with an access level to enable modification of some of the files associated with a course. Also, the user may be provided with an access level to enable creation of a student file associated with a file for which the student user is able to read. The file that the student is able to read may be an assessment file created by the instructor user, and the student file created by the student user is a response to the assessment file. The assessment file may be a plurality of examination questions selected by the instructor user to assess the ability of the student user. The examination questions may be selected by the instructor user from a predetermined pool of available examination questions. The examination questions also may be created by the instructor user substantially at the time of the creation of the assessment file and optionally added to the pool. The student file may be reviewed by the instructor user and assigned a grade, which would be made available online to the student user. The instructor user may collate the grades obtained from reviewing a number of student files, and the collated grades may be made available online to all student users associated with the course (e.g.: an average for the class, a pie or bar chart, etc.).

The student will also be able to read an assignment file created by the instructor user, and the student file created by the student user is a response to the assignment file.

The “digital dropbox” may contain a plurality of files transferred to the server computer from one or more student users associated with the course. The instructor user may be provided with access to the files in the dropbox file, whereby the instructor user may download, edit and upload the files in the dropbox.

A user may be required to enter a login sequence into a user computer in order to be provided with access to course files associated with that user. The user is then provided with access to all courses with which the user is associated after entry of the logon sequence. The user is provided with a web page comprising a plurality of course hyperlinks, each of the course hyperlinks associated with each course that the user has been enrolled either as an instructor or as a student. Selection of a course hyperlink will provide the user with a web page associated with the selected course; the web page having content hyperlinks and buttons to various content areas associated with the course. The content hyperlinks and/or buttons include an announcement area hyperlink, a course information hyperlink, a staff information hyperlink, a course documents hyperlink, an assignments hyperlink, a communications hyperlink, and a student tools hyperlink. Selection of the announcement area hyperlink provides a web page including a group of course announcements. Selection of the course information hyperlink provides a web page including information regarding the associated course. Selection of the staff information hyperlink provides a web page including data regarding the instructors of the associated course. Selection of the course documents hyperlink provides a web page including a listing of documents associated with the course, which may be active hyperlinks to the documents. Selection of the assignments hyperlink provides a web page including a group of course assignments. Selection of the communications hyperlink provides a web page including hyperlinks to a group of communication tools including an asynchronous communication tool and a synchronous communication tool.

In another aspect if the invention, provided is a system for providing to a community of users access to online courses, including a server computer in communication with user computers over a network, wherein the server computer has means for creating course user accounts from a file of existing user accounts associated with an external computer. In this manner, existing legacy systems having large members of user accounts stored in memory may be integrated with this system without having to re-enter user data into the system (so-called batch enrollment).

In yet another aspect of the invention, provided is a method for providing online education, which includes the steps of establishing a course to be offered online, offering the course to be taken online to a group of student users; and providing access over the network to the course files to a student user who has enrolled in the course. The establishment of the course includes an instructor user generating a set of course files for use with teaching the course, then transferring the course files to a server computer for storage thereat, and then making access to the course files available to a predefined community of student users having access to the server computer over a network.

Preferably, at least one of the course files comprises a course assignment, and the student user creates a student file in response to the course assignment and transfers the student file to the server computer. The instructor user accesses the student file from the server computer, reviews the student file to determine compliance with the course assignment, and the instructor user assigns a grade to the student file as a function of the determination of compliance with the course assignment. The instructor user may post the grade to a file on the server computer accessible only to the student user with which the grade is associated. The instructor user may repeat these steps for a number of student users that are enrolled in the course, and then perform a statistical analysis on the grades assigned to the student users. The results of the statistical analysis may be made available to the student users enrolled in the course.

An asynchronous communication tool accessible to student users enrolled in the course may be provided for enabling asynchronous communication amongst the student users. Likewise, a synchronous communication tool accessible to student users enrolled in the course may be provided for enabling synchronous communication amongst the student users.

The present invention also enhances the prior art by providing a flexible infrastructure for colleges, universities, and other institutions wishing to facilitate on-line registration and tuition payment. More specifically, the present invention can accommodate different billing methods, including, but not limited to, billing on a per-credit-hour basis, and billing on a per-registrant basis. Tuition may be paid by credit card, debit card, check, or other verifiable payment method. Payment verification may be performed by the present invention, or the present invention may interface with third-parties providing payment verification services. In addition, the present invention allows on-line billing information to easily interface with a college, university, or other institution’s standard billing practices. Integrating with existing billing practices simplifies transition to automated systems.

In addition, the present invention may be configured as an open system wherein anyone can connect to a server over the Internet and create a course online that may be taken by anyone else connected over the Internet. Thus, anyone may create a virtual classroom available to anyone else, regardless if they are affiliated with a particular institution such as a University. For example, a lawyer may create a course in patent law online, and configure the system to require entry of a password to enroll. The lawyer may then disseminate the passwords to desired students who can enroll in the course. Alternately, the lawyer can request the system to require payment to enroll in the course such as by credit card.

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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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38 Responses to Blackboard Patents the LMS

  1. Bruce Lewin says:

    This reminds me of the situation when BT tried to enforce a patent for the internet! I’m sure the lawyers were happy though!

  2. Karyn Romeis says:

    Hmm. I’m trying to decide whether to laugh or groan. I’m going “But, but, but…” on the inside.

    I’m a little “iggerant” on the ins and outs of patents, but if they are retrospectively applicable, does that mean that everyone who has a non-Blackboard LMS already in place is up a gum tree?

  3. I believe the answer to that question is “yes”. Theoretically, Blackboard could sue anyone who uses an LMS other than theirs.

  4. So why doesn’t the Indian government file for a patent on the concept of zero and then sue the world’s IT industry? This greed & arrogance reminds me of this story:
    http://shetterly.blogspot.com/2005/01/people-who-owned-bible-story.html

  5. Paul Bacsich, who was deeply involved in the UK Open University’s development of “technology used for internet-based education support systems and methods” – to use the key phrase from Blackboard’s patent – has written an interesting comment about the large amount of documented “prior art” from the 1990s that exists, covering various aspects of the patent. It is here: http://fm.schmoller.net/2006/07/blackboards_us_.html.

  6. Ridiculous! Good luck trying to stop the power of online communities such as Moodle and Drupal, or the combination of the two. Personally I’m not concerned and will continue to use both. As for large groups such as state universities, their probably more likely to use an out of date, ugly, proprietary solution anyway. Sorry, but I don’t think that’s going to change. Besides doesn’t the future (if not the present) hold authentic learning opportunities by finding small, specific online learning scenarios that are supported by their passionate members. To me, this is where really efficient learning occurs, not in some top down – paper mill. Most of the time, they are only pretending to be teaching and learning anyway – let them pretend with Blackboard.

  7. I agree with you for the most part, Jesse. However, I am not ready to write off large, institution-wide efforts to support online learning in a programmatic way. While I agree that real innovation usually happens on a micro level, macro-level institutional support can create a fertile field by raising the general level of sophistication (and funding available) that leads to experimentation and, just as importantly, broader dissemination of the results. For these reasons, I very much care about anything that may put a chill on institutional investments.

  8. Damon Betlow says:

    Blackboard has already filed a suit against Desire2Learn.

  9. JFTR:

    In Europe softwarepatents are still not legal but the european patent office allows companies to file softwarepatents. I just wrote down a list of filed patents of SAP concerning e-learning:

    * CONTENT BASED MESSAGING FOR E-LEARNING
    * STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS FOR A COLLABORATIVE E-LEARNING SYSTEM
    * E-LEARNING STATION AND INTERFACE
    * NAVIGATING E-LEARNING COURSE MATERIALS
    * E-LEARNING COURSE EDITOR
    * E-LEARNING AUTHORING TOOL
    * OFFLINE E-LEARNING
    * E-LEARNING SYSTEM
    * E-LEARNING COURSE STRUCTURE
    * E-LEARNING STRATEGIES
    * …

    URI: http://www.tschlotfeldt.de/node/233

  10. Alfred Essa says:

    I am at the Desire2Learn Conference where the Blackboard lawsuit has obviously become an agenda topic. I did just a post on my blog, “Why Blackboard Is Evil.”

    http://tatler.typepad.com/nose/2006/08/why_blackboard_.html

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  13. Andy Polaine says:

    I really can’t imagine that getting very far in practice, but it will generate a lot of lawyers fees as they argue it out. (I suspect it will go the same way as British Telecom’s hyperlink one as someone mentioned above).

    More to the point though I wonder if they have seriously underestimated the backlash that this might cause. Universities (outside of the US) can be pretty hostile to that kind of corporate greed, especially as many of them are tied into massive contracts with WebCT/Blackboard.

    It seems like the desperate actions of a company failing to see the shifting nature of technology and emerging cultures. It’s a very out-dated way of thinking and on top of that Blackboard isn’t even very good. It is increasingly hard for private companies to compete with open-source projects with regards to very complex software (as Microsoft are finding out the hard way).

    Education is also changing massively too and this is a step in that direction but with the wrong feet, as it were. I just wrote about this: http://www.polaine.com/playpen/2006/07/26/re-imagining-higher-education/

  14. Alex says:

    Good to bring this up. One thing any patent lawyer will tell you, though (from my patent writing experience), is that the description of invention doesn’t mean much when it comes to patent prosecution. What matters most (by far) is the claim section.

    If Bb can go to any of the enumerated claims, compare against another LMS, and tick off every clause as exactly matching, then there’s a problem re: infringement.

    That’s assuming, of course, this patent holds up.

    (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6988138.PN.&OS=PN/6988138&RS=PN/6988138)

  15. Corrie Bergeron says:

    As a Bb sysad since ’99 or so, I like Blackboard’s product. I’m growing less and less fond of the company, though.

    A suit would likely be thrown out, but you have to have the money to fight it.

    I can;t imagine this playing well even with folks who LIKE Blackboard.

  16. Corrie Bergeron says:

    Reading the actual complaint (http://www.theinquirer.net/images/articles/blackboard.pdf) I’m struck by three things.

    One, Bb obviously wants to kill D2L – they’re asking for an injunction that shuts them down and forces them to pay triple damages.

    Two, they filed in East Texas.

    Three, they want a jury trial.

    I’m familiar with the Lufkin / Beaumont / Nacodoches area. East Texas is rural and the people are generally unsophisticated. Good honest folks, but they tend to prefer hunting and fishing, NASCAR and WWF over writing code for fun.

    Blackboard appears to think they can blow over a jury of rubes and yokels.

    As a Texan, I find this *hugely* insulting.

  17. Carl USA says:

    Sad to say, but the vicious bloodletting in all types of patent lawsuits in the US, and now especially software patents, as we are now in a software age, marries the wild west American attitude of six-shooting with lawsuits, with an absolute incompetence in the US Congress.

    These lawsuits represent a serious danger that innovation will flee the US for less dangerous shores. Since online software is where the US economy is headed, this may have devastating effects in the future. The idea that a lawyer can dream up the perfect, all encompassing paragraph, get it officially stamped by the USPTO, and then proceed to go on a litigious rampage, is a sad one.

    This trend does not help the US, and hopefully something will be done to fix it, and minimize litigant expense.

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  19. David Rice says:

    This is laughable. Truly expected from a company who packages Open Source products with it’s commercial software and requires you pay in order to use them.

    I am the sysadmin for a Blackboard Learning System – Basic Edition install. I was referred to my account manager by my Blackboard technical support manager when I attempted to setup LDAP authentication and SSL encryption to secure my installation. So, I asked my Account Manager: “Let me get this straight: I have to pay you $30K+ in addition to the $12.5K that I’m paying now in order to to use OpenLDAP and OpenSSL (with Apache)?”

    Her reply was, “Yes, but you get all these other new features blah blah blah.” If it wasn’t for our faculty’s resistence to learning something new, I would have switched to Moodle a long time ago. But, it looks as if Blackboard is going to price us out of even the Basic Edition and force us to break the law by using Moodle.

  20. Deborah Veness says:

    My University is currently using WebCT CE4 as our supported LMS and assisting and encouraging innovators to incorporate Drupal, ELGG, and so on in their approaches. We have just issued an RFI for a replacement LMS — submissions are not in yet.

    I am appalled at this development.

    This is a company that, only months ago, successfully convinced the US government that by “merging” with WebCT they would not be breaking the Anti-Trust legislation because competition is so strong. This week they are setting out to destroy that very same competition, and have prepared the way for that by successfully claiming to have invented the LMS!

    Do have a look at the paperwork associated with both the patent and the case naming D2L. I’m not planning to cut off my nose to spite my face, but this behaviour puts Bb into the Microsoft camp, as far as I am concerned — no more warm fuzzies in the relationship for me.

    I wonder what Goldberg and Salari are thinking?

  21. WITE Avenger says:

    “I’m proposing we set up an online group that will help coordinate countermeasures against Blackboard’s patents, and coordinate support for any organisation against whom Blackboard attempts legal action.”

    Check out http://blackfate.wikispaces.com/Join+WITE
    :)

  22. Carla says:

    Sounds suspiciously like the PLATO system, first developed in 1960 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO). That would be extremely prior art.

  23. Joseph says:

    It seems a sign of the times that organizations that are often, long on political connections and knowhow, but short on real talent, are trying to carve up and monopolize sections of the (now global) economy, to the detriment of real progress everywhere.

    Unfortunately, history has taught us that this kind of rampant dishonesty and wagon-encircling phenomena often happen in nations past their prime, as a prelude to their collapse.

    Isn’t that also what drove many to America (and many other once fresh-minded ‘new’ countries) originally?

    Creative people needed to get away from this kind of thing…

  24. cameron says:

    I’m not a patent expert but honestly, what kind of d**khead would grant a patent on LMS’s.
    The notion that Blackweb own the IP on these functions defies belief. Who works in their research section Bessie the wonder Numbat.

  25. Deborah Veness says:

    I’m pretty ignorant about patent law and certainly haven’t taken the time to explore the concept in this context. Is it possible for Bessie the Numbat to recind her decision and withdraw the patent — in any of the jurisdictions?

    Deborah

  26. Bessie is pretty much out of the picture now. However, the courts can rule a patent invalid if it can be shown that there is “prior art,” meaning that the invention covered by the patent either already existed or was described in some published form. Law being law, though, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We really need a lawyer to look at the patent and explain exactly what evidence would be sufficient.

  27. Anu says:

    Where does e-college and echalk (among others) fit into this? Will they be next? I would think that e-college is more of a threat to Blackboard than D2L since many universities use e-college. I am also a Blackboard user and have liked the product, but hated the company. Now, I hate it even more.

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  29. John says:

    Having been the victim of these ridiculous patents on methods and business processes, I can tell you that it is an out-and-out anti-competitive tool used by larger corporations to kill off smaller companies who compete againts them. The resources in time and money needed to fight these claims, however much prior art and however obvious these processes are to anyone “skilled in the art”, are often well beyond the means of small companies. At best, they are left crippled, before reaching any conclusion. The lawyers get rich and corporations achieve their objective of kill off competition. The sad truth is that the monster was let loose with the ability to patent business methods and since patent offices will accept most patents with little resistance (basic checks excepted) – however invalid they may be – it is left to the courts to decide on their legality. There no appears to be no way of taming said monster in anything but the very long-term (given that most patents will be valid for 25 years).

  30. J C Fleet says:

    Don’t worry all to much about the educational environment.
    They will be WAY to busy for some time lining up at the doors of very deep pocketed corporations to get their royalties for such tools as…

    …how to sell your old junk online.
    …how to turn on your computer.
    …how to setup your server.
    …how to write code with our development platform.
    …how to withdraw money from our ATM.
    …how to utilize our ERP system.
    …you get the idea.

    Let’s hope none of the behemoths gets the bright idea of supporting them.

  31. j2xs says:

    Hey everyone;

    In a court of law, it’s ONLY the claims that matter. The rest of the patent is almost irrelevant in a court (not a lawyer but my understanding).

    I think if the community reads the claims (yes, can be mind boggling at times) and still decides it’s a load of #@%&$, then other readers will have a better sense of what’s about to happen next in the LMS saga…

    I think (again, not lawyer) the way you read this is claims 1 thru 35 make up one “thing” that the patent holder says cannot be replicated without someone licensing it from the patent holder.

    Then, from 36 on is another “thing” that is separate and cannot be replicated without license.

    Here’s where I need help, but I think if you infringe on only one little piece of #1 thru #35, it’s okay. This is because the patent is trying to protect the entire _system_ described by all the claims 1-35 and not each claim on its own.

    Like I said 1000 times…not lawyer but this is what I’ve come to think is true in the normal course of my tech biz career.

    Here are the claims:

    1. A course-based system for providing to an educational community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising:

    a) a plurality of user computers, with each user computer being associated with a user of the system and with each user being capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system, each role providing a level of access to a plurality of data files associated with a particular course and a level of control over the data files associated with the course with the multiple predetermined user roles comprising at least two user’s predetermined roles selected from the group consisting of a student role in one or more course associated with a student user, an instructor role in one or more courses associated with an instructor user and an administrator role associated with an administrator user, and

    b) a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network, the server computer comprising: means for storing a plurality of data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to and control of each data file based on a user of the system’s predetermined role in a course; means for determining whether access to a data file associated with the course is authorized; means for allowing access to and control of the data file associated with the course if authorization is granted based on the access level of the user of the system.

    2. The system of claim 1 wherein the instructor user is provided with an access level to enable the creation and editing of a plurality of files associated with a course.

    3. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise an announcement file.

    4. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise a course information file.

    5. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise a staff information file posted to all registered in the course.

    6. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise a course document file posted to all registered in the course.

    7. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise an assignments file posted to all registered in the course.

    8. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise a dropbox file.

    9. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise an asynchronous communication file.

    10. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise a synchronous communication file.

    11. The system of claim 2 wherein the student user is provided with an access level to enable reading of a plurality of files associated with a course.

    12. The system of claim 11 wherein the student user is provided with an access level to enable modification of a subset of the plurality of files associated with a course.

    13. The system of claim 11 wherein the user is provided with an access level to enable creation of a student file associated with a file for which the student user is able to read.

    14. The system of claim 13 in which the file that the student is able to read is an assessment file created by the instructor user, and the student file created by the student user is a response to the assessment file.

    15. The system of claim 14 wherein the assessment file comprises a plurality of examination questions selected by the instructor user to assess the ability of the student user.

    16. The system of claim 15 wherein the examination questions are selected by the instructor user from a predetermined pool of available examination questions.

    17. The system of claim 15 wherein the examination questions are created by the instructor user substantially at the time of the creation of the assessment file.

    18. The system of claim 15 wherein the student file is reviewed by the instructor user and assigned a grade.

    19. The system of claim 18 wherein the grade is made available to the student user.

    20. The system of claim 18 wherein the instructor user collates a plurality of grades obtained from reviewing a plurality of student files, and wherein the collated grades are made available to all student users associated with the course.

    21. The system of claim 13 in which the file that the student is able to read is an assignment file created by the instructor user, and the student file created by the student user is a response to the assignment file.

    22. The system of claim 8 wherein the dropbox file comprises a plurality of files transferred to the server computer from one or more student users associated with the course.

    23. The system of claim 22 wherein the instructor user is provided with access to the files in the dropbox file, whereby the instructor user may download, edit and upload the files in the dropbox.

    24. The system of claim 1 wherein a user is required to enter a login sequence into a user computer in order to be provided with access to course files associated with that user.

    25. The system of claim 24 wherein the user is provided with access to all courses with which the user is associated after entry of the logon sequence.

    26. The system of claim 25 wherein the user is provided with a web page comprising a plurality of course hyperlinks, each of said course hyperlinks associated with each course that the user has enrolled in.

    27. The system of claim 26 wherein selection of a course hyperlink will provide the user with a web page associated with the selected course, the web page comprising a plurality of content hyperlinks to various content areas associated with the course.

    28. The system of claim 27 wherein said content hyperlinks comprise an announcement area hyperlink, a course information hyperlink, a staff information hyperlink, a course documents hyperlink, an assignments hyperlink, a communications hyperlink, and a student tools hyperlink.

    29. The system of claim 28 wherein selection of the announcement area hyperlink provides a web page comprising a group of course announcements.

    30. The system of claim 28 wherein selection of the course information hyperlink provides a web page comprising information regarding the associated course.

    31. The system of claim 28 wherein selection of the staff information hyperlink provides a web page comprising data regarding the instructors of the associated course.

    32. The system of claim 28 wherein selection of the course documents hyperlink provides a web page comprising a listing of documents associated with the course.

    33. The system of claim 32 wherein the listing of course documents comprise active hyperlinks to the documents.

    34. The system of claim 28 wherein selection of the assignments hyperlink provides a web page comprising a group of course assignments.

    35. The system of claim 28 wherein selection of the communications hyperlink provides a web page comprising hyperlinks to a group of communication tools comprising an asynchronous communication tool and a synchronous communication tool.

    36. An method for providing online education method for a community of users in a network based system comprising the steps of: a. establishing that each user is capable of having redefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system and each role providing a level of access to and control of a plurality of course files; b. establishing a course to be offered online, comprising i. generating a set of course files for use with teaching a course; ii. transferring the course files to a server computer for storage; and iii. allowing access to and control of the course files according to the established roles for the users according to step (a); c. providing a predetermined level of access and control over the network to the course files to users with an established role as a student user enrolled in the course; and d. providing a predetermined level of access and control over the network to the course files to users with an established role other than a student user enrolled in the course.

    37. The method of claim 36 wherein at least one of the course files comprises a course assignment, further comprising the steps of: e) the student user creating a student file in response to the course assignment; and f) the student user transferring the student file to the server computer.

    38. The method of claim 37 further comprising the steps of: g) the instructor user accessing the student file from the server computer; h) the instructor user reviewing the student file to determine compliance with the course assignment; and i) the instructor user assigning a grade to the student file as a function of the determination of compliance with the course assignment.

    39. The method of claim 38 further comprising the step of the instructor user posting the grade to a file on the server computer accessible only to the student user with which the grade is associated.

    40. The method of claim 38 further comprising the steps of the instructor repeating the steps (g), (h), and (i) for a plurality of student users that are enrolled in the course.

    41. The method of claim 40 further comprising the step of the instructor user performing a statistical analysis on the grades assigned to the plurality of student users.

    42. The method of claim 41 further comprising the step of making results of the statistical analysis available to the student users enrolled in the course.

    43. The method of claim 36 further comprising the step of providing an asynchronous communication tool accessible to student users enrolled in the course for enabling asynchronous communication amongst the student users.

    44. The method of claim 36 further comprising the step of providing a synchronous communication tool accessible to student users enrolled in the course for enabling synchronous communication amongst the student users.

  32. Jodeo says:

    Screw this. I’m going to patent flatulence and get rich selling beans and suing my customers.

  33. pbhj says:

    Two little points:

    1) Patent monopolies are defined by the claims, the “statement of invention” doesn’t mean a thing.

    2) USPTO publications aren’t all granted patents they also publish applications (called A-documents in Europe) that haven’t a snowball in hells chance of being granted. One such application in the UK did try to claim a monopoly on arabic numerals, lol, so Harold who mentioned zero was not too far off the truth.

  34. AR says:

    The Blackboard lawsuit filed in Texas is patently absurd, but clearly evidence they
    see their end is in sight. The migration to second life has begun, and the best venues and platforms there will all be open source.
    Whey they are thrown out of court in Texas they should just curl up and fade away.

  35. AR says:

    My great great great great great great great great great great grandmother introduced the use of slate into classrooms 300 years ago as the medium for pupil writing. They would use rags to wipe the surface clean. Blackboard as both type and token is a derivative idea, and the current company known by that name claims to have invented the idea of LMS. Well the actual truth of the matter is that my grandmother introduced the idea, of managing learning on visual real estate. I HEREBY proclaim the now obvious idea OPEN SOURCE in perpetuity on this and any other planet.

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