This week we heard the news that Blackboard…um…they are…well…something about MOOCs. They like them, I think. Or something.
Look, I get it. The company has realized that they need to take more direct action in response to the MOOC trend and, while they are not yet in position to make a specific product announcements, they want to let their customers know of their intention to do so. I don’t have a problem with that. But let’s please all get with the fact that the real story at the moment is Blackboard’s recognition that they need to have a MOOC strategy and not anything that they have…you know…actually done. At least, not anything that they have shown us yet. As far as I can tell, what Blackboard has announced is that they have an announcement. A newsworthy announcement for sure, but still just words. There is nothing MOOCish they have shown us this week that we haven’t already seen. It is hard to tell that from a casual read of most of the coverage.
This is more a criticism of the ed tech press and blogosphere than it is of Blackboard. Transparency is good. I like it when a company’s executives tell us what they are thinking about and planning. There also was some substance to the announcement at a business level. We now know that Blackboard’s MOOC platform will be free and that it will not be CourseSites. That is new information. Sure, they could have been a little less hype-y about it—their press release does read like a product announcement—but really, they are well within bounds of normal corporate PR puffery. If we can’t read between the lines correctly, then shame on us.
As Phil has pointed out, the collision course between MOOC providers and LMS providers is becoming a clear and significant trend, and Blackboard’s announcement is one data point confirming that trend. But at this point I have no idea what they think it means for them to play in the MOOC space, how serious they are about it, or whether their product entry will be interesting. We will have to wait and see what they do.