About The Blackboard Partnership With IBM And Amazon Web Services

Leading into BbWorld16, Blackboard’s annual users conference in the air conditioned bunker of The Venetian in Las Vegas, the company announced that they were partnering with IBM.

Blackboard Inc. and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a collaborative agreement for IBM to manage Blackboard’s datacenters and cloud infrastructure. The two companies will also work together to develop innovative educational solutions, taking advantage of IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology and Blackboard’s broad capabilities suite.

Under the agreement, IBM will manage much of Blackboard’s technology infrastructure, including the company’s 28 global data centers and its existing public cloud footprint. IBM will also provide support for Blackboard’s expanding use of the public cloud. Blackboard will leverage IBM’s expertise and software to offer customers some of the most flexible, reliable, security-rich and resilient environments available.

What the initial press release did not capture, and what has become quite apparent at BbWorld16, is that this is really a three-way partnership between Blackboard, IBM, and Amazon (for Amazon Web Services, or AWS). Peter George, Blackboard’s SVP of Products, noted this critical distinction in his blog post “Partnering with AWS and IBM for cloud services and infrastructure management”. Continue reading

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Personalized Learning Explainer: Teaching to the Back Row

Phil and I are pleased to share our first animated explainer on personalized learning:

If it feels like a commercial that could have been produced by a textbook publisher or ed tech vendor, that is entirely intentional. We hope that they will actively promote this video (and the successor that we will be publishing in the next couple of weeks). We are giving them tools they will (hopefully) want to use that move the focus away from product bells and whistles and toward teaching challenges. This attempt at jujitsu is worth some unpacking.

Continue reading

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UC Davis Lessons: Open is as open does

It’s interesting how one phrase can cause such a reaction.

There is an interesting angle here in that Sakai is open source yet data is not easily recoverable.

This comment came from the original post discussing UC Davis’ SmartSite disaster when their Sakai hosting partner Scriba botched a data center move, leading to a university of 32,000+ students going without a fully-functional LMS for the last three weeks of a term, including finals week. If you want the full run-down, read that linked post then look at additional posts in this list for the basics.[1]

What did I mean with this comment?

Simply that this outage would give us a chance in reality to get a better understanding of the dynamics of open source solutions and whether the university in question would actually have achieved the ability to “control its destiny”. The early indications at the time were that UC Davis would not be able to make the course data from their LMS fully available to faculty and students before the end of the term. A full analysis of the causes and implications of the situation needed more information on what led to the outage, what UC Davis had in their contract with Scriba, and how the end of the term would play out. But even before that analysis, the comment was also based on the likely market perceptions.

What did I not mean? Continue reading

  1. SmartSite is the UC Davis branding for their LMS, which was hosted at the time by Scriba, a Sakai Commercial Affiliate. []
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LMS Outage: Exclusive view of UC Davis contract with Scriba

When I first heard about the recent LMS outage at UC Davis – which left the school with no LMS access for a full week and without a fully functional LMS through the remainder of the spring term – it was quite clear that this was an unusual situation. There have been plenty of other LMS outages, but with this one not only did UC Davis lose days of system access, during the outage they had no idea if and when the system would be restored. Any useful communication with the vendor ceased, and the school had to scramble and invent their own disaster recovery on the fly.

What we didn’t know at the time was whether UC Davis staff had planned for such a contingency and had reasonable controls in place. Thanks to the media relations and IT teams at UC Davis, we at e-Literate now have the contract with Scriba to help answer these questions. I have also talked to Ian Dolphin, executive director at the Apereo Foundation that runs the Sakai project, and Michael Sanders, CEO of Scriba, to gather and verify the data in this post.

In a nutshell, this was a screwup of colossal proportions by Scriba and Scriba alone. Furthermore, Scriba is no longer a Sakai Commercial Affiliate. Continue reading

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Personalized Learning at Law Schools

I recently had the honor of speaking at the CALI (Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) conference. I was invited by one of my early heroes, John Mayer. When I first arrived on the ed tech blogging scene, John was already here, doing stuff. He inspired me.

Anyway, you may or may not know that law schools are currently experiencing an enrollment crisis. As a result, they are accepting students who are below their normal standards. These students are, unsurprisingly, not doing as well (on average) as their predecessors. So I ask the question: Is the problem that the students are “worse,” or is it that nobody is actually teaching law school students, and that the ones being admitted could succeed if only somebody taught them?

Here’s the video of the keynote, if you’re interested:

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