Moodle and Blackboard Cut Ties

Sometimes breaking news overturns your blogging schedule. We have had e-Literate staff at four LMS conferences in the past few weeks and have a raft of news and analysis to publish. However, there's some big news today out of Moodle that needs at least a timely mention while we write our other posts and chase down the details for more analysis of this event.

Moodle just announced that Blackboard "will transition out of Moodle’s Certified Moodle Partner program in the coming months."

This is consequential for both Moodle and Blackboard. On the Moodle side, we have written about Moodle's financial dependence on Blackboard as a partner and how that creates some risk for the community. Since those posts, Moodle has received $6 million in outside investment. According to Moodle Pty's press release, that investment, combined with a decline in Blackboard's financial contributions to Moodle made it feasible for Moodle to break off from the partnership.

Note that all the information we have right now is Moodle's press release; we will circle back to this story once we've had a chance to talk to folks from both Moodle and Blackboard and have caught up enough on our blogging schedule that we can give this story the attention that it deserves.

But here's my snap reaction: For Moodle, there is good news and risk. The good news is that it clears up the uncertainty that we have been reporting on. Moodle will now have a chance to demonstrate that they can be sustainable without depending on Blackboard. The risk, of course, is that they will now have to demonstrate that they can be sustainable without depending on Blackboard. We'll try to get some more color on this from Martin Dougiamas.

On the Blackboard side, it's bad news in the short term, but the impact is hard to quantify. Because of the open source license under which Moodle is released, Blackboard can continue to use the code in their Moodlerooms business. However, Moodle Pty. owns the Moodle trademark. So unless Blackboard negotiated something with them, they will have to change the name of their product and division. In the medium term, there are open questions about their ability/willingness to continue contributing code to mainline Moodle, customer reactions to the split and, on the potential upside, Blackboard's ability to make development decisions independently of Moodle Pty. There is some potential upside for them in that last piece, as well as not having to pay the partnership fee to Moodle. We will be reaching out to Blackboard (if they don't reach out to us first) to hear more from them about how they see the future of their Moodlerooms business.

So there's still a lot here that we don't understand yet. But this is significant news in the LMS world.