Image via WikipediaThere is a notice in Inside Higher Ed on Blackboard's purchase of Elluminate and Wimba entitled "Blackboard's Big Buy." It begins:
Blackboard announced on Wednesday it is buying out two software companies in an effort to bolster its real-time collaboration features and satisfy a generation of professors and students increasingly shaped by social media.
How kind of them. They are not doing it to further squelch competition and wring more money out of its customers, but to satisfy a generation of students and professors. If anything proves that capitalism's relationship to innovation is a myth, this is it. I used to hear the lack of innovation argument as an argument against opensource. Monopolies destroy innovation by removing competition. A free market needs to support a free play of ideas and invention. Even Blackboard benefits from that.
The cost of these tools in this economy is unconscionable. All that "vendor lock-in" does is drive costs up because there is no incentive for making the tools widely available.
We had a year long pilot with Wimba Voice Tools and could never get it to work. They then wanted to charge us for a year to further test it. We asked "why would we pay for a pilot of something that is not working?" They are a perfect fit into the Blackboard juggernaut.
Blackboard has a history of acquiring tools and then either not supporting them fully and letting them die or causing them to disappear altogether. I am a former user of Blackboard and the two things they just don't get are customer service and collaboration. In their attempt to created a social bookmarking tool ala Delicious Bookmarks, they took this beautiful idea of sharing and tagging bookmarks and subscribing to other user's bookmarks, and turned it into a locked-down, password protected proprietary tool: utterly useless. They did not acquire Delicious Bookmarks as a tool - they just copied the idea, something for which Blackboard would have sued anyone else back into the Stone Age.
Here in California we have a state-wide licence with Elluminate through CCC Confer. I will be watching Blackboard closely on how they work with Elluminate while keeping a weather eye on BigBlueButton (which, coincidentally integrates with Sakai) and other open source options.
If I sound bitter it is because I was a really big fan of Angel Learning: