“Our business is built around the status quo,” points out Seth Godin in this blog post, “and it’s not fair that the market wants something else now.” These words describe so many companies who suffering the effects of disruptive technologies, scrambling to stay alive in the face of “easy to use, not quite perfect or the best but good enough to get the job done for what I need.” One example of a type of business who’s crying “Not fair!” includes course management systems, like Blackboard who gobbled up WebCT and Angel to the complaint of some of its customers. In fact, thanks to Angelic Learning, check out these stories of people fleeing the “black hole,” as that blogger colorfully puts it, below:
- (4 campuses) went to ANGEL from Blackboard starting the Fall 2007 semester. The reasons given were: 1. Cost – Blackboard was too expensive compared to ANGEL. 2. Service – weeks and months would often pass before problem tickets were addressed. 3. Faculty approved ANGEL over Blackboard and competing systems.”
- moved from Blackboard to ANGEL in 2005 due to Blackboard’s outrageous prices and deplorable customer service.”
- “after Blackboard bought WebCT (the college) was not treated well and support went downhill quickly.”
- “left WebCT 4.1 because of the Blackboard purchase. Too many problems with Blackboard support.”
- “We moved from Blackboard to ANGEL in summer 2007 for a few reasons, #1-price, #2-functionality, #3-support!”
- And many more….
In light of this conversation, it was fascinating to read a blog posting about assertions Blackboard makes in regards to Open Source alternatives like Sakai and Moodle. The blog’s author makes some interesting points, not all of which are represented in the notes I thought worth keeping and sharing on my blog. While I encourage you to read the blog entry in its entirety, I thought I might share a few points of my own.
While proprietary companies are silently paddling like heck under the water to stay afloat in a world where their services have suddenly become “free,” you have to admire any company for their attacks on competitors (e.g. Desire2Learn) and denial of the truths that many educators–slow as we are in understanding technology’s application to the work we do–are now accepting, in spite of the “Our Proprietary solution IS an enterprise solution.” These proprietary companies are NOT quietly going to go into the night with a whimper…I have to admire that.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Read the rest of the poem by Dylan Thomas
That poem’s reference to no forked lightning is defined as “ failed to command attention; failed to express a startling or revolutionary concept.” (source)
In light of FOSS tools become available and slowly growing over time, it’s no surprise, right? Proprietary tools no longer command our attention.
But what tools DO command attention, especially in course management systems? Well, though I advocate for the use of any FOSS course management system that meets the needs of an educational organization at lower cost and makes technical support required…well…less technical. That includes solutions I’m familiar with, such as Moodle, or those I’m not, like Sakai,
While support costs can be high, they are NOTHING compared to the recurring license fees of proprietary solution vendors. In times of economic hardship, and even in times of prosperity, it is incumbent upon school district administrators to be sensitive to saving funding so they can invest it in teachers and students. The “education industrial complex,” as I think Chris Lehman (Practical Theory) characterized it as cited in Will Richardson blog entry I read this week, is undeserving of any mercy since they have bled school coffers dry.
Proprietary solution providers, beware…you reap what you sow.