When I hear the word “Blackboard”, two images come to mind. The first is that of my old TV/VCR combo from about fifteen years ago. It was pretty sweet to use the same remote control the TV and operate the VCR, but sooner or later either the VCR or the TV would go out and – hey, you never did get to catch the end of that movie did you?! (P.S. – Don’t worry, it was an M. Night Shyamalan film so it doesn’t really matter anyway.)

The second image is of Time Warner Cable in Brooklyn, NY. As much as I love not having any other cable provider from which to get service… OK, how about I’ll just stop there.

And pick back up in May of 2009 when Blackboard picked up ANGEL Learning, Inc., a leading developer of e-learning software. For the hefty price of $95 million, Blackboard acquired ANGEL’s product portfolio which included the ANGEL Learning Management System, ANGEL ePortfolio, and ANGEL Managed Hosting.

Fast forward to a little over a year later and we have another couple of acquisitions to add to the list – Wimba and Elluminate. Professor Anthony Picciano let us know his thoughts soon after the acquisition was announced, but the question on my mind was why on earth would Blackboard want to acquire two companies that essentially do the same thing?? Well, I got to learn the answer to that question and much more after reading Blackboard’s reference article, “Elluminiate and Wimba Join Blackboard: Frequently Asked Questions”.

Perhaps I need to give Blackboard some credit because according to their letter to clients they plan to, “sustain the goal of improving collaboration broadly, rather than exclusively for those using Blackboard learning management products.” While I really like the sound of this, I wonder how long it will occur with the way Blackboard keeps eating up the competition. Watch out Desire2Learn, BeehiveMind, and Moodle — you could be next!

I have to add that my opinion of Blackboard is largely shaped by my experience with Blackboard as a student. I finished my undergraduate degree online at CUNY and what I remember the most was printing everything out ahead of time to prepare for the inevitable ‘outages’ that would occur throughout the semester. While I don’t have experience using Elluminate, Professor Adam Wandt’s interview about the product provides a nice picture of what they have to offer. I do, however, have some experience using Wimba Pronto and the main reason I liked this product was simply because I could access it without having to log into Blackboard.

Some Central Michigan University faculty do not utilize Blackboard, even with their upgrade to Blackboard 9. Mathematics professor Tibor Marcinek dislikes using Blackboard because of its “closed” nature saying, “I’ve had students in the past who were not enrolled in my class ask for the materials of the course.” Marcinek instead posts course information on his personal website, which is accessible to current and former students at any time.

I do appreciate Blackboard Inc. having the vision to incorporate synchronous features to make it a more robust CMS/LMS, but the big questions is, what will happen to these features the next time Blackboard is down? (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find that Q & A in the “Elluminiate and Wimba Join Blackboard: Frequently Asked Questions” reference article.)


1 Comment so far

  1. Adam Scott Wandt on September 5, 2010 10:19 pm

    I also find one of the best things about Elluminate is that it can be accessed outside of Blackboard. We bring in guest speakers from all over the country to lecture to our National Online MPA-IG Program. It would be a shame if WIMBA and Elluminate were no longer available as they are now.

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