News from WebCT Impact

Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen, the Chairmand and CEO respectively, of Blackboard gave the keynote speech on Tuesday evening. Much of their hour long welcome was devoted to allaying the fears expressed about what the merger of WebCT and Blackboard might mean. But what was more exciting was what they announced would be coming.

Here are the highlights:

  1. Innovation will continue on both products, WebCT and Blackboard, and neither will be eliminated in favor of the other, rather expect as many believed a convergence of the best of both products.
    As a side note, they currently plan two means by which clients will be able to migrate to the ultimate end product. One is the gradual conversion over time through the use of Application Packs which will evolve and reshape the existing system. The other option is to wait a take a single leap into the new system.
  2. The full academic suite will be made available.
    I have to admit this one is a bit fuzzy but I suspect that it means that the portal and object management tools in Blackboard will be made accessible to those with the WebCT product. Stay tuned on this one.
  3. Therre is a move afoot to provide dedicated support managers to WebCT clients much like the level of service and attention that their Blackboard counterparts enjoy. Each institution will have the name of a real person who will know the parameters of their client institutions and in theory be better able to respond to their needs.
  4. Support for CE4 will be extended likely through the delivery of the converged product for those not ready to make the double jump to CE6/Vista 4 and then the final product. Good PR move on their part, even if it does hit the bottom line of those who make their living on conversions.
  5. There is also a price break of 45% to those who convert to an enterprise product with an additional discount available for year one. This is fuzzy as well as I do not know to which product(s) this applies. As more info is available, I will keep you updated.
  6. The keynote also touted their “Next gen” solution entitled Beyond Initiative which is a series of currently five online services which will serve to connect and extend the community of practice. The services include:
    • social networking tool – think mySpace for practitioners in the online education environment through a soon to be developed site, Scholar.com
    • lifelong learning service – a service which enables learners to take ownership of their learning and to port their electronic portfolios to a more permanent and accessible venue which can be independent of institutional politics but can also include links to things such as official transcripts and course descriptions.
    • extending the platform – an online repository of shared learning objects, developer hacks and other pieces that serve to improve the product and how it is used. This will possibly include not just freely donated but also commercial components.
    • student centered learning – a tool for student research and collaboration beyond the confines of their current institution.
    • outcomes management service – a service which will allow colleges/universities/other learning organizations to contribute outcomes data, and provide the analytics necessary to develop an institutional profile including local trending data and to then compare their institution to other contributors, thereby serving to inform and ultimately shape the direction of their institutions.
  7. And a last bit of great news for users of the WebCT product is that they now have free access to Powerlinks, a developers toolkit which enables campuses to create and develop extensions to their LMS. Blackboard users are used to this as their SDK (software developers toolkit) has always been a complimentary component of their LMS.

I had the opportunity to sit with Matt Small, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Blackboard and shared with him some of the concerns that smaller campuses such as ours hold over what the future of this merger means to us.

4 thoughts on “News from WebCT Impact

  1. Hi John,

    Thanks for the update and clear outline of the keynote. Would have loved to be in Chicago for the event. Much appreciated!!

    Andre vd Merwe
    Eiffel Corp
    South Africa

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