The makers of the Blackboard elearning system have secured a patent on ‘Internet-based education support system and methods’ and have immediately sued a competitor.
Thanks to the brainiacs on Wikipedia, there’s an entire collection of prior art/examples for virtual distance learning going decades – sometimes centuries – back.
Better than that is the online reaction – from some of the administrators using Blackboard in a corporate environment.
I spent most of today wrestling with the latest release of Blackboard. Among the “improvements:” the spellchecker is broken, you can no longer prevent students from printing the tests, when you try to email students they are listed alphabetically by their first names, and the discussion boards have become impossible to navigate. It is a nightmare, and it is scary to imagine how much worse they will be without competition.
Blackboard has to be some of the worst software ever written. I actually quit an adjunct position because the department adminstrators wanted to force me to use Blackboard and Outlook webmail instead of software of my choosing.
I’m been the administrator of a learning management system for a multinational Fortune 500 company. The LMS market back then SUCKED. All the software looked like it had once been mainframe/terminal based and was now being shoehorned into being web-based. I won’t name the package but we dropped thousands of dollars and I found tons of problems and bugs with it – it was like they’d never even done user testing before. I found usability and interface problems that any usability expert should have found. We paid for thousands of dollars of custom courseware that had hideous instructional design and confused learners, managers and us. It was a piece of crap.
I then worked with an elearning software company that was reconceiving the whole idea of integrated online learning. We created a fantastic platform that is the future of elearning. combining courseware, phone-based seminars, screensharing, IM, blogs, RSS, facilitation, self-service learning, guidede learning – the whole kit and kaboodle in a modular, extendable system that can sit inside your firewall and had gone through tons of QA testing (I know, I helped write the scripts and the use cases). Plus, the makers of the software were experts in distance learning and instructional design. If you are LMS shopping I HIGHLY recommend you talk to Bill Bruck at Q2 Learning. Their xPERT platform is a thing of beauty and I was proud to be able to work on the project! PLUS – the folks at Q2 are REALLY nice and smart people.
Dump the chump LMS and call Bill Bruck.