Networked Learning Environment – THE BLACKBOARD LEARNING SYSTEM – and Blackboard History

Blackboard Inc. provides powerful and easy-to-use systems for educational instruction, communication, and assessment. In the last three years, Blackboard Inc. has marketed two major product lines: the Blackboard Commerce Suite and the Blackboard Academic Suite. The core of the  Academic suite is the Blackboard Learning System, the course management system for classroom and online educational assistance. Other course management systems and learning management systems exist, including Angel/LMS, eCollege, GNU General Public License/Linux, andLearningSpace, as well as open-source learning systems such as The Sakai Project, Open Source Portfolio Initiative, Moodle, and uPortal. Despite the drive towards new portal commodities, the Blackboard Learning System has become the dominant e-learning software company. Is this necessarily good for higher educational learning? Members of the United University Professions Technology Issues Committee debate the issue as well as present specific applications of the Blackboard Learning System in distance learning, hybrid courses, and as didactic supplements to other electronic environment enhancement systems.

A. Introduction

A brief history of Blackboard

Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen, as a consulting firm to provide technical standards for online learning applications. Blackboard LLC was contracted to the IMS Global Learning Consortium, a worldwide non-profit organization within the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative of Educause. Blackboard’s vision was to provide a user-friendly means by which college professors could put course information, including syllabi, reference sites, and study guides, on the Web. In 1998,

Blackboard merged with CourseInfo LLC, a course management software provider and startup company at Cornell University, started by Stephen Gilfus and Dan Cane, and the merged company  released its first software product for online learning.

Blackboard’s continued growth and the expanding public profile was driven by acquisitions. In March 2000, Blackboard Inc. acquired the Richmond-base competitor MadDuck Technologies. In January 2001, Blackboard purchased CampusWide Access Solutions Inc. from AT&T and CEI SpecialTeams from iCollege Inc. In 2002, another online learning competitor, Promethius, was purchased from George Washington University, and then in 2003, the assets of the transaction system company, SA Cash, were acquired. Finally, Blackboard released plans to raise up to $75 million in an initial stock offering and went public in June 2004. Since then, Blackboard Inc. merged with the rival e-learning software company WebCT and together it is estimated they control up to 80 percent of the academic course management system market in North America. Blackboard is used by more than 70 percent of the U.S. colleges and universities named to the Most Connected Campuses’ List. As of June 2006, the Blackboard empire includes over 12 million users in over 60 countries. Products are offered in 12 languages to over 2,200 learning institutions and contain more than 2,500 supplements from educational publishers. Blackboard Inc. (BBBB) is traded on the NASDAQ exchange and through the course of 2005, the trading price approximately doubled. With metrics like a renewal rate approaching 90 percent and a continued trend of moving clients from lower level services to higher level licenses, investors are positive on the prospects of Blackboard Inc. [1]

Blackboard portfolio of products are termed the Networked Transaction Environment (NTE) and the Networked Learning Environment (NLE). [2,3] The NTE product is the Blackboard Commerce Suite which contains the Blackboard Transaction System, the Blackboard Community System and Bb One. The Blackboard Commerce Suite provides software for the establishment and functioning of universal financial and data accounts for students, faculty, and other members of the campus community, enabling clients to track commerce and access transactions on campus, off campus, and online within a one-card program. The NLE product is the Blackboard Academic Suite which contains the Blackboard Learning System, the Blackboard Community System and the Blackboard Content System. This single platform integrates data and applications for e-learning. The Blackboard Learning System is the heart of the NLE and it enables instructors to create and manage course matter, employ publisher content, communicate with students, and evaluate performance.

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