I'm pleased to see the concerns and objections growing about Blackboard's overbroad patent on Course Management Systems. While I was Director of Distance Learning at Eastern Oregon University I first became involved with Blackboard when the company bought out the CMS we were using, Web Course in a Box. EOU became an involuntary Blackboard customer. As I noticed Blackboard's yearly fees increase I sought an open source alternative and persuaded EOU to begin running Moodle as a trial system and alternative to Blackboard. Unfortunately when I retired, in June 2004, the institution returned to using Blackboard as its sole provider of online and hybrid course delivery (a dangerous entanglement).
My own experience with Course Management Systems goes all the way back to the mid-60s and early 70s when course managment systems were used with mainframes and terminals. PLATO was just one of the successful systems that was developed before the development of the personal computer. From the perspective of decades of work on computer-aided instruction, it seems outlandish and absurd to me that any company could lay claim to a general patent on course mangement methods, they might just as well claim a patent on learning with computers (or books). _____JH
Stephen Downes has assembled a collection of comments and links about the Blackboard situation. Here's a sample:
Bill Fitzgerald - Blackboard Granted Patent on Series of Tubes. Keeping up with the discussion on the Blackboard patent as Bill Fitzgerald gives us our headline of the day (via McToonish).
Alfred Essa reports that he has contacted EFF "to see if we can get the Blackboard Patent listed under the Patent Busting Project" and advises "if any readers have connections to the EFF, let's get this on their radar." He also cites Brad Fell on abolishing software patents.
Dave Cormier continues to try to pull together an online meeting on the issue (but his emails to Blackboard are bouncing) and meanwhile has posted the link to the proposed Canadian patent. But even if Blackboard representatives don't show, it might be a good idea to be in on the Sunday Ed Tech Talk meeting and to let your voice be heard.
The Wikipedia page of prior art, mentions Feldstein, is gaining steam. Get your contributions in. He also references James Farmer's patent information page in his eLibrary, but it was so slow as to be unreadable.
Trey Martindale offers a short remark and links to the Slashdot discussion. Not surprisingly, the Slashdotters are not amused. As guisar writes, "I hope that not only are these patents denied but that Blackboard and WebCT get tied up in litigation until they go Chapter 11. If any market should be supportive of Open Source, I think the on-line learning marketplace is a natural. Having Blackboard and WebCT dominate is not good for us." Now there's some publicity money just can't buy.
Scott Leslie, who was on holiday when the story broke (hey, at least you weren't in Bogota!) comments "If you can beat them, sue them, eh?" He lists some prior art and adds, "at Edutools we can actually show a continuous development of the feature set that we use to compare these products from 1996 until our current one."
Meanwhile, ATS Blog cites a Moodle discussion and comments, "It is sometimes disturbing to watch the trends in e-learning in the United States vs. Australia, Canada, or Europe."
On Desire2Blog Barry Dahl writes, "Earlier I said I was not a hater. Oops, turns out that I HATE Blackboard." Heh. Michael Feldstein (who showed up with comments in a locked-down Chronicle article today) links to Blackboard's new defensive FAQ and asks "is Blackboard feeling the heat already?" At least the Chronicle covered it - the rest of the education press - University Business, Insider Higher Ed, eSchool News, all of them, are missing in action.
There were also short posts from Rich Schweir, Robert Paterson, Will Richardson, George Siemens and Graham Attwell.
One competitor that appears to be relatively unscathed by the fray is the open source product ELGG. Joan Vinall-Cox writes, "I believe that this is the corporate system about to topple from its own weight. I teach using an Elgg Community blog and a course wiki. I used to use WebCT. I prefer the blog and wiki as teaching tools; they're simpler to use, much, much cheaper, and students learn how to use software they might encounter again in their futures." And Harold Jarche notes that ELGG does not contain any of the 44 features claimed in the Blackboard patent.
I have wonder whether it wasn't really the best time for NIIT to acquire Element K. Heh. [Link] [Tags: Push versus Pull, Wikipedia, Online Learning, Canada, Web Logs, Blackboard, Copyright and Patent Issues, European Union, United States, Open Source, Games and Gaming] [Comment] [Stephen's Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~ OLDaily RSS 0.91]