Disrupting Blackboard?

I have seen 3 challengers in the Academy to Blackboard’s dominance.  First was a Google-Pearson collaboration that provides a hosted Learning Management Solution (LMS).  Another Blackboard alternative – Sakai – was recently mentioned in Penn’s Daily Pennsylvanian.  Today’s DP mentions Coursekit, an entreprenurial endeavor by former Penn students Jim Grandpre, Joseph Cohen and Dan Getelman.

Being better than Blackboard in the provision of academic content and class and grade administration shouldn’t be too hard.  I’ve yet to meet anyone who is a diehard Blackboard enthusiast.  If anything, institutional inertia is the primary reason College and Universities stick with the established vendor.  There’s also the myriad of mature back-end solutions that handle the non-academic side of education.  That said, I wonder how Coursekit’s business model pans out:

Another unique aspect of the site is its business model. Unlike Blackboard and other course management sites that charge users, “any instructor in the world can use it for free,” Cohen said. He explained that Coursekit will rely on brands and merchants who want to reach students with contextual products such as electronic books or educational applications for revenue.

The online world is becoming increasingly aware of privacy implications. Also, how will this advertising be served?  Intermingled with content? Does the presence of advertising cheapen academia?  These are all questions that are going to have to be considered moving forward.

Although the end goal might be replacing Blackboard, maybe the better solution would being acquisition of these up-starts by Blackboard?

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