Last week Blackboard announced that they had purchased what in my opinion are the two most dynamic e-learning tools available today, Wimba and Elluminate.Yesterday they announced the addition of powerful e-learning texts;
“McGraw-Hill, a top academic publisher, as well as Follett Higher Education Group and Barnes Noble, two major distributors that operate a combined 1,500 college bookstores in the United States and Canada.”For me this is a tough pill to swallow; not because a big company is getting bigger, creating a virtual monopoly on the Learning Management System business, but because I believe in Open Source as a viable, sustainable model for education. These acquisitions help to facilitate the delivery of dynamic content and synchronous and asynchronous deliveries via online, but a cost that is prohibitive for most districts and schools.
The McGraw-Hill partnership <http://www.blackboard.com/Company/Media-Center/Press-Releases.aspx?releaseid=1447807> will allow instructors to search the McGraw-Hill catalog for relevant course materials, then assign them to their students, without ever leaving Blackboard. Students can then purchase and access the assigned materials, also through the Blackboard portal, via the Follett and Barnes & Noble online bookstores.
I want to believe that the open source community will close the gap and continue to build better and more dynamic venues/tools for video conferencing (big blue button), e-text delivery (ck-12) and more venues for open content (MIT Open courseware); because I think that it's what is best for our schools. I'm not opposed to paying for tools, but I know there are far too many districts in my state that will NEVER be able to afford an LMS like this, and for those kids I want it open and accessible. So who pays the price when big companies get bigger? The rural outliers, the schools and communities where digital access and inequity isn't just a rallying cry for more tax money, but is instead a reality, a crippling reality where preparing our p-12 students for college, creative entrepeneurship, or life beyond high school, just got a little bit tougher and more expensive.
There are people working hard to get these tools into the hands of schools and districts slashing costs and trying to balance budgets, and i'm sure there are many more besides the few listed above, but if you want to learn a little more about them you can find them here.
- CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the "FlexBook," CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational content that will serve both as core text as well as provide an adaptive environment for learning.
BigBlueButton is an active open source project that focuses on usability, modularity, and clean design -- both for the user and the developer. The project is hosted at Google Code BigBlueButton is built by combining over fourteen open source components.
- MIT Open Course: Unlocking Knowledge, Empowering Minds. Free lecture notes, exams, and videos from MIT. No registration required. http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
- Moodle: Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites http://moodle.org
- EDU20 Free and easy LMS. Free cloud-hosted LMS, with nothing to download or install.