Thu Jun 25 20:08:21 2009 EDT (-0400 GMT)

Ray Henderson, new president of Blackboard (Bb) learn, sent out an E-Mail/blog post to the WebCT/Bb community today that amounts to a bit of a mea culpa.

As Brock University transitions from their WebCT CE 6 (Blackboard Learning System CE) Learning Management System (LMS) to Isaak, Brock University’s Sakai-Based LMS, it’s nice to see someone from Bb give a honest assessment of their acquisition of WebCT.

Ray shares what he’s come to understand and most of their clients suspected:

…the WebCT course management systems went through a major re-write just before Bb and WebCT merged – CE6 and Vista 4 were the results of that re-write. Just after the merger was completed more than 500 clients ended up going live on these new products.

It wasn’t until these clients went live that we discovered a large number of bugs (over 2,000) and some critical architectural issues. Frankly we made a mistake in not battle testing the new releases ourselves after the closing of the merger and for not keeping WebCT’s support center in Vancouver at full strength.

Brock University was one of those clients, and you can ask anyone who was at Brock University during the fall of 2006 or the start of term in winter of 2007 and 2008 to find out the number of issues Brock had – or read the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies’ annual reports.

That said, it’s small consolation to finally be given a frank assessment of what append and to know that Bb is finally willing to give an honest accounting of that part of their company’s history.

Brock gave-up a considerable amount of features when they abandoned WebCT CE 6 and may have missed out on some real potential with Blackboard 9. But that said, almost everyone at Brock University is pleased with Sakai and the transition appears to be going very well.

As far as the open source vs. commercial software divide that Brock University just crossed the overwhelming majority of instructors and students don’t care; they want a website that supports their teaching and learning effectively and make efficient use of their valuable time — instructors and students don’t measure that in money or on an ideological scale. When instructors and students try to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a web-based teaching tool they only have their own experience and reputation to gauge it by and by that measure Bb is not doing well.

I encourage you to read the rest of Ray Henderson’s blog posting.

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