Source Wars: #Blackboard takes aim on Moodle’s image of “Free”


There’s a great video by Chronicle writer Jeff Young which highlights leaders from the worlds two largest LMS firms, Martin Dougiamas of Moodle and Ray Henderson of Blackboard which discusses quickly their views on the future of LMS and each respective organization’s present situation and short term goals.  It’s a must watch video to see how two very different products are strategically tackling the hurdles before them (check out the video here, or embedded below).

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For Moodle and Martin Dougiamas (Lead Developer and founder), it’s the release of Moodle 2.0 focuses on refining the LMS and positioning collaboration (rather than publishing) as it’s main focus. It’s future focus shifts to mobile as a learning and content/collaboration tool.  Paired with a greater focus on analytics (reporting), these could be two important areas by which Moodle adds value to educational institutions worldwide (not to mention that this code will be available for free to anyone with the ability to download, install and manage it).

The most game changing announcement though came from Blackboard’s Ray Henderson, President of Blackboard Learn. Henderson announced at Educause last week in Anaheim that Blackboard will be rolling out a free version of it’s latest products directly to teachers which will be both hosted and supported. Blackboard’s first foray into providing a free version of it’s services was actually forced upon it when it acquired Elluminate earlier this year (Elluminate had been hosting a free version of Elluminate Live at LearnCentral which has seen a good measure of success. and it’s commercial partners, to date, have refrained from offering free hosting to individual teachers which could spell a huge advantage to Blackboard’s ability to attract new users (which presumably is a lead generation tool).  There are free hosting companies available in the Moodle market; however none are connected Moodle’s Partner network and some have shuttered their doors/restrict registration due to their inability to find a working business model.

As Henderson mentions in the video, Blackboard is taking cues from the open source community and may have found an answer to eroding market share by offering services directly to teachers.  Attracting first adopters at any institution can give Blackboard the all important ‘foot in the door’ which it will need to stave off Moodle partners offering a similar model of Software as a Service.  This is not to mention Blackboard’s arsenal of add-ons, integrations and tools already available.

To paraphrase Chris Anderson, author of Free, Blackboard might beat Moodle’s “free” by becoming even more free.  Blackboard is taking aim to undercut Moodle’s no cost barrier to entry with a new trump: no barriers at all.