9 Answers That Will Be Buried With Moodlerooms As Moodle And Blackboard End Long Standing Partnership

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With a press release at moodle.com, the open source LMS announces the end of Moodlerooms, and the general partnership with EdTech Goliath Blackboard dating to 2012, after its acquisition of Moodlerooms Inc. and many other Moodle Partners. Was the writing on the wall? Moodlerooms’ rate of upgrade was lagging behind the regular Moodle schedule. Blog and social media activity grinded to a halt longer than a year ago, but promotional sites were up to date, and the LMS seemed a “hot topic” just this past July at Blackboard’s BbWorld conference, with the launch of Moodlerooms 3.4. New customers were getting on board –there are more than 1,000 Moodlerooms customers according to Blackboard– as of six month ago, with a reported 20% growth in 2017. Moodlerooms was a sponsor at Moodle HQ-hosted MoodleMoot Spain last June.

WIRIS

The break-up looks hasty. Case studies and Moodle “Stories” involving Moodlerooms or Blackboard disappeared without a trace at moodle.com. Creator, Founder, CEO and majority owner of Moodle Pty Ltd Martin Dougiamas words on the news were not boilerplate. «Blackboard has always been a sensitive and sometimes confusing subject in the Moodle community, since Blackboard has of course continued to develop and sell its own competing products.

»While we thank Blackboard for being a solid contributor to the Moodle project during the past 6 years, the fact is that the proportion of our revenue coming from our partnership with Blackboard has been steadily declining every year since 2012. Now is the right time to clarify the situation between us and focus more tightly on our exciting roadmap around our open software

Previously in MoodleNews: Blackboard And Moodle In Latin American Higher Ed: A Friendly Rivalry Among Teammates

To be sure, no longer being a Moodle Partner will not forbid Blackboard from continuing to offer solutions based in Moodle. After all, Moodle is an open source technology. A more potentially conflicting question lingers over the use of the “Moodlerooms” trademarks, although Blackboard seems keen on rebranding the service.

Current and upcoming Moodlerooms customers will not be affected, according to Blackboard, whose stance as the number one provider of Moodle solutions worldwide will not fade overnight. On an email sent to customers, Blackboard’s Brett Nabb reasserted the LMS status as “the most mature and stable Moodle-based SaaS product in the market,” and soothed concerns about ongoing support to customers as well as to Moodle, “open source and open standards.” Moodle users of Blackboard tools, Ally and SafeAssign, are also expected to continue with service.

A year ago, the partnership only looked to be getting stronger, with Blackboard’s offer to host MoodleMoot US, the largest one, within BbWorld. What happened? Here are other questions we might never get unequivocal, satisfying answers.

  1. Who decided to end it? While Moodle’s press release only implied the decision was made by Moodle, a prompt response by Blackboard stated: “The company has strategically decided to end its partnership with Moodle and is transitioning out of Moodle’s Certified Partner Program.” It is clear Blackboard is focusing on Blackboard Ultra, a fully cloud-based solution from proprietary software, as their main LMS, moving hundreds of Learn customers high up above. This despite fierce competition in the US Higher Ed LMS segment.
  2. How much was the partnership worth to Moodle? Only speculation surrounds the contribution of Moodlerooms to Moodle’s income streams. 10% of a given Partner’s revenue get to Moodle Pty Ltd, in exchange of an official endorsement to their services and trademarks licensing. At one point in 2015, Blackboard was claimed to contribute more than 50% to Moodle HQ’s revenues from the Partnership program. (Source needed.)
  3. How much are the “Moodlerooms” trademarks valued? What will happen to those?
  4. What are Moodle’s yearly results, and how will they be affected? The press release merely states that “Moodle has experienced strong growth in recent years.” Instead of operational results, which the private company is not obligated to release, the detail-arid announcement about the investment by Education for the Many was touted again. To be clear, investment does not constitute revenue, in fact it generally puts pressure on increasing future revenue streams. Who will fill Blackboard’s gap, however small? (It’s not small.)
  5. Who is Moodle’s most valuable partner? If not (or no longer) Blackboard, then who? I would bet eThink Education, also US-based with operations in Canada, the Caribbean and Nigeria. And I could be wildly off. Titus Learning, Catalyst IT, eCreators, Synergy Learning or Human Logic also have longstanding, international, financially undisclosed presence.
  6. How much revenue is MoodleCloud generating? By the statement’s account, more than 23 thousand sites are hosted by Moodle’s SaaS offering. While improving in capacity and features, MoodleCloud is still not recommended for large organizations, nor it is comparable to what Moodlerooms offered. The figure also does not seem to differentiate between free and paid MoodleCloud sites.
  7. How is Moodle Pty Ltd ownership shared? Last time MoodleNews inquired, Moodle’s Communications department indicated that information on ownership and board composition would “be made available in due time.” New Zealand High Court documents point Dougiamas as Moodle’s “majority stakeholder,” and the only other known is Education for the Many.
  8. How much is Dougiamas worth?
  9. What will happen to Moodlerooms code base? Moodlerooms was the largest in the series of Moodle partner acquisitions by Blackboard, and the most prominent that kept the name. Many of them (Nivel Siete, Netspot, Remote-Learner) had built additional functionality, which Moodlerooms had available. There is someone who hopes the code will be released to the public.

Read the official statement: “Moodle ends partnership with Blackboard” at moodle.com. ■


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