Yesterday, I was reading an announcement that Blackboard is partnering with Syracuse University to try to integrate its commercial product with the open source alternative  Sakai. They made the announcement at the Blackboard Developers Conference this week which precedes the BbWorld conference (both in Las Vegas) that many higher ed technology professionals will attend. (It started last night.) It's not a total shock. There was a Blackboard blog post about the general idea at the end of June, but I'm curious to see the general community reaction.

I'm not sure what my own reaction to this news is now, or will be as I learn more about the partnership. Guys in white hats join the black hat gang? Blackboard tries to embrace open everything? The end of Sakai? Blackboard finally realizes it must deal directly with open source? Unfortunately, for Blackboard, they have picked up an evil empire reputation in the same way that Microsoft did - too big a player, monopolies, patent suits, buy out & squash other products etc.

I attended a spring semester Blackboard presentation here in NJ and you could hear hints of all this integration then. They were calling the new product Project NG (for"Net Generation" though the "No Good" comment ran through the room too) and this new plug-in is called the "Blackboard-Sakai Connector" which is part of the Learning Environment Connector that is supposed to allow you to integrate data from an external CMS/LMS to Blackboard in version 8. The word on the Net is that Blackboard is also working with another university to work for integration with the other big open LMS, Moodle.

Some Syracuse users apparently use the Sakai ePortfolio with Blackboard and the plan is to allow you to import Sakai data into Blackboard or vice versa. Not so radically different from the “Building Block” idea that Blackboard has had running for years.

Blackboard says this project was “community-driven” in that it was customers who wanted this ability to use a commercial & open source mashup. PCCC didn't send me to the Sakai conference in Paris earlier this month, but Blackboard says the reaction there was "actually mostly positive.”  Stay tuned.

more at Inside Higher Ed


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