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06/23/2009

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Ray,

This is great news and - once again – I thank you for your leadership in helping to drive forward standards into the marketplace – for the mutual benefit of buyers and sellers. In my opinion, standards are not an end in themselves, but rather a means to an end. The goal here is to increase the usefulness of technology in achieving the strategic goals of institutions and schools. Standards enable that by allowing and encouraging more investment in innovation. For those organizations involved in educational technology – including some very large and prominent ones - that may have been making excuses for not participating in the core IMS initiatives you mention, this announcement should be a wake-up call.

For those readers who may not be familiar with the IMS standards you mention – Common Cartridge, Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), and Learning Information Services (LIS) – I invite them to get an overview, including screencasts, at:

http://www.imsglobal.org/digitallearningservices.html

Perhaps most timely is that IMS will be holding a hands-on public workshop in Montreal (at TELUQ – the Tele-University of the University of Quebec) on Thursday, July 16. This will cover Common Cartridge v1.1, which includes the long awaited Basic LTI – enabling a seamless teacher and student experience with Web 2.0 learning applications. For the agenda and sign-up see:

http://www.imsglobal.org/july2009montreal.cfm#Thursday

I’ll also be happy to jump in here and answer any questions the readers may have on how IMS works. Our web site is:

http://www.imsglobal.org/

Ray - I am really glad to see this post. I hope to see you at DevCon in a few weeks and catch up. The real value of being part of Blackboard is the reach that you can have when we all deploy high impact standards. I think that there is a very strong value proposition for a company with a dominant market share to participate and strongly contribute to interoperability standards. When market-dominating products do not solidly support standards - people get a feeling of lock-in - in a sense there are likely many organizations which will not consider a commercial offering that does not support real and interoperable standards because (a) it does not play well when there are multiple learning solutions on a campus, and (b) the sense of vendor-lock-in is particularly distasteful in a teaching and learning context. And as you say, it is not enough for Blackboard to participate - it is necessary to lead and to add significant horsepower to the building of standards. In a sense, I would like to see Blackboard build on the leadership you have shown in the IMS LTI 2.0 group. Working closely on LTI 2.0 with Lance Neumann, George Kroner, and John Fontaine has been a delight. Now lets move it to the next level with leadership participation-levels in standards like IMS LIS and IMS Common Cartridge. I would say "welcome to the jungle" - but you have years of experience in the jungle already :).

I applaud your personal efforts in this area and believe that you are sincere, but considering Blackboard's history of litigation and intimidation in the industry I cannot take this news with a straight face.

If Blackboard truly wants to show leadership in the industry, it will stop pursuing competitors with frivolous (and often laughable) patent claims in court. Patent lawsuits are antithetical to open standards.

Blackboard's history of intimidation and aggressiveness in the market is not conducive to standards creation and may wind up driving potential collaborators away.

Hi Philip,

I thought I'd jump in here just to clarify from the perspective of a standards organization like IMS (IMS operates under pretty much the same IP policies as 100's of other standards setting consortia around the world).

First, we agree that most participants in standards organizations want to make sure that the IP rights in a potential standard are well known - to avoid getting trapped into a situation where they are beholden to another organization's patent. That's why most standards organizations, including IMS have an IP policy that requires full disclosure upfront of any claims by participants. I can tell you that Common Cartridge has no such claims made by any party. I can also tell you that Blackboard has been very generous in providing significant input into the Learning Tools Interoperability work, based on work they had already done, without making any claims. This was before Ray's arrival into Blackboard.

Now, IMS has been very proactive in encouraging the disclosure of all the prior art that our members may be aware of relative to the Blackboard case. That's because we want to make sure that those who make decisions on such matters have all the available information. However, patents in the world of technology are a fact. We don't expect patent claims and suits to go away any time soon.

So, while patents and standards are a related topic, the willingness of Blackboard to participate in the standards process should be seen as a positive sign . . . I'm more concerned about the many organizations that DO NOT participate in the standards process - those are the ones that may jump in at a later date with claims. Take a look at our Contributing Member list and you will see many leading companies - but you will also notice several large organizations missing - some of which are locking customers into proprietary technology on a daily basis - as a buyer I'm more concerned about those organizations.

http://www.imsglobal.org/members.html

Best,
Rob

"Once standards like these get implemented, creators of learning content and tools will of course still need to have formal partnerships (for example in our case participating in the Blackboard Building Blocks™ program or the Blackboard Content Provider network) with platform providers like us in order to connect their standards-compliant tool or content to eLearning platforms through supported interfaces."

Doesn't sound like much of an "open" standard to me if "you still need to have formal partnerships" to connect "standard-compliant content" to a "standard- compliant" LMS.

"That’s the same as it is today..." seems to sum it up.

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