One of the things that’s most exciting for me about going from a small organization to a bigger one is that there are certain areas where scale can have a really big, really clear impact. Standards, a topic I personally have a lot of passion for, is one of those areas. So in joining Blackboard, I saw and hoped for a big opportunity to do more. The fact is Blackboard’s long been involved on a number of standards fronts and has made some really important contributions. But I think it’s fair to characterize our involvement to date as more about participation than about leadership. I want to change that.
So, as I shared with our client community in a letter today, we’re going to ramp up our commitment to standards. Starting with a specific commitment to a standard I helped author and care a lot about, IMS’s Common Cartridge. Let me state it plainly here, we will fully support both the import and export of this format, working closely with Rob Abel, the IMS and its Board of Directors, of which I am a member.
Why? eLearning Systems like Blackboard are an important part of educational delivery. But they’re a part, one that needs to easily interact with lots of other parts, including learning content, to provide their full benefit to educators. Publishers, institutions, instructional designers, faculty, all are creating great learning content, at no small investment in time and resource. They want to create content once, have it be able to play anywhere, and preserve their investment by making sure it’s not “locked in” to a particular vendor’s system due to proprietary formats. Common Cartridge emerged to address these goals. I’m thrilled to have us get more involved, and also to get more personally connected with our ongoing support of other important standards like LTI, SCORM, LIS and SIF.
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. That’s the same as it is today and a key part of continuing to ensure stability and accountability once platforms are extended. But the power of these standards will be knowing that you can build a piece of content or tool once, then leverage existing partner relationships you have with various eLearning platform providers to have that content or tool serve teachers and learners through multiple supported systems.
In closing, an invitation. This is important work for teaching and learning. Work that I hope more will join us in doing. I know many have been taking a wait and see approach before fully diving in. I think we need to change that. Collective inaction is delaying important benefits to educators worldwide.
So I invite our publishing partners, our technology partners, our competitors and our community to engage with us to drive adoption of open standards. Specifically join us in working with the IMS Global education standards organization. Michael Chasen, our CEO at Blackboard, and I have both committed to participate. We’re going to bring some of our best technical minds to the dialog and hope to see you there. Ultimately the proof will be in shipped software, I understand that. But I hope you get a sense of the commitment you can expect from us in this important area for industry collaboration.