Blackboard, Publisher Content, and the Future

February 10, 2010

Ray Henderson, President of the Blackboard Learn division at Blackboard, blogged today about progress that Blackboard is making on backing up past claims about embracing openness in their product.  You can read his full blog post over on his blog, titled “Blackboard’s Open Standards Commitments: Progress Made“.  It makes for some interesting reading, for someone who understands some of the tech-ese and history of getting publisher content into Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard.  However, I’d like to try and offer a “what does that mean for us?” perspective for faculty using Blackboard.

The “Common Cartridge” standard that Blackboard is planning support for is a set of rules that content providers such as textbook publishers can use when creating their content.  Following those standards should make it easy for a content provider to make just one set of content, but have it be available in multiple systems such as Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, whatever flavor of system that supports that Common Cartridge standard.

One thing this should mean for faculty is that, when trying to get content from your publisher rep, it should be far more difficult for the rep to provide you with the wrong stuff.  It also means that, should you teach at multiple institutions using different systems, you’ll have a good chance of using just one content source that can be imported into your courses at each institution.  This is what, in the tech support business, we refer to as “A Good Thing”.

There are certainly other implications to Blackboard becoming involved in, and planning support for, the Common Cartridge standard, but I don’t want to muddy the waters here.  The take-away point for faculty is:  This should make moving content into your courses better.