NBC + Blackboard makes me want to hurl

Oh, please make it stop. Check out the newest deal “inked” by Blackboard:

Blackboard is providing academic users with access to historical multimedia resources from NBC Learn. The two companies today announced that that they’ve inked a deal to make historical and current events materials from NBC News accessible within the Blackboard Learn platform.

Through NBC News Archives on Demand, college and university students and faculty will have access to thousands of video and audio files, as well as textual materials, covering a wide range of topics, from politics to health. All of the materials can be embedded directly into Blackboard courses using the new Blackboard Building Block, which is being made available today at no charge. As Blackboard described it, “As a result, educators can complement courses and lectures with historical and up to the minute video clips and other content on topics ranging from politics, the economy and climate change to health issues related to pandemic preparedness including the H1N1 influenza. Students get to participate in a much richer and more engaging course experience and can use the content and resources to support their own research, project work and presentations.”

I’ve said it before, Blackboard is primarily an access control company. But not content to be in the lucrative business of dining hall management, video surveillance, and door access control, Blackboard’s real endgame is to aid those who want to lock up culture. The last gasp of the LMS will be to convince schools that a contract with Blackboard (or Epsilen, a NYT LMS offering) allows their students to use work they are legally entitled to use anyway. I can’t really think of anything more disturbing, or more telling.

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7 Comments on “NBC + Blackboard makes me want to hurl”

  1. Scott Leslie says:

    Mike, I really like this phrase “Access Control” company/technology, and in the spirit of reclaiming the space of learning by reframing/rephrasing how we speak of this dominant paradigm, I’m going to start using it as the way I describe all of what we currently call “LMS/CMS.” Because you are right, that is their primary function.

  2. [...] and they still gobble up all competition and then, as Mike Caulfield points out so brilliantly here, “innovate” by selling us back what is already [...]

  3. Mike says:

    Yes, I can see the conversations now:

    Them: Should we upgrade to the new Blackboard or look at another LMS?

    Me: LMS? Hmmm. Not following you. Oh wait, you mean ACS!

    Them: ACS?

    Me: Yes — Access Control System. You know, I don’t so much care what ACS we use. I’m more interested in learning software…

  4. Jared Stein says:

    I’m with you on the Bb as ACS slant, but am not bothered by this particular Bb deal. NBC already had this content locked up, and sells access through subscriptions. Unless NBC is setting Bb as an exclusive access provider to their Archives (which they’re not) I don’t see the problem with Bb licensing a subscription of the archives for their users.

    Now it may be that the real issue for you is that NBC locks up their archives in the first place. As much as I enjoy dishing out to Bb what they’ve earned, I don’t see Bb’s actions here as that abhorrent.

    • Mike says:

      Jared — this is a good point (and of course similar to the whole Google Books discussion, where I have tepidly supported Google).

      But whereas Google is in some way expanding what the public sees as their right, Bb is contracting that. And the entire success of marketing this endeavor relies on Bb making it seem difficult and/or illegal to do this with news materials that exist on the web (including the materials that NBC has out there already).

      The problem they are selling a solution to is not that NBC Learn has locked up their materials — they are selling a solution to the problem that you cannot legally or effectively use materials available on the web.

      If I was a mechanic and I sold you a product you didn’t need because I claimed the law required it when in fact the law did not require it, we would see that as fraud.

      This is not fraud, b/c I do think Bb and NBC think they have sufficient legal teams to *make* the use of news resources illegal. But it is sleazy in the exact same way.

      What should have Bb done? Rather than “inking a deal” that gives us the ability to use news resources when discussing the news that could have saved the trouble and written a one-sheet on what your rights are as a teacher w/ regard to fair use. That would have opened up far more resources than this deal did, and would not have perpetuated this absurd mythology.

  5. [...] que reafirmarle en su postura. Para Groom y para Mike Caulfield, este acuerdo supone deslegitimar el uso de contenidos libremente accesibles en el aula por parte de los profesores: “They innovate by selling us back what is already ours” [...]


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