If you want to understand why the word-that-must-not-be-named spread like wildfire, you need only read the Inside Higher Ed article on Blackboard “partnering with Syracuse University to develop a way to integrate Blackboard with Sakai.”
Jim has a nice post on Blackboard’s co-option of “openness” in their statements on this project. As for me, I continue to find it amusing that quotes from Blackboard leadership almost always follow the term “learning” with the term “login”. In the quote in the current press release, “login” appears almost eight words after “learning”, making for a couple tense moments:
“Students should not have to worry about whether different technology is powering their online learning environments for different classes,” said Michael L. Chasen, Blackboard’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “With a single login users should have access to all of their courses and course material. There should be one place they can go to get all of their course information.”
Did you catch that?
learning (0) environments (1) for (2) different (3) classes (4), With (5) a (6) single (7) login
God save the single login. No matter what it costs!
But I think I differ with Jim in what I feel the most interesting part of this whole deal is. I don’t feel that there is any real danger of Blackboard co-opting the term “open”. In fact, in the current press release the line:
With Project NG, Blackboard is working to create a more open, flexible platform that allows educators to better personalize, customize and integrate their educational ecosystem.
reads to me more like white noise than anything else. It’s a bit of exquisite corpse poetry, apparently composed in the interstices of an edtech conference.
And the rest of the release? I just can’t work up a steam about it, because the whole thing is too darn amusing. I mean, how open is your system if the two owners of the systems have to “partner” to get the systems integrated?
And the line:
“Students should not have to worry about whether different technology is powering their online learning environments for different classes…”
Hilarious. The point is not whether “Students shouldn’t have to worry about whether different technology is powering their online learning environments.” The point is I shouldn’t have to care what Blackboard thinks is a “legitimate” worry to get stuff out of their system. What I decide to worry about is really none of their business.
It’s the difference between engagement and openness. Engagement is admirable, but it is essentially interacting with the world on terms that you define.
Openness is letting the world interact with you on terms the world defines.
That difference is crucial, and should not be forgotten. As engagement with the broader community, this effort is not a bad thing. But it has absolutely nothing to do with openness.