IT: Technology, Language, and Culture

Blackboard coaxing WebCT users to Defect

In this press release BlackBoard urges WebCT users to come to the mother ship with promises of “conversion kits.”

You know they aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, which makes me wonder just what kind of “conversion” and support they are offering. I’m not going to speculate about why and what a user would be converting. After all, both companies purport to use open standards right down to their meta data. It’s also likely that that the sites to be converted are would need to be fairly vanilla, that is, template driven, “course module” using sites, rather than anything more instructonally appropriate or useful.

The release is an interesting example of marketing drivel. The name of the “web based” conversion kit is “EasySwitch.” The release alludes forebodingly to WebCT’s announcement of ceasing support for the “standard edition” in favor of the more kitchen-sink “Campus Edition,” which costs more, as the release implies, and then, near the very bottom, refers to BlackBoard as “a single reliable learning solution with long term viability.” Implying, of course, that WebCt is neither reliable nor viable—and it may well be neither, but I’m not sure BlackBoard is any better.

Were it me, I’d spend the money on smart people, including using trained graduate students as support staff and HTML folk, working with trained undergraduate HTML folk, and look at things like NNTP for discussion boards, Radio, Manilla, Perl, Apache, and MovableType–which looks like a super application for web-writing. It’s got me thinking about finding a web host that will let me use Perl.