WebCT, Blackboard and Open Source solutions

I’m watching (and occasionally participating in) a discussion in the SCOPE community. The current discussion began on the WebCT/Blackboard merger, and quickly moved into the age-old (haha) question of: proprietary software versus open-source.

I find this dichotomy to be awkward: I don’t think that one versus the other (or any of the many other choices) is necessarily the “best” choice. Blanket pronouncements ignore the variety of different users. Some people only want a content repository to support their face to face teaching. Some want to focus on grade delivery, or discussions, or… The other major division is between those who want it to be simple and unchanging, and those that want to be able to tweak, add and change their LMS.

So one conclusion is to use a multitude of tools to deliver education, and that probably works to a point.

The question then becomes: what do we owe the students? Should they be able to expect a consistent platform in which their education is delivered? (and I’m not making a distinction between online, face to face or blended learning). Or should students accept that the world is an ever changing place, with multitudes of platforms and ways of doing things?

Would we be having this discussion if we could offer instructional design support to all instructors, regardless of the platform?

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