Open Platform vs. Open Content. The Big Debate at Educause 2011!

19 Oct

In listening to the announcements by both Pearson Education Inc. and Blackboard Inc. this week, we were intrigued thinking through which might have more appeal to educational institutions.

1. an open and potentially free learning platform – this is what Pearson is suggesting, leaving Pearson to focus on its core content business.

2. a proprietary learning platform through which educators and institutions will be allowed to share content under a creative commons license, allowing Blackboard to focus on its core proprietary software business. Blackboard’s suggestion.

There are several challenges to both models:

First, in order for the Pearson platform to be truly open, it would need to guarantee its long term openness, ideally by making the platform available under an open source license. We also wonder about the extent to which institutions, instructors, and even other content companies will agree to allow Pearson to play an even more central role in the educational content game.If the Openclass vision rings true, Pearson will become not only the dominant provider of educational content but also the central “content filter” for education.  If Openclass were truly open, there would be limited risk as other content providers could compete as well without risking potentially harmful taxes or filtering. If Openclass is not truly open, then there is room for concern.

Blackboard, by contrast, is interested in maintaining the proprietary nature of the platform (its main business). It assumes that an open content model would have broad appeal, adding to the value of the Blackboard platform and making it all the more “sticky.”

Whether schools will trust Blackboard as a vehicle for content sharing is still an open question. If the content will be truly open, then schools can gain a valuable repository of open content that can be used outside of Blackboard as well. This would create a tremendous public asset.

So the contest begins: Open Platform vs. Content. Two of the largest players in education have each placed their bets. Now we’ll wait and see how “open” each is really willing to be…

2 Responses to “Open Platform vs. Open Content. The Big Debate at Educause 2011!”

  1. joshmkim (@joshmkim) October 25, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    I remain very skeptical whenever an edtech puts “open” in its marketing or communications strategy – as open really means open source to me. And open source in the sense that everyone is using the same code, and if money is being made it is being made in selling services around that core and shared open source platform.

    • OpenTechonomy October 26, 2011 at 1:21 am #

      Indeed. And that’s one of things we’re trying to clarify on this blog. It was interesting to see @Anya1anya ‘s post today arguing that we shouldn’t be so critical of “openwashing” when schools are getting stuff for FREE. I suspect the Pearson model (with the free + addons) may be the beginnings of shifting edtech spend to students… Buy your books + your apps + your online learning modules. We shall see…

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