Commercial or Open Source?

Blackboard announced today they are acquiring Elluminate and Wimba, two major software vendors it the virtual conferencing space, for $116 million in cash. Michael Chasen, President and Chief Executive of Blackboard, said:

Elluminate’s and Wimba’s technologies are expected to grow “as institutions look for cost-effective ways to encourage social learning and support learning interactions of all kinds.”

The part about “cost-effective” obviously relates to other commercial products. But what does this acquisition mean for open source-based learning solutions?

In a letter to Blackboard’s customers, Michael goes on to say:

We will continue current Elluminate and Wimba integration work for open source products, and it is our strategy to sustain those bridges with other commercial LMS providers as well.

Blackboard clearly wants to continue to sell its commercial web conferencing solutions to universities and colleges that are already using open source solutions (such as Moodle and Sakai). Which is fine, every company has to make money.

But what if universities and colleges had an open source web solution that integrated with Moodle and Sakai?

What if they had a really goodopen source alternative that offered real-time collaboration, virtual classrooms, and enabled any student anywhere in the world to have a high-quality learning experience?

What if that alternative was truly an open source project, not just in name, but in the way it has supported its global community of users and developers over the past two years.

And what if that alternative that was backed by not one company, but by a global community of companies all improving the software for the benefit of everyone?

That’s what we’re working hard to provide with BigBlueButton.

We believe that the real-time learning space will explode in the next two years as networks get faster, access spreads to remote students, and universities and colleges increasingly become global educational intuitions.

We believe that just as other open source projects have provided world-class databases, web browsers, and operating systems, the BigBlueButton open source project can provide a world-class web conferencing system for distance education.

We believe that universities and colleges who are building on open source solutions will also want the choice of a solid, tested, and supported open source solution for real-time distance education.

We want to give them that choice with BigBlueButton.