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Blackboard and WebCT merge 277

Acidangl writes "Blackboard and WebCT, leading providers of enterprise software and services to the education industry have announced plans to merge." From the article: "Under terms of the agreement, Blackboard will acquire WebCT in a cash transaction for $180 million, which values the offer at approximately $154 million, net of WebCT's August 31, 2005 cash balance of $26 million. The ultimate value of the offer will vary depending on WebCT's cash balance at closing."
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Blackboard and WebCT merge

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  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zegebbers ( 751020 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:47PM (#13777390) Homepage
    Given how many institutions use one of these or both, this will have a big impact on choice. Some of the horror stories that I've heard about webct admin aren't good. On the other hand, there was the Georgia Tech student who found the vulnerability in Blackboard.

    Hopefully someone can provide some sort of competition to this company.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by rovingeyes ( 575063 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:50PM (#13777419)
      Yup I'm privy to some of those horror stories, even though I'm just a backup sysadmin for Blackboard. No wonder universities got together for an alternate []. It's not ready for primetime but if Bb doesn't get its act together I wouldn't be surprised to see Sakai gain momentum.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by b17bmbr ( 608864 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:27PM (#13777670)
        I used WebCT last year for an online class. I really didn't like it. Perhaps it is because I have been doing web development for years, I found the whole interface and page creation process totally distracting and useless. I also didn't like its test and quiz creation features. My district was part of a statewide testing program and we have settled on WebCT but I'd rather give teachers a choice or some more freedom. WebCT forced things to be a certain way far too much for my tastes. I imagine for someone with no experience designing web pages, then maybe it'll be helpful. But, it's just too confusing to create links, topics, etc. Overall I'd give it a C-. But then again, I was a little jaded. Also, the kids didn't like it too much either. They had trouble with some of the features and it was confusig for them.
        • Re:Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Goalie_Ca ( 584234 )
          No, webct blows donkeys for bus fare. I've used it for my classes @ SFU. I really really hate it. Such a pain in the ass to navigate not to mention the shitty implementation.
        • I used both WebCT and Blackboard quite extensively, and I absolutely hated CebCT's user interface. Blackboard is slightly better. The only thing I prefer about WebCT is that you can work around it by creating content (including quiz questions and quizzes) offline and upload them to the system. I haven't figure out how to do that with Blackboard yet.
      • Re:Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kat11v ( 848737 )
        Horror stories happen everywhere and having known someone who worked at WebCT tech support, I can tell you that a significant portion of them start with the sys admin working for the university. No, this is not meant to be a troll on sys admins, there are some very smart and competent people out there. But you can't help but giggle when you hear of one guy who hot-swapped the network cards and then was puzzled as to why the server went down, oracle crashed and students couldn't connect. I suspect what happe
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by LoadStar ( 532607 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:33PM (#13777700)

      To clarify: the vulnerability that the Georgia Tech student [] found was in the Blackboard Commerce Suite [], not the Academic Suite [].

      The Commerce Suite was a product line purchased from AT&T several years ago, and is mostly seperate from the Academic Suite. This merger mostly affects the Academic Suite.

    • I've seen this on TV (Score:2, Informative)

      by Alcimedes ( 398213 )
      It's like where they put chocolate and peanut butter together. Only evil.
    • It'll come from an open source equivalent. It'll take a while, but I guarantee if their product isn't very good, someone (or a group of someones) will come up with a better OSS equivalent.
    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Seumas ( 6865 )
      Seems like a waste of money to me. What's wrong with a teacher just using a blackboard and chalk or a whiteboard and pens? They work when the power is out. They don't require a staff to maintain and upgrade. They just work. I guess I don't get it. Why fix something that isn't broke (or dependant on so many things that can break)?
      • It's somewhat difficult to use a blackboard/whiteboard with writing utensils when your students are 30+ years old, living hundreds of miles away, and have full time jobs. Part of the attractiveness of an online learning management system is the asynchronous instruction it can enable to students enrolled in distance education.
    • Hopefully someone can provide some sort of competition to this company.

      Yes, somebody please do! It'd take about 2 hours for a PHP newbie to create a better system than WebCT.

  • by ZerocarboN ( 415676 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:49PM (#13777406)
    IS this the big break for Moodle?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:20PM (#13777623)
      I love moodle, I really do... I use it to run a small, private, online school and it runs very nicely. The BIG break for moodle however, will be when they clean up the code so that it runs faster and uses less cpu.

              Right now, one user simply clicking onto the main page, with no other connections to apache, is pushing an httpd process out to 21 meg of ram, and 19% of cpu. When someone actually does something, or when a whole class is connected, things go downhill a bit. No one's getting connection time outs that I know of, but I do worry about it.

          I'm using the best hardware I can afford to run it but I still have to put the database server on another machine or it just gets too laggy to be useful. I can't afford to just throw more hardware at it, so my little school remains private with very limited enrollment.

              I'm grateful that moodle is free and I love the software, but I'd love it even more if I could open my little school to the public and let anyone who wants to enroll, enroll.(grins)

      P.S. - My school is free, no teachers are paid and no students are charged, so extra hardware really is _not_ an option... I just have to hope they'll optimize it a bit :)
      • Are you running Moodle on a Windows or Linux server?

      • by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @04:32AM (#13780063) Homepage Journal
        Your comments about unclean code ring so true with me. I tried once to extend a module of it. What should have been one day worth of coding turned into several week cutting and cleaning up a gigantic php file of >3000 lines, just to get an understanding what was really happening. When I finally submitted my code, the maintainer just threw away my code because because he favoured a slightly different approach of cutting it up. If I wanted my extension included i was welcome to do it all again. When an upgrade to the next stable version broke all my quizzes i gave up.

        I think the problem with moodle/php is that is is rather easy for a non-programmer to change some functionality. But none of these enthousiasts are experienced programmers, and I get the impression that most of the people working at Martin Dougiamas' (the original author) company all have a pedagogy/education background. The end result is that the code will never be clean.
        That will probably not make it any worse than BB or WebCT, a proprietary licence is by no means a guarantee for clean code, esp if you cannot see the code yourself.

        PS: if you want visitors form /. , why don't you make an account here and put the url in your .sig?
        • That's more a problem with PHP in general. PHP is, like it or not, lousy. Many apps developed with it are by far the shittiest pieces of software I've ever seen. Very little of PHP encourages good programming practices, and as such many inexperienced users are able to create monstrosities with it.

          Considering its recent security problems, I'd be very weary to use PHP, or any software written in PHP, for any serious task.

    • Always hard to say. My school just went through a really long discussion and evaluation period on the three (Blackboard, WebCT, and Moodle) and determined that a TCO analysis slightly favored Moodle (open source), but the ultimate decision was to go with Blackboard based on the fact half the faculty who wanted course management software were already familiar with it due to their trial licenses. If things stagnate while they figure out how best to accomplish their merger and promote their products, then thin
  • by SillySnake ( 727102 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:49PM (#13777409)
    the merging of two terrible web based systems for an even worse web based one.

    Seriously, it's often so hard to find where a professor has put the file you're tyring to find. With so many different places to put things, it just gets students confused. Not to mention all the trouble one has to go to in order to find a specific post, send an e-mail, etc..

    I don't mean to troll, but both systems could stand to see quite a bit of tweaking.

    • two bad choices (Score:5, Insightful)

      by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:24PM (#13777646)
      I have some insight on this topic as a university professor. I've used both systems, and I was on the Academic Technology Committee when it was advising the CTO and CIO on purchasing decisions for such systems. We wound up paying for both. As you say, they both suck, and I'm sure whatever unholy combination is produced will suck even worse. At the time - 1999 or 2000 I believe - "open source" was something my colleagues on the committee had heard of but didn't know anything about, and the CTO and CIO were computer-savvy but looked on open source with disdain (this made sense as they were constantly wined and dined by folks who represent closed source companies looking for big deals). I was teaching summers at UCLA at the time and had the opportunity to use ClassWeb [], an open source alternative to such tools. My experience with the tool was exemplary; I thought it was easy to use, it fulfilled the necessary functions and was not needlessly confusing for students. It was also free. Best of all, the developer worked at UCLA so when there were features I wanted I was able to ask him for them and they were available in days. It was truly a classic case of the superiority of the open source model working well. For much less the price we paid for Blackboard and CT, which all the students complain about, we could have hired programmers to handle coding issues on classweb and had an open source solution that we could fine tune at will. But when I made the suggestion, the feeling around the table (particularly from the CTO and CIO) was, shut up hippie.... Today I don't use any such tools -- I still code my course web pages by hand using html and have some very primitive open source discussion board technology for discussions. I think it's necessary to have courses online these days for various reasons, but the tools offered by these companies are needlessly ornate and confusing. The open source model makes sense in general but especially in public university settings where costs are a relevant factor and where the freedom to tinker with code brings with it additional educational benefits.
      • Re:two bad choices (Score:2, Interesting)

        by haggisman ( 682031 )
        Having endured 3 major releases of Campus Edition of WebCT, this poor sysadmin just about barfed when I saw this news today. Just when were migrating from CE 4 to CE 6, THIS happens.

        The old WebCT was cobbled together at UBC on some rainy FRiday afternoons. Their old architecture doesnt scale anymore, an indexed flat-file system causes all kinds of performance problems, backup and restore problems, and more often than not leaves you running out of inodes on your file systems. Campus Edition 6 was rewritten
        • Heh. I suffered thru the implementation of the *beta* WebCT 1.x for NT, had 12 classes up and running in a few weeks. Went up to 2.x on NT/2k, then 3.x with Linux, still on 4.1 CE. We were planning on going to CE 6 next fall, but now.... who knows?

    • That's not a problem with the tool, but with poor instructional design. Just because a person knows how to teach face to face, it does not mean that they can create a good online course.
    • My undergrad used WebCT and I actually liked it. I wish all my profs had used it. I know it's far from perfect, and the interface is a little plain, but for a basic course website, it was great. Lecture notes, old exams, whatever, were generally easy to find. Some classes had message boards, others had online quizzes.

      It was much more easily discoverable than the alternative, which was every professor having their own site, often stored in different locations on different web servers, with different layouts.
  • by Work Account ( 900793 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:49PM (#13777410) Journal
    Having web sites for each class using Blackboard(tm) or WebCT(tm) which are now one and the same thanks to this merger means that students are always able to check out their course website multiple times a day while they're procrasting by browsing websites such as this one (Slashdot) or Fark.

    I have used this software for 5 courses online and it was great for getting the most recent problem sets and scanned in PDFs etc.

    It's just so much easier to have professors use a simple web form to post things rather than worry about building an entirely different course web page for each class they teach.

    Also, it's hush-hush in academia, but professors just aren't good with computers aside from those with MS.
    • I agree that having this kind of software is a must for any modern university. It's easier for the students, and in many cases easier for administrators. I've used WebCT from the teacher end, and it is certainly a savings in time and money to be able to post material online, which students can print (or not) depending on what suits them. The savings in paper are significant, and most importantly we can implement fixes to lab manuals (for instance) immediately, instead of students using a lab manual that was
      • actually [] is the place to go if you want more info on Moodle. Moodle is a phenomenal Open Source casestudy. It has grown logarithmically over the past couple of years to accomodate almost every feature available from the proprietary offerings and more. The user/developer community of Moodle is one of the strongest of any open source project I have ever seen. Moodle is also designed from a particular pedagogical standpoint, which is I think one of it's strenghts and is incredibly simple for
      • Re:Saving paper (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lahvak ( 69490 )
        I have serious doubts about online class managment systems saving paper. From what I have seen, most students print anything posted to Blackboard or WebCT. Then they loose it, and print it again. I hear from computer lab assistants that many students leave printed syllabi and assignments sitting on the printer. They print it, then they leave and don't even bother to pick it up, because they know they can always get it again online.
        • Re:Saving paper (Score:3, Informative)

          by toddestan ( 632714 )
          Not to mention that the cheapest way to is still to photocopy. Laser printers cost a bit more per page, and inkjet printers cost a lot more per page. Whenever they say they post things online to save paper, they really mean they are just shifting costs over to students (though this is really only the case in universities that charge per page printed in the labs like mine did).
    • Blackboard is painful for teachers, it must be, because nobody but the engineering and CS professors would use it. I mean, I hope they make it usable for non-tech people like english teachers. I know my life would have been easier if I could go there to get resources. And please, choose one method for delivering documents to the professor, and stick with it.
    • professors just aren't good with computers

      No kidding. I once had a professor come into class on the first day (he's about 60 years old) with a PDF he had generated on a Unix box. He used SSH to copy the file to the Windows desktop, double-clicked on it, and then stood there for a while. Eventually he left the room, returning with another professor.

      This second professor used the mouse to show the first how to use the arrow buttons above and below the scrollbar. "I just usually click on these arrows to show m
  • by Deslok ( 777307 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:52PM (#13777427)
    Why pay for their service when you can go open source for free?

    Moodle []

    The school I'm at made the shift and hasn't looked back(well, aside from the technophobe teachers who grumble about learning something new a few years after they started to grasp the old system).

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Teachers don't care if it is free.

      AFAIK WebCT and Blackboard made inroads with the text book publishers. The publishers provide WebCT and Blackboard course materials with the teacher's edition. I do know that A LOT of faculty are not very technical and love to have someone else do the work for them.

      The publishers provide the books, test banks, and the online course materials. It makes you wonder why we need teachers sometimes.

      In all seriousness: you can tell which teachers are worth their salt and which on
    • Don't forget Sakai! (Score:3, Informative)

      by EvilMagnus ( 32878 )
      Moodle is only one of many!

      I am required to pimp the Sakai project [], an open source collaboration between a bunch of schools, including UMich, Indiana, MIT, Stanford and Berkeley. The biggest production install is UMich, with around 100,000 students using it.

    • I set up Dokeos [] where I work. (Randolph-Macon Woman's College) We've been running it for three years now with few problems. Doesn't have every feature of BB or WebCT, but it's getting there feature-wise, it's free, the developer community is pretty responsive and it's *very* simple to modify. I've been able to hack in numerous little features and integrate with a half-dozen other campus systems with very little effort.

      Better known than Dokeos and Moodle in the US is the Sakai project [] This is a big co

      • There's been little real innovation in them in the past few years so the OS ones have a static target to shoot for and lots of schools are really, really sick of the companies backing them.

        Geez, isn't that the truth? I've been using WebCT at Portland Community College for over four years. It's not a bad application, but is in dire need of some enhancements. For instance, whilst registering for classes, there isn't a way to look up the classes you're interested in, and selecting it to register. I need to
        • I, for one, really really do not like the idea of this card. It's a debit MasterCard that's also used to provide access to campus facilities. Sorry, but that just seems like too valuable of a number to just be swiping through your random card reader around campus. I could see a "man-in-the-middle" style of compromise on this system (passively recording the debit card numbers for later use).

          Too late, already been done. [] Note BB's response to the security issues- this is one of the major problems I have wit

        • Blackboard's BB One is unrelated to this. Blackboard's Commerce System is a suite of applications that revolve around hardware for a swipe or proximity card that lets you do door access, vending, laundry accounts, library, meal services, etc. They also offer services that allow local merchants to accept student ID debit accounts as payment. That's what BB One is. It's really quite cool and convenient.
          • They also offer services that allow local merchants to accept student ID debit accounts as payment.

            Yes, but what happens if someone is able to obtain these numbers in the aforementioned "man-in-the-middle"-type attack, and uses easily obtained mag strip encoders to encode someone else's number onto their card? Sounds like one could go on a fine shopping spree with that at the bookstore, local merchants, etc.
    • Another one: []

      Although in it's current state, MMS is a little too tied into the University of St. Andrews' systems and methods. Does make good example code though, and we'd love to hear from anyone interested in working to adapt it for use in their university. Key features:

      Ties directly into central data storage, to make importing students and assigning them to the correct modules essentially a single click operation.
      Provides coursework upload, grading, per student file
  • by TapestryDude ( 631153 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:54PM (#13777446) Homepage
    This is interesting to me, because I worked at WebCT before I left to become an independent consultant.

    What's more interesting is that WebCT's Vista was out pacing Blackboard's product in terms of features (at least when I left in October 2003). Blackboard was, I believe, an ASP.NET product, WebCT's Vista is J2EE (and written in Struts and JSP, not Tapestry [], alas).

    My guess is that one of the two product lines will be phased out. This could become an interesting competative case for .Net and J2EE.

    Sorry, JEE. Cause Sun can't stand to stick with just one name for anything.

  • It all makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hansreiser ( 6963 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:55PM (#13777457) Homepage
    Given how few schools are privately owned, I can see why consolidation might be necessary in the "enterprise software for the education industry" market.

    Or did I miss something?
    • by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:46PM (#13777827)

      Maybe my area isn't the norm, but we have a lot more private colleges here (midwest, specifically Iowa) than public ones (or were you thinking only of high schools--do some of them really use these systems?). My school [] made the switch to Moodle this year after years of using Blackboard--although they *did* come up with their own name for it because they probably couldn't keep a straight face telling their students to go to Moodle (their name is Kaite, spelled with various degrees of capitalization and periods or with a lack thereof, for "Knowledge and Technology in Education" and a play on the fact that this is Luther College and Luther's wife was named Katie).

      Granted, I was never here when they used Blackboard, but I don't think I've heard many complaints about Moodle.

  • Less innovation. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davecrusoe ( 861547 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:55PM (#13777462) Homepage
    What this will ensure is less innovation in the online schooling front; competition generally drives innovation. Unfortunately, these two packages are so very cumbersome that innovation is unlikely; the pedagogical framework that once strengthened the software(s) is kaput.

    It will be a challenge, but Moodle stands a great chance to out-think the combined WebCT/Blackboard group. What they MUST do effectively is reach out to districts - THIS is where the combined merger will find its force, in its broad reach.
  • Great... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sH4RD ( 749216 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:56PM (#13777467) Homepage
    So when does either company provide technology which can actually scale to user load, is actually powered by modern technology, and generally isn't a Piece of Shit (tm)?

    I've used my fair share of Blackboard, and I've had some great experiences:
    1) The ability to embed Flash and JavaScript into free response questions. 2) The time Blackboard's database started crashing, which caused it to take at least 5 tries to login. 3) And better yet, the 1 in 2 odds that when you finally logged it, it would be as someone else as the database switched your tokens. 4) Best of all, the 1 in 20 odds that person would be a teacher or professor.

    And I've heard WebCT isn't much better...
    • IntraLearn, the LMS written in Cold Fusion that doesn't scale past 500 logins a day.

      Well, not without a LOT of custom code by yours truly.

      In 2004,they were STILL shipping a SQL Server based product without database indexes! Their lead developer had never HEARD of indexes!

      Blind SQL writes, so if you try to add an identity column to the database, the program breaks. I never even knew you COULD write to a SQL table without specifying the columns, since it's such an incredibly bad idea to do so, but they did
      • Make no mistake, this is a market ripe for the OSS picking, if the programmers can just get past the contacts that keep IntraLearn and their ilk in business.

        Also not to make a mistake: it seems the market is just as ripe for non-OSS developers willing to do things better ("correctly" would be nice, but not required) for a reasonable ("cheap" or "free" would be nice, but not required) price. It's not a binary "bad closed source" vs. "good open source" question.
        • You're right.

          The market is ripe for any half witted twit who can code his or her way out of a paper bag. If you finished "Perl for Dummies" and understood the content, you already have the programming skills to run circles around most the current LMS vendors.

          And trust me, writing a migration tool would make the sales process that much easier.

          "Oh, you mean we won't have to enter all our course ware a second time? We can just let you do it and all the courses will just BE there?"

          Trust me, this will blow the
    • WebCT is horrible.
      Where I study (the Technion), we used to use a system called Webcourse which was developed by a student in the CS faculty and was free to use for the institute (the institute gets it for free other than tiny prices for mentainance and the student uses it as a testbed).
      It's an excellent system, very simple interfaces for both the user and the TAs/Professors (my brother is a TA and can attest to that).
      After some power games (the Technion didn't want to pay the humble mentainance fee etc etc)
  • by sockonafish ( 228678 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @06:59PM (#13777479)
    Until just a few months ago when an upgrade was rolled out at my university, the only web browsers officially supported on OS X were Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Tiger, which had been out for a few months at the time, was not officially supported.

    Blackboard is also a fan of frames, ugliness, and odd behaviors. It's impossible to enroll a system administrator in a course, no matter what. They can only self-enroll.
    • the only web browsers officially supported on OS X were Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator

      It's lame to not support Safari (or Tiger at all), but I think the key word is official. I use Blackboard from Opera. I used to use it through Firefox. It works just as well in them as it does in IE.

      Blackboard is also a fan of frames, ugliness, and odd behaviors.

      Agreed. It's ugly.

      It's impossible to enroll a system administrator in a course, no matter what. They can only self-enroll.
      While this is probably a bug, h
    • Blackboard is also a fan of frames, ugliness, and odd behaviors.

      Sounds like WebCT. WebCT features abuse of both frames and JavaScript. Especially JavaScript. Every single link on WebCT puts its destination in JS onClick events instead of putting the destination in href="" where it belongs. Therefore, it's impossible to, say, copy and paste a link into a different tab, or anything else.

      It also tends to randomly break Firefox. As in completely randomly. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
    • Blackboard has supported Safari for well over 2 years. It's entirely possible that your institution was following a less than active upgrade path.
  • Moodle, far better than either of the above, is still free. As someone whose university uses Blackboard, I can honestly say it is the worst piece of commercial software I have ever used. Worse than Windows XP. Worse than windows ME. Worse than realplayer. Worse than CometCursor.
  • by Quattro Vezina ( 714892 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:24PM (#13777649) Journal
    WebCT is an utterly horrible piece of crap.

    My school uses WebCT for all classes, so I have to deal with it daily (coincidentally, I'm posting this while sitting in one of my more WebCT-intensive classes). WebCT has the single worst interface of anything I have ever used in my life.

    I really, really hope that this results in WebCT getting replaced globally.
  • by ageoffri ( 723674 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:26PM (#13777663)
    My school uses WebCT and it is ok. The real problem is the number of teachers I've had who have no clue how to use it. I'm taking an online Geography class this semester and the teacher hadn't cleared out posts from last a year ago! This confused some of the other students who missed the 2004 on the post dates. Another problem is my current teacher couldn't figure out how to remove a link in one of her assignments, so we had a good link to a html document and a bad link to a word doc.

    I've never had a problem with WebCT crashing and the one time I accidently closed my browser during a test, I logged back in and continued the test.

  • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:27PM (#13777668) Homepage
    In related news, shares of WebCT were down $5 after news of the merger, although this is expected to rise by 20% at the end of the semester after the curve is applied.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:45PM (#13777818)
    My principle problem with blackboard isn't usability or UI issues (I agree it stinks but I can tolerate lousy UI). What grinds my gears is that Blackboard is used to EXCLUDE students from online course content! Maybe I'm old fashioned but I thought that the purpose of schools were to educate fools like me. Unless I'm registered for a class, I can't take a look at handouts or problem sets! How are we supposed to "try out" classes at the beginning of the quarter/semester/term? Not all of us can afford to register for 10-15 classes at the beginning of the term.

    As a result, some of us have resorted to posting course materials on "p2p" networks and we are aware that members of the administration are actively looking for us (with the goal of expelling/arresting the perpetrators). Ironic that we have to do this stuff to try to learn.
    • What is this "try-out" of which you speak? You sign up for classes, you take them. Are you advocating some kind of "it's ok to eat the grapes 'cause i'm buying melons" philosophy?
    • Mod parent way up. As a newly minter asst. prof., my biggest gripe with Blackboard is the same as the parent post. I don't necessarily mind the lousy UI, it looks ugly but it gets the job done. From an instructor's point of view, it provides a reasonably simple interface to upload course documents and annoucements to students (very useful if you have a large class). But I could care less if students not registered in my course want to download course material (heck, I could care less about (and even encoura
  • by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @07:51PM (#13777867)
    My university uses WebCT. It is a flaming piece of shit. I'm not sure if it's WebCT or just the entry/login portal, but I can't access webCT in anyhting other than IE because somehow cookies fail to set otherwise. It slows to a CRAWL under any kind of load. It's difficult to use, both for students and professors. The senior admin for my campus' network has basically admitted that the only reason we use it is because we're locked in for a time, and yes it does suck.

    Blackboard wasn't quite as bad (used it at a community colleg) The UI was sketchy but at least i can use it under firefox.
  • Several people have mentioned Moodle [], a PHP-scripted system, but there is also Boddington [], which is Java (no, I don't know whether it's J2EE). Oxford University [] has a Boddington instance that allows guest access. It's a totally different paradigm to the WebCT / Blackboard 'corse' one. Let's hope that both of these open source options grow and provide real competition for the single commercial product.
  • We have been dealing with WebCT (the company) for quite some time now from the application and system administration standpoint. Our experience with the company is that the very few technical people they have are decent people who are pretty knowledgable. However, it is just about impossible to interface with them directly because nearly everything needs to pass through a minimum of one layer of management.

    Dealing with WebCT's management, unlike their technical folks, is an exercise in frustration. The d
    • BB's tech support went through a lot of changes. It went from decent, to poor to pretty good. Your school is assigned a support manager. You build a relationship with that person over time. This person is not simply a problem taker, but it is actually a knowledgeable technical troubleshooter who will do his or her best to get your issue fixed asap. Our rep is a freaking unix wiz and when he is in our system troubleshooting some people and he finds something totally unrelated that could be enhanced, he
  • by realityfighter ( 811522 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @08:31PM (#13778126) Homepage
    This is a wide tangent, but...

    I am SO sick of professors who use Blackboard/WebCT as a way to get around ordering textbooks or reading packets. I've had professors scan in hundreds of pages from a book, put them on a web in PDF form (two pages to a screen, so you had to read sideways), and expect us to print them out and bring them to class as though they were textbooks. This was done in the name of "saving us money," but really it was just a cop-out for professors who were too lazy to plan their courses ahead of time, or didn't want to get caught in the act of mass copyright infringement. Most of the students spent far more on printer ink than they would have at the copy shop or the bookstore, not to mention the wonderful feeling you get when your ink runs out in the middle of printing your term paper.

    If anyone reading this is teaching a class next semester and is even remotely thinking about digitizing their textbook, DON'T DO IT. It only stretches the students' time and resources thinner, and wastes reams of paper - info packets printed at home are lucky to survive an entire semester without getting water damaged, torn apart, or lost in a pile of identical papers from other classes. A good rule of thumb is, if it's more than ten pages, put it in the reading packet. If you absolutely have to put something big online, make sure the PDF is readable on the screen, and don't expect the students to lug stacks of printer paper to class with them. The Blackboard/WebCT isn't there to make the students do your work for you.
    • Never mind of course that simply putting the materials from a classroom-based course on a web page is not an effective way to teach an online course. I wish I could slap each and every educator who just put their notes in Blackboard, failed to participate in most any online forum with the students, and then is surprised when results are poor and/or students say that they won't take an online course again.

      I worked for five years at a company that created real online content from classroom-based courses. Th
    • I am a professor but I have never used Blackboard. I have made PDF files of copyrighted material available to students. However, the agreement was usually that students buy the books when they became available. (My university does not have its own bookstore, if you can imagine such a thing, and ordering books can often be tricky). In other words, my bad both for ordering early enough and for breaking copyright (though in the end I considered such distribution backup/timeshifting before the fact of ownership

  • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @08:34PM (#13778152)
    Are you from an institution considering Blackboad or WebCT? Don't. It is the worst software that students and faculty can use. Don't believe me? Read all the other comments on /. and do a Google search.

    I am a university student and several professors have been dilligently trying to upload files using WebCT for the better part of a week and its technical glitch after glitch and the stuff is not being posted up. This is a campus-wide issue. Shame to have wasted our tuition $$$'s on something I and a whole bunch of students rarely use.

    I'm hopeful this with this merger, they decide to use an OSS management system. I could see a problem if the system was just a group of programmers getting together to make one. Since some systems have backing from Berkley and MIT, I would think that the university I attend would have used it.

    I would be more in favor of separate systems. One to run quizzes, one for file transfers (hell there's something called FTP for that), another more secure one for grades (no grades are not on the WebCT thankfully). I can access most course-ountlines from other institutions from the WWW and using google searches and they're not on password protected servers. I don't see why institutions feel they should hide everything from others. A classroom discussion board would have been nice too.
  • Way back in 98, we were evaluating platforms for online learning. WebCt was still fairly small and Murray was the presenter to demo the product to us. Anyway, there were about 20 schools looking and we all met at a cabin to eat & drink. We invited Murray along and he came over, drank several beers with us and talked about how WebCt was started. As I remember it, he developed it for his classes to use then got a grant to develop it for the whole university (Canada somewhere). That lead to other univ
  • Funny Story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crawly ( 890914 )

    The university I went to decided to use blackboard as part of there student-teacher interactions. They (being the university administration) decided however that whatever material was put onto blackboard became property of the university, not the lecturers. Needless to say the adoption and use of blackboard by the faculty is almost zero.

  • Amazing how few and far between anything resembling a positive comment is on this topic.

    My school has been using BB for several years now, and we are actually considering paying the money to upgrade to the Enterprise version. I think I need to forward this /. story on to those that pay the bills.

    My experiences:

    1. No batch delete courses - (we found this out the hard way)
    2. No sharing of content across courses
    3. Glitches abound: everything from instructor's Enroll User buttons being grayed out to the occasio
    • No batch delete courses - (we found this out the hard way)

      Actually, this is available with the included snapshot tool (we've been experimenting with this feature locally for the past couple of months). However, it doesn't seem to work 100% correctly on our system: content is blown away from the Database, but it remains on the file system.
  • Dear Users,

    WebCT and Blackboard merging? This is very good news. The resulting future product will be world-class, stable, and very usable. Consolidation can be a good thing when more effort can be put into fewer parts.


    Oracle and Peoplesoft
  • FanTAStic. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So, a company that raises prices in mid-year, screws with features (SSL support in IIS, for example) so that the "basic" edition of their software can't be used securely, and has some serious problems (the original version of Blackboard 6 had gradebook problems, and there was an issue where students could take tests for other students) just bought the other heavy hitter in the course management software.

    Blackboard is one of the most hated companies in higher ed. Nobody likes doing business with them. That

  • In defense of WebCT (Score:2, Informative)

    by Iaughter ( 723964 )
    Dear Slashbots,

    Moodle and Sakai simply don't do the same things on the same scale as WebCT and presumably Blackboard. It's like comparing Dia to Visio, of course we'd all rather use Dia, but we go with the more functional product.

    WebCT "Campus Edition" vs WebCT "Vista"
    Campus Edition was this hacked together organically grown POS. I worked a little with the web services functionality of Vista and I must say that it's well-done. All of Vista's functionality is accessible through an Apache Axis layer. Ad

    • Moodle and Sakai simply don't do the same things on the same scale as WebCT and presumably Blackboard. It's like comparing Dia to Visio, of course we'd all rather use Dia, but we go with the more functional product.

      While you're right about Moodle, Sakai does do things at the same scale as BB and WebCT. UMich has a Sakai install with 27,000 users. Sakai works for big installs.

      Sakai also has the best test-taking modules out there, period. It's still got some rough edges, but it's at least as functional as Web
  • For my online correspondance, I used to use WebCT. It was ugly and a real pain in the ass to use. Some examples.

    Each course had its own email account. This meant that if I wanted to read an email from Course A and I was working on Course B, I had to open another window, log into Course A, then open the email. On Insight2Learn (my school just switched to it, it is a competitor to WebCT....or else custom built by the school, not sure which), it is one email account, so I could just click email in Course B and
    • Replying to myself here. Desire2Learn I meant to say, not Insight2Learn (need to sleep more lol).
    • Being just about to marry a teacher in a system where a switch was made from WebCT to Desire2Learn, and knowing what utter chaos D2L threw the school into, I've got some opinions based on the frustrations I've seen.

      If you're an online teacher, paging features suck. I've seen how much of a workload online teaching involves, and this is just one more "ringing phone" that utterly destroys teacher productivity. It's too easy to use, and the student-to-teacher ratios for all courses (100:1), even though not ne

  • HTMLeZ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @02:21AM (#13779709)
    My undergraduate university []'s Aerospace department [] has a product that competes directly with Blackboard, called HTMLeZ []. The main college has Blackboard, while the Aerospace college (which includes the Computer Science department I graduated from) uses HTMLeZ. Students who have to use both (most anyone at some point) vastly prefer HTMLeZ. There are other competing products out there, so this doesn't give Blackboard a monopoly on the market - it just gives them a better cornering of the market for crap.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!