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|Initial release||January 21, 1997(as Blackboard Learning Management System)|
Blackboard Learn (previously the Blackboard Learning Management System), is a virtual learning environment and course management system developed by Blackboard Inc. It is Web-based server software which features course management, customizable open architecture, and scalable design that allows integration with student information systems and authentication protocols. It may be installed on local servers or hosted by Blackboard ASP Solutions. Its main purposes are to add online elements to courses traditionally delivered face-to-face and to develop completely online courses with few or no face-to-face meetings.
On January 21, 1997, Stephen Gilfus and Dan Cane started a company called CourseInfo LLC and were developing a software product that would power online education and be scalable for wider institutional application. At the same time, Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen formed Blackboard LLC and were contracted to help lead the formation of the Educause IMS standards group for online education technology. The two groups merged to form Blackboard Inc., which then developed the Blackboard Learning System.
On October 17, 2012 Michael Chasen, CEO and co-founder of Blackboard, announced that he was leaving the company he founded 15 years earlier.
In 2015 the company announced a major upgrade to the user experience, called Ultra. According to company statements, Ultra is to be an optional user interface sitting on top of the existing Learn 9.1 architecture.
Blackboard Learn provides users with a platform for communication and sharing content.
Blackboard Inc has had several legal issues, including faulty patent rights claims. In addition, a number of educational institutions, teachers, and students have expressed concerns about the reliability of Blackboard. McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has replaced their Blackboard system after multiple problems during one year of use. Citing numerous glitches and high costs, many universities are turning to the cheaper, open source alternative Moodle, including Montana State University,Vassar College,California State University, Long Beach, and many other schools.Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's implementation of the system notably suffered sporadic outages in the Grade Book section during the finals of the Fall 2014 semester.
Stephanie J. Coopman has published an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of the Blackboard system. She finds the "hierarchical" power structure implicit to the system to be troubling. The system has also been criticized for having poor Linux compatibility and support.
The Learn 9.1 version is based on a system of Building Blocks (B2s), many of which depend on other B2s. System administrators have complained about the complexity of these dependencies, which were poorly documented in the initial releases. Sysads would update one B2, not realizing that updates to other B2s had to happen first. This sometimes caused major system instability and feature failures, resulting in significant unplanned downtime.
The Blackboard Learning System has undergone several iterations, and new uses have arisen as some educational institutions move from augmentation of traditional classroom learning to supporting full online and virtual campus education.
From the late 2000s on, the product has also faced competition from free and/or open source competitors such as Edvelop,ILIAS (especially in German-speaking countries) or Moodle.Canvas by Instructure is the largest private competitor.
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