After previewing the next iteration of Blackboard’s Collaborate product which has replaced Elluminate, I was encouraged. Blackboard has capitalized on the feature set in Elluminate by adding a greatly enhanced user interface, borrowed heavily from Elluminate’s pretty cousin, Wimba.
However, Blackboard Collaborate 11 still includes certain shortcomings other applications have resolved. As yet, there is no native output of transportable recordings (you still have to use Publish), there is no internal noise cancellation, and you still have to fire up Java on a desktop to enter a meeting. The subtext of that last item is that a mobile version still looks to be far out on the horizon.
This doesn’t take into account Blackboard’s recent acquisition by private equity firm, Providence. As others have suggested, it’s hard to ignore the idea that Blackboard will be beholden to new expectations related to profit margin and ROI.
Knowing that I am a bit of an outlier when it comes to the open source/closed source debate, I’ll just throw this out there:
I think this is a really great opportunity for UF to think very strategically about how to move forward with the selection of an Elluminate replacement.
The way I see it, there are really 2 use cases for Elluminate at present:
- The creation and dissemination of course content (viewed either synchronously or otherwise) with some participant interaction; this case realistically breaks down into 2 sub-sets:
- Content delivered in a live classroom environment
- Content created on the desktop
- Real-time communication in a less structured format than a traditional face-to-face course
I think Elluminate really seeks to meet both of these use cases, and is much better suited for the first of these. However, products like MediaSite
and OpenCast Matterhorn
are much better suited for delivering the live “classroom experience” than Elluminate. What these lack is the ability to do desktop lecture capture and support participant interaction.
The use of Matterhorn, which looks to be quite a stable open source project now, could subvert the need for MediaSite in lecture halls, replacing the $10K+/- proprietary capture hardware with $1K boxes running open software. The integration with BBB seeks to provide a simplified user experience for desktop lecture capture, along with the simple user experience that is the underlying ethos of the BBB project
Perhaps more important than the above is a very simple fact: there is a tremendous amount of intellectual capital available at UF. I think it’s high time we start putting our heads together, aligning our needs, and allocating our resources. This is a perfect opportunity to engage in a large-scale development effort to take what’s already out there, build it up to suit our needs, and plug it in to all the places it needs to work.
No doubt that when taken at face value, the feature set and user interface of Blackboard Collaborate 11 are very good. But if we only consider these elements when making a decision, we’ll be re-convening to try to come to a decision again in 18-24 months. I’d rather spend that time admiring a product we collectively conceived, and continue to make it better.