Opinion – #Blackboard’s Moodle acquisition hopes?


[You] have to wonder if the company isn’t getting ready for some grand, expensive gesture.  Main rival Moodle would be too expensive and might raise eyebrows in the government’s antitrust offices, but privately held Desire2Learn or Pearson division eCollege could be tasty tack-on targets.

That’s all grand but Blackboard’s stock fell because of a cloudy outlook. [from the Motley Fool investment blog: http://goo.gl/wh7u]

This is a quote from an article I read Wednesday when it was originally posted by Motley Fool.  Though I thought it was intriguing, I didn’t necessarily find it noteworthy at the time.  Now it’s been syndicated a few times and the more I think about it the more interesting the scenario seems.

Blackboard, despite its acquisitions this year, its large market cap and hugely profitable licensing/SaaS model, seems that it might have trouble meeting its forecasts.  But they have a formidable line of credit and cash reserves (which usually means acquisition; this comes even after the Wimba/Elluminate buy-ups).

It’s interesting for 2 reasons I think:

  1. First is that analysts are now giving Moodle its much deserved credit as Blackboard’s main rival.  Its growing popularity and the several large-scale migrations from Bb to Moodle by colleges/universities recently have been a boon to Moodle’s growth momentum (not to mention the impending release of Moodle 2.0)
  2. What’s more interesting though is the thought that Moodle could be purchased by Blackboard (though purportedly it’s “too expensive”).  Rest assured that Moodle.org lays it out plainly about the Moodle code base in it’s documentation,

The copyrights to Moodle software can never be “sold” like they can for proprietary software. All our code is completely open source. The copyrights belong to hundreds of authors and they would ALL need to agree to any change in the license. Even if that happened, it would only apply to future code – all existing versions would remain under the existing GPL license and our large and very capable community of developers would simply fork from there and continue using and developing the GPL version [link].

Now, for Bb, perhaps no price is too high. But the state of Moodle (open source, GPL, community supported) is wholly derived from the experience and support of it’s userbase over the years.  Not to mention the fact that a good many teachers and administrators must feel great that the success of their LMS isn’t tied (in any way, shape or form) to the price of a stock.

I don’t think I am going too far out on a limb to say, if the price of Moodle is too high for Blackboard now, then Blackboard has already lost the LMS battle.

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