“Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes”

August 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

I just got back from a whirl-wind tour of higher education conferences: SUNY CIT, Jasig, NERCOMP Annual Conference, BbWorld, MoodleMoot Austin and the 2-3-98 Conference. At each of these events, business continuity was a significant theme both formally in the sessions offered, and casually, in-between presentations and around the tables during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Considering the continuing consolidation of technology providers and systems  affecting academic technology, SUN and Oracle, Blackboard and Angel, etc. and the havoc (real and imagined)  those merges and acquisitions cause on campuses, among faculty, staff and students and within IT shops, it’s understandable that this would be on the minds and lips of conference attendees. One debate that I keep hearing is specific to the LMS market: can Blackboard buy an open source project like Moodle or Sakai. And building on this, is Moodle or Sakai more vulnerable than the other to being purchased?

However  a more interesting scenario might be: Moodle buys Blackboard…

I wonder what might be the affect of a fund raising campaign, a-la Wikipedia, which raised $6.2 million in 2008 and $7.5 million in 2009? With $13.7 million, Moodle could buy 394,926 shares of Blackboard at today’s price of $34.69. Admittedly that’s only 14%, but in only a few years Moodle could become the controlling interest in Blackboard. I will admit, Moodle’s 953,597 “registered users“, are far fewer than Wikipedias “three million active contributors”. While the number of registered users (those who administer Moodle sites) would obviously be less than total users (the millions of faculty and students who use the LMS for course work), I suspect only the site admins would choose to donate (and only a percentage of those). Using Wikipedia’s numbers as a basis for estimation–3 million users = 7.5 million dollars–Moodle might expect to raise $2,383,992. At this rate it would take several years to gain a controlling interest (all while “investing” in your competitor’s product).

Another approach might be to request (or “license”) current and future Moodle adopters to donate the equivalent of one year’s licensing fees of whatever system the campus was on prior to Moodle. For example, if an institution was paying $20,000 annually to license Blackboard, that money would be paid to Moodle for the first year of use after migration. According to North Carolina Community College System’s Feasibility Study Report the average cost savings for implementing Moodle per campus is $21,817, or, $11.66 per student. Using these numbers, the above “licensing” approach would yield $1,195,767,953 based on money raised from registered sites (54,809 registered validated sites x $21,817) or $444,907,110 based on the number of users (38,156,699 users x $11.66). Either of these amounts would provide enough to gain a significant interest in Blackboard at its current value of $1,189,520,100 ($34.69/per share x 34.29M shares).

Just thinking…


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