Learning Management Systems

Moodle Drops Blackboard Partnership

Open source software company Moodle today announced it is ending its partnership with LMS giant Blackboard.

Blackboard will "transition out of Moodle's Certified Moodle Partner program in the coming months," and "will no longer be allowed to use the Moodlerooms name or the Moodle trademarks that had been licensed to them to advertise their Moodle-related services," according to a press release.

Blackboard has been a Moodle partner since 2012, when it acquired Moodlerooms and several other companies with Moodle licenses. But the relationship between Blackboard and its open source licensor has been complex: "Blackboard has always been a sensitive and sometimes confusing subject in the Moodle community, since Blackboard has of course continued to develop and sell its own competing products," said Martin Dougiamas, CEO and founder of Moodle, in a statement.

"While we thank Blackboard for being a solid contributor to the Moodle project during the past six years, the fact is that the proportion of our revenue coming from our partnership with Blackboard has been steadily declining every year since 2012," Dougiamas added. "Now is the right time to clarify the situation between us and focus more tightly on our exciting roadmap around our open software."

In a company statement, Blackboard stressed that it was committed to the ongoing development of its Moodle-based SaaS product. "Blackboard continues to support the largest number of clients using a Moodle-based SaaS product in the world. With the end of the partnership, there will be no change in Blackboard’s ability to utilize open source updates and enhancements produced by Moodle and the open-source community. Additionally, there will be no change in the current user experience for clients and no drop-off in Blackboard’s pace of innovation and development. The company will continue to contribute code and features back to the open-source community — and work to move the community forward together."

Consultant and longtime analyst of the LMS market Michael Feldstein gave a preliminary take on the breakup in a blog post: "For Moodle, there is good news and risk. Moodle will now have a chance to demonstrate that they can be sustainable without depending on Blackboard. The risk, of course, is that they will now have to demonstrate that they can be sustainable without depending on Blackboard."

As for Blackboard, he wrote, "It's bad news in the short term, but the impact is hard to quantify." Among the issues clouding the situation: questions of trademark, customer reactions, greater independence, and an unknown future for the Moodlerooms business, Feldstein said.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Blackboard.]

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].