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Blackboard Pushes LMS Platforms for MOOC Use

Blackboard's CourseSites is wooing additional institutions to its free learning management offering to run their massive open online courses (MOOCs). During the company's annual conference it announced that 15 colleges and universities will be trying out their MOOCs through the learning management system (LMS). Under the agreement, according to a statement, the schools retain control of all "current and future revenue associated with MOOCs," whether those are offered for pay or for credit. Blackboard also said it would allow Blackboard Learn customers to run a hosted instance of the flagship LMS to manage their MOOCs as well.

Most of the institutions experimenting with CourseSites to support MOOC activity will run their courses this summer and fall and those will be free. Some institutions — such as Syracuse University's School of Information Studies — will offer credit to participants who complete the courses.

Among the new offerings that appear in the CourseSites MOOC catalog are:

Syracuse evaluated several MOOC platforms before choosing CourseSites for a number of reasons, said Peggy Brown, director, instructional design at Syracuse's School of Information Studies. "The platform's ease of use, system uptime — and this was the most important factor for us — excellent customer service and support made this an easy decision."

Northern Illinois University chose CourseSites for its accessibility features. Said Instructional Technologies Coordinator Stephanie Richter, "It is very important to us that the platform itself embodies the ideals of the course, and that course navigation and content is accessible to everyone."

The company is also opening up Blackboard Learn for MOOC use at no extra cost in a non-exclusive, non-binding manner. As with the CourseSites deal, under this new arrangement, customer institutions will retain full control over the form and direction of their MOOC courses along with all current and future revenue associated with them.

The new moves come at a time when multiple colleges and universities are dabbling with MOOCs to see how they play out. "As schools better define how they want to experiment with MOOCs, it's becoming clear that the best platform is usually the one they already have," said Blackboard President of Education Services, Katie Blot. "Through our new platform, we are enabling schools to bridge their enterprise LMS and their MOOC platform in key areas such as content and social learning spaces."

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