TET October 19, 2005

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Widescreen Annotation: 3 Failures and a Success

By Will Craig

A client recently asked me to specify an annotation system for their presentation system. "Make it easy to use, but with lots of functions. Make it high quality, with maximum flexibility, but it needs to be small. It needs to handle any possible input source: dedicated PC, user-provided laptop of any native resolution including DVI-D, VCR/DVD player, document camera, digital camera, camcorder, codec. Insert thoughtful pause here. "But not too expensive. Oh! And make it widescreen-capable."

My "Wider Perspective" column in this month's Campus Technology touches on the rapid changes happening in the digital display realm, both in terms of widescreen and in terms of the new signals campus technologists are being asked to integrate (DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI).

This Viewpoint article is designed to serve as both a cautionary tale and as a hopeful one.

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News & Product Updates

Blackboard and WebCT Seek to Reassure Campus Customers After Merger Announcement

By Campus Technology Staff

Blackboard Inc., and WebCT, Inc., two of the leading purveyors of course management software, sought to reassure customers this week that their announced merger is good news on campus.

Executives said the merger will break down barriers to collaboration across institutions by developers and end-users. "Both companies are passionate about the academic market and, alongside our respective clients, have truly pioneered the category together," said WebCT president and CEO Carol Vallone. "Given the alignment of our visions, technologies, and overall strategies, the combination of our two companies will advance the teaching and learning technology industry, benefiting customers worldwide."

At a brief news conference Tuesday morning at EDUCAUSE 2005 in Orlando, FL, Vallone intimated that the merger had not come out of the blue. She said that in the past she and Blackboard President and CEO Michael Chasen had talked about the synergy possible if the two companies merged.

Asked about a future unified platform, Chasen said that when it is eventually developed it will represent "the best of both worlds" by combining the Blackboard and WebCT expertise and technologies. But he said it would be some time before that platform is developed. He reiterated that in the meantime both companies products would continue to be supported and upgraded. Both Chasen and Vallone sought to assure their customers that their investment in either companies' products would be protected when the merger is completed either later this year or early in 2006.

The resulting firm will have 3,700 academic clients, including higher education, K-12, corporate, government, and commercial academic institutions, making it the largest company focusing exclusively on the CMS space.

The deal calls for Blackboard to acquire WebCT for $180 million. Blackboard's product line consists of five software applications bundled in two suites, the Blackboard Academic Suite and the Blackboard Commerce Suite. WebCT also provides a flexible e-learning environment.

The combined companies will operate under the Blackboard name and brand with corporate headquarters located in Washington, DC.

In related news, Desire2Learn, which describes itself as "the second largest eLearning technology company," released a statement in reaction to the Blackboard-WebCT merger saying it has “no intention of merging or selling.” Desire2Learn said it was seeking to reassure it existing customers and potential customers.

Case Study

Distance Learning Proves Popular with Students

By Linda Briggs

Melissa Grill is exactly the sort of student who benefits when colleges and universities put together solid distance learning programs. Grill, returning to school for a graduate degree while working full-time, took 12 courses from Capitol College over two years to earn her graduate degree in information telecommunications systems management, all via a broadband connection from home.

Grill lives in North Carolina; Capitol College is a small, independent college in Laurel, Maryland, focused on engineering, computer sciences, information technologies and business. More than half its students continue to work fulltime while earning an undergraduate or graduate degree.

Since 2002, Capitol has offered online learning solutions using Centra Software, which provides software and services for online learning and training. Using Centra, Capitol now offers all its graduate programs as e-learning courses rather than through a classroom, and is now starting to offer undergraduate sessions as well.

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Tech Notes

Stay On Top of Blackboard/WebCT Merger

Blackboard and WebCT created a joint Website to keep campus customers informed as the merger of the two companies moves forward. Read more

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Reader Response

From the Reader Response Forum

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina share experiences, lessons learned, and your opinions on disaster planning and recovery.

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