As of this writing, (10/16 at 1:30pm), no one from Pearson has engaged the IHE community in our discussion about OpenClass. The OpenClass website does not have a place for discussion. Steve Kolowich's 10/13 article has 15 comments and my blog post on OpenClass from 10/16 has 5. Members of the IHE community raise a number of important questions about OpenClass, questions I'd think that Pearson would want to address.
This sort of communication is critical if OpenClass is to thrive, as the marketing and sales channels that support typical higher ed enterprise purchases will not work for Pearson's OpenClass. A free, high quality LMS may be in the strategic business interest of Pearson (and Google and Microsoft.....), but the yearly licensing costs for an LMS are actually the smallest part of the investment any institution makes in our LMS deployment. A zero cost license is only one of the variables, and probably the least important variable, in our move to Google or Microsoft cloud based e-mail and calendaring. And going with Google or Microsoft is much simpler, as both of these platforms are clearly "content neutral," a claim that Pearson may make, but of which we will be skeptical.
If OpenClass is not a viable alternative to Blackboard or Moodle or D2L or Sakai or Canvas, then Pearson is not serious about this platform, and is squandering an enormous opportunity to re-invent themselves from a paper to a digital business. If OpenClass is a viable alternative, then Pearson has a long way to go in convincing us. The route to do so requires a commitment to openness, candor and transparency - and a willingness to engage in lots and lots of conversations.
Some Questions from the IHE Community on OpenClass: (Thanks Ed Garay and George Lorenzo)
1. What kind of technical and instructional support will be provided - how extensive?
2. What programmatic options do schools have to integrate OpenClass with our student information systems, portal systems, custom authentication systems, and other enterprise systems?
3. Why would a company that sells two platforms - Pearson Learning Studio (powered by eCollege) and Fronter - offer a competitive platform (or is it a much lesser capable and feature rich version) for free?
4. What granular customization controls will the institution, the faculty and the OpenClass end-user have to configure it as a campus-wide service, giving instructors and end-users ample room for personalization, sharing and openes, while preserving student privacy, intellectual property, copyright and institutional policies?
5. Free-hosting sounds great, but at what price? What sorts of idiosyncrasies and limitations will this cloud-based LMS have?
6. Where is OpenClass' service level agreement?
7. Do we have back-end access to our institutional OpenClass system and data?
8. Will Pearson provide independent instances of OpenClass for each college and university? Joined tenancy SaaS are absurd, even when free, we need a private cloud.
9. Our institutions must retain full say on how and when our LMS is upgraded and outfitted with new features and services (or not). Will we have full SysAdmin control?
10. What IMS and other open standards does OpenClass support? We would need to easily ingest years worth of LMS course sites and educational materials.
11. We would also need an exit strategy, and be able to take our stuff with us should OpenClass become inadequate for us. Again, support for IMS open standards are key.
12. Seamless out-of-the-box OpenClass integration with Google Apps is great, but that's already possible with Blackboard Learn and the free open-source Bboogle add-on from Northwestern, and Blackboard Learn itself is slated to have built-in Google Apps integration in 2012. What other key integrations are there?
13. Blackboard Learn gives us a rather mature set of free, commercial, open-source, and built-in integration and add-ons that extent the Blackboard Learn teaching and learning environment. Third-party tools and integrations like plagiarism detection, voice tools, web conferencing systems, PhotoRosters, lecture capture systems, multiple publisher connections (not just Pearson), video distribution systems (like ShareStream and Kaltura, i.e. not just YouTube), text messaging systems, student response systems, personal learning networks, electronic portfolio systems, tutoring systems, student retention software, ad nauseam. Hundreds of LMS extensions, a smorgasbord of extensions. Many of these are also available for Desire2Learn, Moodle, Sakai and others. How can OpenClass be extended?
14. LMS mobile apps are a must, so we would assume OpenClass has them for all major mobile platforms: generic (but elegant and fluid) Mobile Web, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile?
And I'll throw in one question:
15. Is OpenClass really meant to be an enterprise LMS? A replacement for Blackboard or Moodle or Canvas?
What questions do you have for Pearson about OpenClass?
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