Free, Open, Cloud: the keywords that wows but do they stick?

The news are out: Pearson and Google together in a new venture called OpenClass, free and cloud-based.

Google LMS  had released an open source and free  “LMS” called CloudCourse (an enterprise solution for training scheduling) back in 2010 – the quotes here serves the purpose of pseud-ism. It was a pseudo-LMS. More precisely, a course scheduling system that let’s you schedule classes and rooms, an activity of any loosely nature, and discussions.

But it didn’t take off. According to The Next Web Google Fails 36% of the time. In partnership with Pearson where different universities pitched in during the design of OpenClass, it has already caused some good impressions but the announcement still leaves the audience anxious: where is it? Can we see it?

According to Mercury News,
Google, Microsoft war over cloud-based software apps escalates. The two giants are fighting over the “cloud” market. This isn’t JUST in the higher ed industry but in cybersecurity, government and other businesses as well.

“The intense competition between Google and Microsoft to sign up schools and nonprofit groups (Google recently bagged the University of Connecticut and Yale; Microsoft got the American Red Cross), government agencies (Google got the cities of Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, Penn.; Microsoft got New York City and San Francisco) and businesses (Google netted hotel giant InterContinental Hotels Group; Microsoft got McDonald’s and Starbucks) has even spilled into the courts.”

Joshua Kim from Inside Higher Ed wrote this piece last week on Microsoft’s attempt to turn its Live@EDU with a deal with Blackboard, as something like Google Apps and Pearson. Live@EDU, Hosted Blackboard, and the Deal Microsoft Should Announce at EDUCAUSE (But Won’t)

I found this G+ post from Gary Ritter (faculty at Central Piedmont Community College) “My experience with open class.” He’s been using Open Class this Fall and shares some of his experiences with the system. (see post below) He points out both pros and cons of OpenClass in his opinion. An interesting remark he makes is

“the potential to overcome two of the biggest obstacles of the traditional LMS – the tyranny of the section and the semester. In my Moodle sections, or BB for that matter, students can only communicate with other students who are in that section. Open class provides both the opportunity to create a kind of college-wide social learning and sharing network while also allowing for a closed environment for individual classes.”

**This reminds me of the discussions that emerged during the LMS Summit at Montgomery County Community College a couple of weeks ago on integrating features of social networking in LMS.**

From a student perspective, Ritter points out why students like OpenClass:

“They like having the ability to go straight to gmail or docs from the open class interface. “

Some issues:

“Students have had login issues, the quiz tool does not have all the features I have come to rely on with Moodle, and I would really like to see an overhall of the discussion forum interface.”

Lastly, I thought it would be very interesting to highlight from Ritter’s post:

“True, I am probably getting stellar service because I was the first teacher to go live with a class through the partnership program, but it has been stellar none-the-less. I must admit that it has been rather cool to give directions to an anxious team of engineers.

A few thoughts:
The challenges of higher education adopting OpenClass are listed by different opinion makers: mfeldstein.com’s “Judge it As Disruption, Not Status Quo“,  Inside Higher Ed’s Joshua Kim’ 4 Initial Challenges.

OpenClass has potential: its integration with Google Apps (Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar and Gtalk) as well as  for mobile education. For socialnetworkers it is the possibility to have youtube, tumblr and flickr inside their LMS.  This brings about a couple of discussion topics: how much do students separate personal and school life? What are the potential uses? What have other schools been doing So what does the integration with Google Apps really means to Higher Education? Does that mean that the institution would have to move its email system to Google or is it possible to have OpenClass without having to adopt Google Apps?

Blackboard, Desire2Learn also have partnerships with content publishers. I remember eCollege had a partnership with Microsoft. Back in 2004 that was also a wow factor, but not  enough to take over the bigger piece of the pie. Can the question that never silences be: What makes institutions pick an LMS?

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