Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blackboard catastrophic system crash in Utah

In a recent Chronicle article outlining the Utah Network Blackboard crash, my former colleague Scott Allen said that the cause of the crash "was not caused by a defect in the Blackboard product but most likely by a problem with a computer network port." While I'm sure that Scott's analysis is technically true (he's a super-competent admin) it's important to contextualize this. The ultimate worth of a system is contingent on the systems it depends upon; when we disaggregate Blackboard from these other systems, or from Blackboard's historical track record in the state of Utah, we're engaging in a form of abstraction that ultimately inhibits our ability to assess the product.

The more grievous problem is that Utah schools have experienced multiple catastrophic failures with Blackboard in the past. Given this history it’s perplexing that UEN has elected to partner with Blackboard anyway. One way UEN can redress this liability is by making sure that it is carefully evaluating alternative learning management solutions. There are a lot of other systems out there that are, in many ways, better aligned with the mission and spirit of higher education. Let's hope UEN continues to evaluate these other options as it moves forward.