MyNotes - Pearson Debuts Free LMS with Google Apps Integration (Update)

Update 10/20/2011: This is NOT a joint launch of a Pearson and GoogleApps LMS, just clever advertising on Pearson's part. What a relief!

Update 10/18/2011: Here's a quick visual tour of the site.  

Today Pearson, the publishing and learning technology group, has joined the software giant Google to launch OpenClass, a free LMS that combines standard course-management tools with advanced social networking and community-building, and an open architecture that allows instructors to import whatever material they want, from e-books to YouTube videos. 
The program will launch through Google Apps for Education, a very popular e-mail, calendar, and document-sharing service that has more than 1,000 higher-education customers, and it will be hosted by Pearson with the intent of freeing institutions from the burden of providing resources to run it. It enters a market that has been dominated by costly institution-anchored services like Blackboard, and open-source but labor-intensive systems like Moodle.Source: Wired Campus 

Like others -- read HackedEducation's take via Michael Penney (RemoteLearner) tweet-- who read the news of a Google-Pearson partnership to integrate a free learning management system (OpenClass) into GoogleApps for Education (GAFE), I sat stunned for a moment. 

For many educators, Pearson represents "evil" in education, a perspective that is perpetuated by its focus on accountability through high-stakes testing, it's failure to allow such testing to occur on free, open source solutions (e.g. Firefox, thin client, GNU/Linux based computers) and instead requiring the use of proprietary operating systems like MS Windows. The list of the issues educators have with Pearson are legion, but matching the darling of education--GoogleApps for Education, which rode in on its white horse to save school districts millions with it's suite of tools--with Pearson makes for a learning management system with a split personality.
Can the FOSS movement withstand the cloud computing venture capital being spent? Yes. Will it want to? Unsure.

Of course, this is all immaterial. There's a lot of heavy-duty work being put into OpenClass, the LMS that rode in on a piebald horse. As Cory Plough mentions in a Facebook conversation, OpenClass isn't the first LMS to be acquired by Pearson. Connections preceeded it...

September 15, 2011. Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, is announcing today the acquisition of Connections Education from an investor group led by Apollo Management, L.P.
Through its Connections Academy business, the company operates online or ‘virtual’ public schools in 21 states in the US—serving more than 40,000 students in the current school year. These virtual charter schools are accredited and funded by the relevant state and are free to parents and students who choose a virtual school in place of a traditional public institution or other schooling options.
Virtual schools serve a diverse population of students including those who may be gifted, struggling, pursuing careers in sports or the arts, in need of scheduling flexibility, or who have chosen home schooling.  It is a large and rapidly-growing segment in US K–12 education: in 2010, 48 states and Washington, D.C. had virtual school programs and 27 states allowed virtual charter schools. Approximately 200,000 students attended full-time online courses and an estimated 1.5 million students took one or more courses online. (Source: Keeping Pace with K–12 Online Learning, 2010, Evergreen Education Group).

As I've shared previously, online learning is big business and do it yourself folks--Moodle, Sakai users--should probably expect large sums of money to start floating online learning and making their work look...well, shoddy. With millions of dollars to toss around, it is very well possible that the transformation of online learning from something teachers and schools manage a la free open source tools will disappear. Is this a bad thing for schools, teachers, and tech directors who've spent countless hours slaving away over their courses? Have you read The Little Engine that Could? Melted down, sold for scrap...don't we all get old?

"OpenClass is just another app in the appstore," tweets Michael Penney (RemoteLearner VP, a Moodle Partner). So, it's obvious Pearson is up to its next move--buy all LMSs and corner the market. The Moodle Community is undoubtedly watching, and Blackboard is probably hoping to be next in line (opinion).

The only question going around in my head is, How can I get in front of the tidal wave?

A whisper..."Too late."

MyNotes (via Joseph Hartman on Google-Certified Teachers List)
Pearson Debuts Free LMS with Google Apps Integration -- Campus Technology
  • By Dian Schaffhauser 10/13/11
  • Publishing and education tech behemoth Pearson has introduced a new, free, cloud-based LMS for higher education. OpenClass, as the LMS is named, is expected to appear in the Google Apps Marketplace for Education Oct. 18.
  • Users will be able to launch OpenClass from within Google Apps or access their Google applications from OpenClass, which, the company declared, has no hardware, licensing, or hosting costs. "OpenClass has huge potential for higher education," said Adrian Sannier, senior vice president of Learning Technologies at Pearson. "OpenClass accelerates what technology will do for learning with a free, open and innovative platform that easily scales and lets students work via social media, with an intense focus on learning that elevates achievement."
  • OpenClass, the application will eventually provide tools to enable an instructor to import existing materials from "most of the major LMSes." Once inside OpenClass, both student and faculty users can access e-mail, documents, and calendars. The program has two primary feeds, "Activity" and "People," which show up within an individual's workspace, representing all of the courses he or she is in.
  • A user can launch a chat session with somebody else through a native chat feature built into the service or he or she can launch a Skype session with audio, video conferencing, and screen sharing.
  •  Both students and faculty can create collaboration spaces, which allow groups of students to share digital artifacts and work on projects together; it also provides a way for instructors to monitor the evolution and dynamics of a group project.
  • The program introduces Sharing, a blogging tool that lets a user write and post blog entries and bring in video content while also integrating with YouTube, photo-sharing site Flickr, and microblogging site Tumblr. What sets Sharing apart from the standard blogging tool is that Pearson intends to allow the user to share entries outside of the immediate course or campus by letting people "follow" each other and to make those entries available across institutions.
  • Nine institutions are participating as "design partners" in the development of OpenClass. Those are:
  • Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at
Image Source
Piebald horse.

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Jen Hegna said…
I will be watching as well, might even download and install it on my domain. Even though I am FAR from a pearson fan - I do think the notion of having an LMS to easily organize GAFE content would be great! Instead of reinventing the wheel, copying tons of embed codes from Google to Moodle, ect. I am also interested in how "social" this LMS will be. We (my district) are very interested in becoming better at spreading ideas, and having conversations based on those ideas. I think, if its all that is cracked up to be, it could serve as a great LMS for our staff without having to go to a separate system.
Unknown said…
Also check out CourseDirector, the highest rated LMS in the Google Apps Marketplace.

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