For-profit learning management software (LMS) companies are entering the open-source arena previously occupied by companies like Moodle and Sakai. Insider Higher Ed reports reports BlackBoard and Pearson are have started hosting free versions of their LMS software. Last February, BlackBoard launched a hosted, light version of its software called CourseSites. Now, Pearson has launched OpenClass, also a cloud-based, light version of its LMS.
Both Pearson and BlackBoard see their offerings are a better bargain for universities looking for savings. As Inside Higher Ed notes, while products like Moodle allow universities to use the software's coding for free, the institution still bears the cost of hosting these sites. Pearson and BlackBoard's products offer cloud space free of charge. Of course, this complimentary server space has limits. For example, Blackboard's CourseSites only allows instructors to create up to five course sites.
It will be interesting to see the influence of these new learning management options on universities' instructional technology choices. Some universities have defected from proprietary software like BlackBoard's traditional offerings or Desire2Learn because of cost concerns. What will increased options for low-cost or free LMS mean for open-source developers like Moodle?