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How To Protect Your IP Through Open Licensing (Thoughts on Pearson’s OpenClass LMS)

October 18th, 2011

Pearson’s new OpenClass LMS hit the Google Apps Marketplace today. While this has already been covered in several places, I’ve had many discussions about the wide array of learning management systems out there, and the one question that comes up repeatedly is “how do we know they won’t just get bought by someone else?” It’s a trust issue.

Pearson’s sustainability model for OpenClass it isn’t clear at this point, and that makes building a relationship of trust difficult. In contrast, the for-profit company Instructure is gobbling up market share with their LMS, Canvas. Instructure has made two smart moves Pearson could learn from: (1) Their code is open source — not so much to invite outside development, but more as a defense against the LMS IP being sold to the highest bidder. (2) Instructure has made their sustainability model clear. They provide enterprise-level services for Canvas, which allows them to continue to invest the Canvas platform.

It’s ironic that openness has emerged as a way to protect IP from corporate takeover, but in a very real way this is what Instructure has done with Canvas. And institutions who have had their LMS bought out from under them will think twice before exposing themselves to that risk again.

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