Globalisation, walled gardens and higher education

An interesting post here from George Siemens on Blackboards partnership with McGraw Hill and Pearson’s acquisition of TutorVista. George concludes:

The integration of publishers, teaching content (i.e. video lectures, tests, not only textbooks), LMS, synchronous classrooms, and evaluation (see Knewton) is the most significant trend in education today. The financial crisis is assisting in a move in this direction. It’s a huge opportunity for some. A nightmare for others.

George describes this trend in terms similar to the emergence of other walled gardens in the online world:

Fairly soon, the system will require small colleges and universities to partner with the big content providers because they (colleges) simply cannot provide the technological infrastructure and content needed to attract students. Blackboard is developing end-to-end learning systems. As is Pearson.

Some questions arise: to what extent is a single distribution channel going to be central to higher education provision? – see the death of the VLE debates; or will a lock-in with the content providers secure the strength of the VLE? Alternatively, as with other content industries, will alternative sources of content undermine the business model being suggested here?

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