Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

We were a WebCT school three years ago, when Blackboard bought their smaller competitor. At the time we looked at a variety of potential replacement LMSs, including staying with WebCT until the two products merged or moving straight to Blackboard. In the end, we moved to smaller LMS Angel. Some of the advantages we identified included a smaller, more agile and responsive company, an interface that would be more appealing and inviting to students and faculty, and the fact that Angel seemed to have a shorter learning curve than many others we looked at.

As the title to this post indicates, it feels like we're back in time - to three years ago - faced with having to make decisions about our LMS. There are some positive signs; Blackboard has admitted making mistakes with their WebCT acquisition, they've said Angel product development will continue for another three years (until the two products become one), and that Angel's excellent customer support will remain in place. Another promising sign - Blackboard has appointed senior Angel executive, Ray Henderson, to serve as head of product development for both Blackboard and Angel.

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis must be celebrating - $23 million for a $135,000 investment. What about the professor who developed Angel? Read more below.

An Indiana Institution Wins Big in Blackboard's Purchase of Angel Learning:
Angel’s software was born as a research project at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. The university held about a 25-percent stake in Angel Learning when Blackboard acquired the company this month for $95-million. University officials confirmed that the university received about $23-million from the sale, an ample return on its initial investment of about $135,000 and the use of some professors’ time.

What became of the professor?
The professor who led the software’s development, Ali Jafari, also held a stake in the company at the time of the sale, and now describes himself as “a multimillionaire.”

“I received a huge check that I don’t know what to do with,” said the professor, who would not disclose the exact amount he received.

Mr. Jafari is on leave from the university, where he is a professor of computer and information technology. Since creating Angel, he has built another course-management program, which the university has also spun off into a company. That product is called Epsilen, whose largest shareholder is The New York Times Company. Mr. Jafari is working full-time for Epsilen this year as its “chief architect officer.”

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