Forum .LRN Q&A: Re: Towards eCampus
My opening comment:
An important theme, which is only implicit in your posting, is that in this competitive market the products that will survive are ones that fit in well and easily into the overall campus *enterprise* architecture. This is a critical strength of OpenACS and we need to leverage that more and more, especially compared to other open source frameworks and products. As you correctly point out, the Ur-metaphor is "eCampus". We need to deliver products and solutions that fit into the campus infrastructure in a seamless and elegant way.
Why are people dissatisfied with Blackboard and WebCT? Yes, their enterprise licenses cost and arm and leg. But many CIOs are willing to pay this if they have some measure of control over how these products fit into the overall architecture. TCO is important but I think largely a red herring. CIOs go through the exercise because they have to for buy-in. What's more important and critical is integration and control over their infrastructure.
This brings me to a second point. Here I disagree somewhat with Malte's point about branding. I say somewhat because there is a germ of truth in his point. There's more to branding than the name. An astute customer also wants to be convinced that there is something solid and reliable behind the brand. And that's what we are trying to do with .LRN consortium. So, there are three questions here related to branding.
1. What is the name of the product?
2. What does it do (i.e. functionality, integration)?
3. Who stands behind it?
There are all types of opportunities for product suites, solutions, and combinations arising from OpenACS. It's an incredibly fertile project. But none of these efforts, including .LRN, will gain significant traction until there is a strong organization that customers can look to and trust.
My own view of .LRN is pretty simple. It's not an Learning Management System!!! It's intended to be purely a subset of OpenACS that has reached a certain maturity level and is ready for deployment in an enterprise setting. LMS just happens to be an area that we have gone after first.
My main point is this: whatever solutions and products come out of OpenACS, they won't gain traction in an enterprise setting unless there is a significant and credible organization standing behind it.