A Peek at Blackboard’s ‘Complexity Problems’ and Struggle to Maintain...


A Peek at Blackboard’s ‘Complexity Problems’ and Struggle to Maintain Legacy Software

Aug 4, 2015

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Blackboard didn’t build its bad brand overnight. For those who want to understand why its tools have, at times, been so unpopular, George Kroner, a former employee, walks through some of the technical complexities afflicting the learning management system provider. The details are dense but digeratis may appreciate the details concerning conflicting plug-ins, redundant APIs and an overall “clunky amalgamation of many different pieces.”

The comments feature an accessible—and insightful—debate between Kroner and Michael Feldstein, another guru on learning management systems, about the challenges of supporting legacy software. Feldstein offers some sympathy to Blackboard’s efforts to clean up “15 years of cruft and technical debt,” while Kroner wants to the company to nudge customers harder to use up-to-date tools. Kroner writes:

Software needs maintenance just like cars, houses, human bodies, roads and bridges. People don’t always see this, both literally and figuratively, because of its virtual nature. And sometimes, yes, vendors should tell universities to get their technology ducks in a row. This is what I consider being a leading vendor—having the desire to move everyone forward together not stuck together in the duct tape and baling wire of the past. I also think universities should not get a pass for being so dated. Frankly, outdated technologies that we’ve let linger far too long are a huge part of the problem. It’s not an impossible situation, though, and saying this only reinforces a negative, hopeless, helpless attitude. This has to change.
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