This is part 2 of a 3 part series on Open Standards for Newbies.

Who’s old enough to remember the embarrassment of only having a handful of movies to show during a sleepover because you had a Beta?  When choosing between a VHS and a Betamax back in the eighties, my dad chose the Beta.  Sure, it was (arguably) superior technology, but this decision severely limited our family movie choices.  In addition to living on an army base in Germany at the time, where U.S. movie rentals already arrived a year late, the majority of the movies available would only play on a VHS.

For those of you born in or after the eighties, here’s a little history.  During that decade, Betamax and VHS competed in a fierce videotape format war, which saw VHS come out on top in most markets.  It’s hard to imagine, now in the days of Netflix with DVDs delivered to your doorstep or movies streaming directly to your living room through On Demand…but only being able to watch some of the movies available was quite painful for a middle schooler.

This childhood memory helps me make sense of the importance of support for open standards, particularly Common Cartridge.

When I was a kid, the content that was important to me was the movie on that cassette tape.  I wanted to be able to rent a movie and play it.  And I didn’t want to have to wait for the video store to have the version of The Princess Bride that would play on our Beta.  Especially when there were five copies of the movie available for VHS.

Fast forward 20 years. As an educator, the content of my online course is what’s important to me.  And I want to be able to deliver that content to my students easily and effectively, regardless of the learning management system.  Blackboard’s support for Common Cartridge helps ensure that I can do just that.  Who knows if an opportunity will present itself down the road where I am asked to deliver the content of a course I created in Blackboard Learn to an audience that uses a different learning management system.  As long as that other LMS supports the import of a Common Cartridge package, I can simply export my course from Blackboard Learn, import it into the other LMS and deliver my content to a whole new audience.  Like many other educators, I feel a sense of relief knowing that my content is truly reusable.

I think the same way about my course content as I did the content of the movie I wanted to rent 20 years ago.  I just wanted to rent and play a movie.  To me, it was the same movie no matter what it played on.  But in the eighties, I didn’t have a lot of options.  It was Betamax or nothing.  By the time I got to college, the DVD came out and changed everything.  With the standard format of a DVD, I could rent a movie and watch it on a number of different players.

This analogy helps me understand the value of Common Cartridge – a standard format for sharing (exporting and importing) online course content.  By supporting Common Cartridge, Blackboard provides educators and institutions with more choice when it comes to how and where they create, share and deliver their course content.  In other words, Blackboard is helping preserve the investment that educators and institutions make in their academic content.  I have a feeling this is something the education community can definitely appreciate.

To read more about open standards, check out the final installment of this series here: Open Standards for Newbies Part 3: 110 to 220 and Basic LTI

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