Four major textbook providers—Cengage, Macmillan, Pearson, and John Wiley & Sons—today announced that they will build tighter links between their advanced e-textbook platforms and Blackboard’s popular course-management system.
Blackboard announced a similar deal with McGraw-Hill last year. So the company now has partnerships with the five dominant textbook publishers.
For students, a major benefit will be the ability to get to the publishers’ e-textbooks and online assignments through the campus network without having to create new logins and passwords. For professors, the new links will make it easier to push students’ grades on online quizzes from the publishers’ e-textbook systems to the gradebook they use on the Blackboard system.
The deals do not turn Blackboard into a bookstore, however. Students must purchase access to the online-textbook systems through traditional retailers such as the college bookstore, said Matthew Small, chief business officer for Blackboard. “This isn’t about a storefront—this is about making these things more interoperable,” he added. “It’s a real challenge for the universities because they have to maintain all of these different passwords” to each textbook provider, he said. “Now 90-plus percent of all of the digital-learning platforms are going to be integrated into Blackboard.”
Mr. Small said most of the links will be finished in about a year.
Jim Behnke, chief learning officer at Pearson, said the deal will help the publishers focus on what they do best without trying to replicate all of the features of a course-management system like Blackboard. He described Blackboard’s course-management system as an “enterprise system” that helps professors do things like access course rosters and send official grades to the registrar. “Those are very important, but they’re not necessarily about the teaching and learning, and that’s our business distinction.”