March 5, 2002
GWs Prometheus Merges with Software Developer
Best-of-Breed Product to be Developed
After humble beginnings inside GWs Instructional Technology Lab
four years ago, the Universitys course-based software company
Prometheus was recently acquired by Blackboard Inc., the leading course-management
system used by 2,200 higher education clients. Bo Davis, Prometheus
developer, says merging with a larger company was on the agenda since
the softwares inception.
Ever since GW began marketing Prometheus, the
plan was for the software to leave GW at a stage that was safe,
Davis says. GW was very interested in protecting the faculty and
students using the software and knew that the longterm home of Prometheus
made more sense in a software company.
More than 1,400 GW classes use Prometheus, with roughly
80 percent of the student body logging on to check class syllabi, download
documents, and engage in group discussions. Students and faculty at
GW should expect no immediate changes in the system. However, during
the next three years, Davis says the two companies will merge their
content into a best of breed product.
Prometheus users, GW included, will have the
choice of running Prometheus or Blackboard, says Davis, now Blackboards
managing partner of Prometheus software. As both products upgrade
they will be brought together.
Davis and his staff vacated their offices in the Old
Main Building, moving down the road to 19th and L streets. Davis is
now responsible for integrating Prometheus employees into the Blackboard
organization, while working with clients to make sure their needs are
met. Among the 65 Prometheus clients are Vanderbilt University, Rochester
Institute of Technology, Stanford Graduate School of Business, London
Business School, and the University of Wisconsin.
From our perspective, the acquisition of Prometheus
by Blackboard represents an advantageous situation for us and for higher
education institutions, says Hal Schlais, director of learning
technology development at University of Wisconsin system. Both
companies have deep roots in academe, a strong commitment to ease-of-use,
and experience in building open and flexible enterprise technologies.
We expect to benefit from the joint efforts of the two entities and
look forward to the continued success of both platforms at the University
of Wisconsin system.
In addition to joining forces, Blackboard will assume
all contractual obligations on behalf of Prometheus and all of Prometheuss
We are very pleased to have found Prometheus
a home within Blackboard, a Washington, DC, neighbor and market leader
that shares Prometheuss roots in higher education and open systems,
says David Swartz, GWs chief information officer. We have
always committed to our partner institutions and internal users that
the University would ensure the proper support of Prometheus as the
operation grew. We are confident that with 2,200 clients in more than
140 countries, Blackboard has the ideal infrastructure, experience,
and vision necessary to fulfill that promise.
Davis says the key to Prometheuss success rests
with the community infrastructure.
With a community source code, other paying universities
can go in and see all of the code, modify it, change the name of the
product, the functionality of it, and they can build on it, Davis
says. Prometheus at The Wharton Business School (University of
Pennsylvania) is called Web Cafe.
With Blackboards commitment to maintain Prometheus as a community
source system, Davis predicts success in merging the two companies.
The classroom is the universitys core
business, Davis says, and the online classroom is an important
component for traditional courses, as well as for distance courses.
It is crucial that the university maintain control of the look and feel
of the software that creates these online classrooms. Blackboard, WebCT,
eCollege, and the rest of the industry has learned from this and are
all moving toward more open and configurable systems.
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