Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Closing of LearnCentral.org

Today, Blackboard Collaborate has announced the end-of-year closing of the LearnCentral.org social network for educators. I'm posting the full announcement, plus the FAQ, below. As well, a discussion forum has been set up at http://www.learncentral.org/forums/site-announcements/learncentral-sunset-discussion to answer any specific questions and provide transition help.

As you can imagine, this is a tough day for all of us who've been involved with LearnCentral. It is the right decision, but that doesn't mean it won't be hard for those of you who have appreciated or depended on the unique functionalities of the network. Foremost for me, right now, though, is to give each of you a HUGE "thank you" for being on this journey with us. As we all know, not every Web project succeeds, but you helped to explore the exciting combination of what we liked to call the "LC3:"  a social network for educators, a personalized repository for collecting and sharing educational resources, and synchronous meeting capability.

An unfortunate casualty of the closure decision is the "host-your-own-webinar" program. You'll notice this takes place immediately, although previously-scheduled events can take place through the end of the year. I'd love for this program to continue in some fashion, so if you know an organization that might like to sponsor it, have them reach out to me directly. Those of you who have followed my work with Elluminate and now Blackboard will know that I went to part-time status after the acquisition, but let me express again my appreciation for having been able to work for a company, and on projects, around a product that I truly believe in and believe will continue to make a huge difference to students and educators around the world.

Here's the official letter from Maurice Heiblum, President of Blackboard Collaborate. The FAQ follows. If I can answer any questions or be of any help, feel free to reach out to me personally at steve.hargadon@blackboard.com.
Subject:  LearnCentral Important Announcement
Following the acquisition of Elluminate and Wimba by Blackboard we have been working hard to meet our commitments to our combined user communities including exceptional customer service, a unified team, and a collective product roadmap.  In July, we were excited to deliver to you Blackboard Collaborate 11, a product that inherited the best from both the Elluminate and Wimba platforms but which was simpler, easier to use and truly designed by the educators that use it.  
Over the past year, we have also looked closely at our community networking project, LearnCentral, and have decided to close LearnCentral on December 31, 2011.
While LearnCentral held much promise as a general social networking platform for educators, we recognize that it never became the preferred destination for educators, and we don't believe that continued development would provide significant benefits that aren't available to educators through other services. In addition, we have learned from our clients that they prefer us to focus on the web conferencing, instant messaging, and voice authoring products which are our core capability.  
We are making this announcement at this time to make sure that those of you using LearnCentral have ample time to make plans for using another service, a number of which are listed below and that also offer features similar to LearnCentral. These are free, established social networking projects, and should serve you well.
If you are sharing or delivering instructional content, please take a look at the Blackboard CourseSites platform, where you can create interactive websites to support learning and collaboration. While typically geared toward delivering instruction, it can also be used to share, discuss and develop curriculum and teaching best practices. In addition, CourseSites offers access to a 50-seat Collaborate room. 
We know there are likely to be questions about the transition, some of which are answered below.  We have also opened up a discussion thread at http://www.learncentral.org/forums/site-announcements/learncentral-sunset-discussion for you to ask about anything that is not covered here.
vRooms:  The free, 3-person vRoom program will continue, but with a modified entry point. Your existing vRooms will be available until December 31, 2011. Before that date we will send an email to all LearnCentral users with specific information on how to sign up for a new vRoom through the main Blackboard Collaborate site.
Elluminate or Blackboard Collaborate Recordings:  All recordings that you may have added as resource links in LearnCentral will continue to be available, however, the links to access them will change. The recording links on LearnCentral actually point to the native recording files stored elsewhere. If you launch a recording, you’ll notice the true URL in the browser address bar which starts with https://sas.elluminate.com/ - After, 12/31/2011, you will need to access these recordings with the https://sas.elluminate.com/ links, so please ensure you separately save the URLs for those recordings if you have not already done so. 
Uploaded Content:  All uploaded content in LearnCentral portfolios will be unavailable after December 31st.  Please make sure that you download any content in your portfolios that is important to you.
Host-Your-Own-Webinar Program:  The host-your-own-webinar program will be discontinued.  Any already-scheduled events can be held up until December 31, 2011, but the regular weekly email promotion will stop this week. If you’d like continued access to recordings of past events, please follow the process listed in the “Elluminate Recordings” section above.  Again, we recommend looking at CourseSites as a free alternative that may serve as a replacement for users of this program by using the free 50-seat Collaborate room in CourseSites.
We want to thank you for choosing to be a valued member of the LearnCentral public community for educators.  We hope you've been able to connect with your colleagues and make new ones, to share and discover valuable relevant resources, and to participate in online discussions and live webinars.  We have enjoyed working alongside you for the past three years, and we appreciate all that you have done to support education.
Sincerely,
Maurice Heiblum
President
Blackboard Collaborate



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When is LearnCentral closing?
A: We are closing LearnCentral on December 31, 2011.

Q: Why is LearnCentral shutting down?
A: We will be focusing our community networking efforts on established and dedicated sites geared towards educators, such as wecollaborate.com, Classroom 2.0, EdWeb, etc. (Fuller list below)

Q: What does this mean for LearnCentral users?
A: Many of the online learning tools available on LearnCentral are now available in CourseSites, our free, fully hosted online course creation and facilitation service that includes the web conferencing features of Blackboard Collaborate and is available to instructors for up to five courses.

Q: What are other services I can use that are similar to LearnCentral?
A: Benefits from an offering like LearnCentral are also available to educators through other services. There are free, established social networking projects that should serve existing LearnCentral users well:


Q: Why are you making this announcement now?
A: We want to ensure that people using LearnCentral have ample time to make plans for other resources available to educators.

Q: Who can I contact with questions about LearnCentral?
A: You can access a discussion thread at http://www.learncentral.org/forums/site-announcements/learncentral-sunset-discussion to ask questions. You can also reach out to Steve Hargadon directly.

Program-Specific Questions

Q: What will happen to vRoom?
A:  The free, three-person vRoom program will continue, but with a modified entry point through the main Blackboard Collaborate site. We will send an email to all LearnCentral users with specific information on how to sign up for a new vRoom through Blackboard Collaborate.

Q: What will happen to Elluminate or Blackboard Collaborate recordings?
A: All recordings added as resource links in LearnCentral will continue to be available with modified access links. After December 31, 2011, these recordings can be accessed through the https://sas.elluminate.com/ links, so please ensure you separately save the URLs for those recordings if you have not already done so.

Q: What will happen to my uploaded content?
A: All uploaded content in LearnCentral portfolios will be unavailable after December 31, 2011.  Please make sure to download any content in your portfolios that is important to you.

Q: What will happen to the host-your-own-webinar program?
A: The host-your-own-webinar program will be discontinued. Any already-scheduled events can be held until December 31, 2011. The regular weekly email promotion will stop the week of September 19, 2011. If you’d like continued access to past program recordings, please follow the process listed in the “Elluminate or Blackboard Collaborate Recordings”.
Post a Comment