A lot of news releases have crossed my desk in the past week. eThink Education, what was once the up-and-coming best and brightest of this decade’s Moodle Partners, has been sold to Learning Technologies Group (LTG) for an initial $20m and the potential of $36m plus. LTG reported annual revenues of £130.1m for the fiscal year ending March 2020. Today, as expected and as is right, Moodle HQ has revoked their Moodle Partnership since eThink has literally sold out.
All those eThink customers (both individuals and organizations), believing they were carefully selecting a company that is committed to open source and its tenets, are awaking to the realization that they’ve been duped in at least one sense - just like folks were duped back in 2012 when Blackboard (who promised to continue to support Open Source and failed with OpenLMS) acquired Moodlerooms. Commitment to the ideals of Open Source and how those ideals trickle down from the code to the companies that support it, to the organizations that adopt it and to the users who can access knowledge as a result of it - these have been set aside. They will deny it, but they have set them aside. LTG will likely argue that with more money and more reach and more clients they can do more good, but history tells us a very, very different story.
In related news, Remote-Learner, the company where I personally cut my Moodle teeth, has also been sold to another behemoth, Learning Pool. Learning Pool, worth £18.1m, is on the same trajectory of massive growth. And while you might try to convince yourself that they are seeking this growth so they can make the world a better place, I think you can trust that they put their money where it benefits their company the most: company first, users are somewhere down the line.
I’m reminded of a passage from one of my all time favorite books, The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
__ I, the Once-ler, felt sad as I watched them all go. BUT... business is business! And business must grow regardless of crummies in tummies, you know. I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got. I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads. I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads of the Thneed’s I shipped out. I was shipping them forth to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North! I went right on biggering...selling more Thneed’s. And I biggered my money, which everyone needs. __
I’ll acknowledge that looking out for your company is not a bad thing, per se. But both these companies have historically espoused a long-view for both open source and the democratization of education. In recent years however, they, and others, have been more interested in growth by acquisition, attracting venture capitalists, and big paycheck exit strategies for partner/owners. It looks like some folks are going to get that. Their commitment has had no staying power, and their loyalty has been easily bought for enough cash.
In the meantime, the world continues to need companies that lead by principle and example. I’ll quote Martin Dougiamas, creator of Moodle™ and CEO of Moodle Pty. Ltd.:
__ Moodle LMS, the Free, open source engine we all build and depend on, that drives and supports hundreds of millions of registered Moodle users and our loyal Moodle community has, and will always, underpin our mission to empower educators to improve our world. We remain committed to public code, the open source project and more broadly, open source values of open exchange, collaborative participation, transparency and community-oriented development.
It is with these principles and ideals that Elearning Experts aligns. Those of you who know me personally can attest that we are not in this for the money, the prestige, or the endorphin rush that comes when someone wants to buy your company for a lot of money.
We are here for you, the organization trying to make the world a better place. For the teacher trying to help even the weakest student thrive. For the non-profit trying to fulfill its mission on a dime. For the helpers. The doers.
I’m proud of that. See you in 2021. We will be right here.