CourseInfo LLC History – Stephen Gilfus and Dan Cane

CourseInfo, the primary technology company forming Blackboard Inc. was founded in 1997 by Dan Cane and Stephen Gilfus while at Cornell University. They joined together to officially form the partnership known as CourseInfo and developed the company into a small course management software provider. The product at the time was called the Teachers Toolbox. In 1998 the CouseInfo team met two principals of Blackboard LLC while pursuing a grant for adaptive testing. Shortly after the two companies joined together to form what is now known as Blackboard Inc.

 

Product Development

  • 1996 Daniel Cane writes simple automated scripts for websites for instructors using the Perl scripting language and Netscape 2.0.
  • Early 1997 after the founding of CourseInfo the “Teachers Toolbox” was born and included a series of named “Generator” tools including the coursesite generator, announcement generator, quiz generator, survey generator and other tools. Version 1.0 is released. Steve (Stephen) Gilfus drove the features and functions and web design of the product through personal experience and instructor feedback while Dan Cane developed the core technology of the product.
  • Gilfus led sales and marketing and product management efforts to build awareness for the company. Much of the companies initial communication was on educational listservs and web boards.
  • Mid 1997 the “Interactive Learning Network” ILN 1.5, was released and installed at several academic institutions including Cornell University, Yale Medical School and University of Pittsburgh. The ILN was the first e-learning system of its kind to leverage and install on top of a relational database MySqL. Access control was added to provide security around course content. Guest access was provided for course shopping.
  • 1998 The CourseInfo product line (then the Interactive Learning Network or ILN) became the foundation for Blackboard’s e-learning product line as Blackboard’s CourseInfo.
  • 04/29/98 – “CourseInfo” product will be among the first to implement emerging industry standards
  • 11/02/98 – Release Of CourseInfo 2.0
  • 07/26/99 – Release of CourseInfo 3.0[1]
  • 01/19/00 – Release of CourseInfo Enterprise Edition
  • Prior to the Blackboard/CourseInfo merger Blackboard was focused on developing a prototype for IMS Instructional Management Systems.

Blackboard Overview
Blackboard Inc. was formed by the joining of two companies. CourseInfo LLC, founded by Daniel Cane and Stephen Gilfus, and Blackboard LLC, founded by Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky. Originally the Blackboard company began as a consulting firm contracting to the non-profit IMS Global Learning Consortium. In 1998, it merged with CourseInfo LLC, a small course management software provider that originated at Cornell University. The combined company became known as Blackboard Inc. The first line of e-learning products was branded Blackboard CourseInfo, but the CourseInfo brand was dropped in 2000. Blackboard went public in June 2004. Blackboard software is used by over 3700 education institutions in more than 60 countries. Sometimes called the modern day “fathers of online learning”.

 

References

  • A link to an article on the companies Cornell University roots can be found here at
  • 04/25/1998 – “At the center of Blackboard’s product line is CourseInfo, a course management system “
  • Cane; Daniel E. (Washington, DC), Chi; Timothy R. (Fairfax, VA), Gilfus; Stephen R. (Woodbridge, VA) are listed as inventors of U.S. Patent 6,988,138.
  • Fall 2001 Faculty and Student Survey Blackboard CourseInfo Duke University