CourseInfo, one of the two companies 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.
CourseInfo was formed in late 1996- early 1997 via a partnership agreement between Dan Cane and Stephen Gilfus. Early on Dan Cane had began developing web based scripts for professor Cindy Van Ness, at Cornell University, for her Statistics class. This activity was mostly driven by Dr. Van Ess’s desire for bringing technology in the classroom and Dan’s creativity with new technologies on the web. At this time there is a famous quote from Bill Gates technical assistant saying “Cornell is Wired”. As one of the 5 supercomputer centers holding up ARPANET – the precursor underpinnings of the internet – Cornell was on the bleeding edge of email, web and technology usage.
Dan Cane and Stephen Gilfus met as they attended the same undergraduate school at Cornell. In fact, Gilfus was a teacher’s administrator at the time for Cornell’s entrepreneurship studies and was assisting Professor Deborah Streeter with her business plan writing classes. Dan Cane and Stephen Gilfus met as Dan was a student in one of the classes Gilfus was administering and that year Cane won an award for a business plan call “EleFun” based on an educational website business model.
Earlier that year Gilfus had also won an award from Cornell for his work in his business planning and consulting class. During the same time Gilfus assembled an undergraduate team and launched the Cornell Entrepreneur Organization a student organization focused on connecting successful entrepreneurs and business and engineering students in order to foster new business opportunities and relationships. To this day Gilfus is an advisory member to Cornell’s entrepreneurship program. Cane approached Gilfus based on his successes at Cornell and the two joined forces to develop “CourseInfo – ‘Making Education Easier'” into a platform for course based websites.
The CourseInfo Histoy is robust in its roots at Cornell University and its involvement in Cornell’s entrepreneurship program. A link to an article on the companies Cornell University roots can be found here at
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
- 10/26/99 – Release of CourseInfo 4.0
- 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 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.
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.