Google Says Pearson’s New Learning System Is ‘Not a Shared Product’

By Jeffrey R. Young – October 20, 2011

Chronicle of Higher Education

Philadelphia—When Pearson officials talk about their new learning-management system, OpenClass, they like to mention Google. They note that the software is distributed through Google’s App marketplace, and say that it was inspired by Google’s popular e-mail and Web services platform. Pearson drops the company’s name so much that many college officials assume that Google is jointly building the new system, something that officials have long speculated that the search company might one day do.

But other than routine help it gives to any app in its marketplace, Google is not directly involved with the new learning-management system, and Google officials say they have no plan to jump into developing learning software.

“There were some misleading headlines with the Pearson’s announcement,” said Tim Drinan, a Google spokesman, when asked to clarify the nature of the relationship at the company’s booth at the annual Educause technology conference. “What it’s not is it’s not a joint release, and it’s not a shared product,” he added. “They built it with really nice integration with our systems. We worked with them as we do with a lot of vendors.” He characterized the help as “very common.”

In an interview, Adrian Sannier, the senior vice president of product at Pearson Learning Technologies, characterized the arrangement this way when pressed by The Chronicle: “Here’s what that relationship is. We approached Google with the idea of a free LMS. Google responded positively by saying, Hey, we would like an LMS that was very tightly integrated with Google apps. And so our engineering team and their engineering team got together, and they worked together over a period of about six months to expand the set of API’s to make the best leverage of the set of connections—to understand the ways in which the thing can be used the best. And then we executed that in the marketplace in a way that’s well adapted to the Google model.”

As far as future cooperation: “Going forward we want to continue to work with those guys to make it more useful, broader, and deeper connections.”

Pearson’s system is not the only learning-management system offered in the Google Apps Marketplace, and it is not the first. Others listed in the directory include CourseDirector LMS, Engrade Gradebook & LMS, and Haiku LMS.

Mr. Sannier says that Pearson and Google did agree to help promote each other’s products. As a result, Pearson officials have given presentations about OpenClass at Google’s booth here at Educause, and a Google official appeared briefly at a Pearson briefing about the LMS.

At that session the Google official, Obadiah Greenberg, noted that college officials have long asked whether the company would build a learning system of its own. “One of the No. 1 questions we get is, When are we going to build an LMS?” he said. He added that Google is a platform company and has no plans to get into the LMS market.

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