WebCT software rising in cost

By Cheryl Wagstaff
April 11, 2002

Colleges are experiencing sticker shock over recent the price changes by two of the leading providers of course-management software.

Blackboard and WebCT, the two leading providers of course-management software, are raising their prices. Until recently, colleges had to pay a few thousand dollars a year, but now they are being charged tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for the systems.

Cabrini shares WebCT with Drexel University. There is not much anxiety over how it will affect both Cabrini and Drexel at this point because the new programs are still in the developmental stages. Vice President of Information Resources and Technology John Bielec said, “I do not expect any short term impact on either school. Pricing for software products change rapidly [both up and down] all the time. This is normal.”

As of yet, it is not clear as to what the new pricing for any of the course-management systems as or as any other software will be. Cabrini probably will not feel the effects until the software becomes more dependable and worthy for the college to purchase. Cabrini will get WebCT through Drexel due to the contract that Cabrini signed with Drexel last spring. Therefore, Cabrini will not lose WebCT due to the price changes.

Course-management software is a staple on numerous college campuses. It is estimated that about one-fifth of all college courses use some form of course-management software.

Some colleges are willing to pay the higher price due to the fact that they use the software for most of their courses. Others are upset because the companies are raising its prices after they trained the faculty to use it. Therefore, the colleges are somewhat cornered into buying the new software.

Most colleges use WebCT over Blackboard because it has been cheaper for a long time. However WebCT’s newest product, Vista, will cost somewhere in the “six figures.”

Currently the cost of the software is between $3,000 and $30,000 per year. This price depends on the size of the school and the use of the software. WebCT is also dropping their low-cost pricing plan that they call the “standard edition.”

Although prices are being raised, there are still some alternatives for schools that cannot afford the new highly priced software. There is a low-end version of the software called the “campus edition” that costs about $7,000. However, the software can only be used by 3,000 students per semester, and it cannot be integrated with the college’s other information systems.

At this time, Cabrini does not know how the pricing will affect the college. Bielec said, “It is not clear what new pricing there will be for any of the course management systems as well as any software.”

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Cheryl Wagstaff

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