A fascinating and in-depth evaluation of WebCT Vista form IRRODL (via someone, can’t remember who… sorry!).
I particularly like this article as it goes into depth over pricing:
“The WebCT Vista Academic Enterprise edition is the latest version, released in 2004. One WebCT user, the New Mexico State University, indicates (2003), that the company “is scheduled to discontinue support of its Campus Edition version in December 2006 leaving only the Vista edition of the course management system available and supported.” At that point, NMSU estimates that its annual licensing and running charges will rise from $40,000 to, in the first year of Vista operation, $650,800 US…
…According to Young (2002), CE pricing has risen steadily and can range from $7,000 to $30,000 US, depending on student enrolment and licensing options; but the cost of operating Vista is in the “six figures”. The CE license is based on an annual subscription available in two forms: Institution or Focus. The Institution license is determined by number of full-time students in the institution, while the Focus license is limited to a maximum number of users, generally 3000 (EduTools, 2004). Vista also has two types of licensing…
Together with other expenses and the obvious alternatives:
…There are so many tools in WebCT Vista that a major support effort is required to teach instructors how to use it. It is feasible that an institution might regard the costs of running such a complex training program as being be better spent on hiring Web designers and other specialists to create a customized in-house solution, which only adds new tools as the teachers and students require them….
Now I can guarantee you that if you get a system like this one in place you will have to commit a huge amount of time and effort to training, and then when you realise that you’ve stuffed it all up (well, it kinda stuffs itself up as it moved from version to version every 6 months…) you will be unhappy.
You’ll be especially unhappy when you finally get it right only to realise that you’ve now spent millions locking yourself into a product you don’t own. Ahem.
Finally a mention to the open source alternatives and movements paints a not-too-glossy picture for this particular megalosaurus:
“….With so many comparable open source softwares emerging for course management, containing more varied features than WebCT, one has to wonder: how long can such costly proprietary products survive? In the case of WebCT, the short answer to this is – possibly two years. If, as has been suggested, the vendor will no longer support earlier versions than Vista after 2006, it will either gather massive upgrade payments from many of its clients in the interim, or will lose them altogether to the new OSS systems. So is this WebCT’s last attempt to make large amounts of money in the face of the growing OSS challenge, its “last hurrah?”….”
However, I think it’ll take a lot longer. In this case we’re talking about a company that, as well as having the lions share of the market (together with Bb) and enormous user hook in as a result (sound familiar?) also gets it’s users along to rather well-located conferences (which I’m sure more than pay for themselves), to take training courses through them (which have to pay form themselves, looking at the costs) and seems to have the best exec. customer relations manager in the world.
If they’re hooked on to a revenue model where they need to double / triple in the next few years then they might be in a little bit of trouble, but not too much I think. If they aren’t going to bang up prices as much as put forward here then I think it’ll take an ELE to make a change… there must be a lot of comp. science students out their trying to hack & build viruses for these, mustn’t there???