February 7, 2014 psweeze

ETEC 522 Final Assignment: BBM & Blackberry education

Currently there are a number of different messaging apps that are in use across the globe. Apples iMessage, Japan’s Line, China’s WeChat, Silicon Valley’s WhatsApp, Waterloo’s BBM and Kik Interactive, Microsoft’s Skype and Lync as well as Google Hangout are all messaging systems that have garnered different corners of this market, however, there is no one clear leader of the pack.

For the longest time BBM was seen as the frontrunner for all enterprise and corporate users that wished to have secure group and individual conversations. However, the past five years have not been kind to BlackBerry and in 2012 and 2013 more and more smartphone users outside of the Blackberry world have been anxiously anticipating the release of a BBM app they can use on their devices, but to no avail. The former administration didn’t understand the current climate in this market and when CEO Thorstein Heins vetoed the rest of the board from pursuing this, they lost a huge portion of their users and left the door open for other devices and messaging services to take its place.

As the recently appointed CRO of Blackberry, I am working together with the new CEO, John Chen and the rest of his team to deliver a solution that would make BBM profitable, as well as allow Blackberry to enter into the educational technology market at a minimal cost, with the potential for a great return on investment.

There is amazing room for growth in this sector, and I believe this new offering will be seen as a truly revolutionary. Blackberry will be launching a number of new services in the upcoming year that are sure to turn the technology world on it’s head. This plan is multi-faceted and has two distinctive aspects. First Blackberry is going to launch a Learning Management system that is IMS Global Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) compliant and Common Cartridge certified. In coordination with this they will also launch BBM Premium and BBM Premium for Education. The latter of which will be wrapped by Rustici Software’s Tin Can API or (XAPI). This will allow the user interaction on this platform to be tracked, and stamped for rigorous educational data mining. The data from both the LMS and the messaging app will then be sent to the ultra secure Learning Record Store (LRS) housed on Blackberry’s servers.

Due to the very nature of XAPI it will provide vast amounts of data, rich for analysis. Working with the Blackberry Analytics team, we can create truly customizable platform with teacher and student dashboards that give constant real time and evaluative feedback to enhance the learning experience.

This will be the first of its kind and will offer educational data mining capabilities like we’ve never seen before. It will provide a personalized learning environment that will foster synchronous and asynchronous dialogue and provide meaningful recommendations and graphs in an easy to read dashboard for both teachers and students.


AIMCo Inc. recently released the statement, “I can’t be Canada Inc. I can’t be out there supporting BlackBerry just because it’s a Canadian company. I can only do it when there is a strategy that makes sense for us to work along with,” he said. “If such a strategy emerges of course we would look a it.” Blackberries is on the verge of re-imaging themselves and are currently working with Fairfax Holdings to obtain 1 billion dollars in investment to accomplish this huge endeavor.

Blackberry is at a turning point and need to rebrand and reimage in order to gain their stance amongst other heavy hitting technology companies. After the failed launch of the 10 series smartphones, and the Blackberry Playbook they need to carve out a new direction heading forward. Thornstein Heins, the former CEO was replaced because he failed to see the shift in the marketplace. Focusing too much on its proprietary devices and ignoring the corporate offerings found in their strong infrastructure and unique patents, they are poised to make some big waves, if they take advantage of this opportunity for re-birth.

Educational technology is a tough market to enter, and there are numerous offerings in the LMS, and social learning market. However, there are none that offer the security that Blackberry’s infrastructure maintains. Providing a one-stop shop for a web and mobile device enabled LMS, with a messaging and discussion platform that tracks every interaction that can be used both as a mobile messaging app and as a desktop application with screen share and video conferencing capabilities.


So what specifically are we going to launch? BBM recently was launched for use on all mobile devices, and saw 20 million people sign up for its service in the first 72 hours. However, as it stands now there is no profit being derived from this service and although talk about advertisement-based revenue has been mentioned, it does not offer the profits that other subscription based models would.

Skype and Google Hangout are great tools, but have their limitations. Skype does not function well as a messaging app (or at least it hasn’t caught on) and doesn’t have the capacity for screen share on mobile devices. Hangout has just made a splash in this market, but it doesn’t offer screen share on mobile device. Additionally their is no stand alone app for desktop or laptop use yet, limiting users to a strictly browser based experience.

If BBM offered a Premium service that could be tailored for educators they could steal a market that is just begging for an easy to use plug and play system that encourages more synchronous dialogue and a truly standalone mobile platform for learning. In addition to this the mobile app, there would also be a free desktop version that would allow you to login and use it like you can iMessage on a Mac. However, this system would be available on all devices. Basic messaging would be enabled, but authorization with an institution purchased license, would open up features such as screen share, group chat, video conferencing and file sharing.

Syncing seamlessly between the mobile and desktop application, there would also be the added functionality of hashtags and username interactions. If you wanted to ask a specific question to a certain student, you could include a BBM username that would notify them in the app that they were mentioned. In addition to this, teachers and students alike would see trending hashtags about certain topics and lectures and gain a better understanding of what students were struggling with, or currently working on. All of this information would be sent directly to the LRS via the Tin Can API. This information would then be stamped for each user and then sent from the LRS to the LMS and a student dashboard, that would enable them track their learning.

Not only would Blackberry offer this new messaging platform, it would also launch a LMS that is Common Cartridge certified. This will be both browser based and have an associated mobile application for ease of accessibility and portability. Logging into this app on your phone, would prompt you to download and authenticate the BBM Premium for education app where discussion will be housed. Much like Facebook messenger opens when using the Facebook app on your phone, every time the student or teacher goes to the discussion boards it will automatically open the messaging app on the phone. All apps and programs will be free to download, but instead will require institution based licenses to be purchased.

Ensuring that the LMS is LTI compliant will allow for the embedding of other products using this standard. For example, if users wish to use a more powerful assignment submission platform that checks for plagiarism, they can enable the Turnitin plugin. Due to the fact that it is Common Cartridge certified as well, only one login is required when they originally access the LMS. This is one of the major benefits of adopting this rigorous system as it enables more functionality and customization for each institution, without the need of multiple login entries.

Fig 1. The BlackBerry LMS, BBM Premium for Education and interaction with the LRS




Blackberry gained its notoriety by its phenomenal BBM messaging system that enabled read receipts. Blackberry’s servers are touted as un-hack able, and have long been the leader for enterprise communication solutions. Switching focus from a more closed mindset to one that encourages use of their products by multiple devices in different settings such as a vibrant education market, just might bring them back to prominence.


Potential Weaknesses:

Numerous programs that offer learning technology interoperability (LTI) are often times compliant in only certain aspects. It is sometimes hard to discern what if any of the interoperability functions are going to be effective for each district or school that wishes to implement them. In addition current subscriptions and contracts may not be compliant with LTI and pose integration problems when they do not play nice with this new plug and play model.

Today’s educators still do not recognize the importance of digital media literacy skills and their growing role in every discipline. The growing output of different authoring platforms is beyond the rule of Moore’s law and the ability to properly assess in this knowledge age where online research and information accessibility makes it almost impossible to keep pace. Additionally, educator’s processes, practices and demands for traditional standardized testing is limiting the implementation of more advanced technical solutions.

With governments constantly changing hands and new education reforms and legislation being constantly passed to improve education, competition between different programs and technology solutions is at an all time high. IT managers that have to wade through and determine what is best for a given state/province can be difficult when faced with so many offerings. Cutting through the noise and separating ones self from the herd is not an easy task. In addition to this, training of faculty on these new systems is difficult to manage and constantly throwing in new programs makes it difficult to coordinate with limited resources.

Market readiness:

The biggest concern for post secondary institutions and school districts is ensuring student data is safe. Google has tried to enter the education market, but most IT departments are weary of Google and often block numerous components through firewalls. Blackboard and Desire2Learn have powerful platforms to offer, but haven’t been able to tap into the mobile aspect in a significant way yet. Therefore, this market is untapped, and ripe for a competitor to come in with a new perspective.

With a push towards more tablet based one to one learning and bring your own device models (BYOD), a learning environment solution that is designed for optimizing the mobile experience is perfect timing.


The focus will be to work in collaboration with one of Canada’s most prestigious post secondary institutions on a pilot program. The University of Waterloo will be fertile testing ground for this new learning platform and will provide real-time feedback before launching this full scale to other institutions.
Within the first year we will launch with specific departments in the University and prepare a fully functioning model to be packaged and ready for market by the following year. The target market is going to be post secondary institutions due to the nature of the messaging system. Although this will be available to K-12 markets, the BBM component would be too difficult to manage within the scope of current electronics policies in place.


John Chen

  • New CEO
  • Focused on Openness
  • Previously turned around Sybase Inc and sold it to SAP • Timothy Dattels
  • Board Member
  • Oversaw the CEO transition and deal with Fairfax o Vast experience in Asian technology markets

Phil Sweezey

  • New Chief Research Officer
  • Current UBC Masters in Educational Technology student
  • Former Technology mentor in charge of implementing province wide LMS platform for Anglophone

School District South • Megan Bowe

  • Former Rustici Software employee key in the creation of the Tin Can API
  • Current employee at Knewton Adaptive Learning solutions
  • Senior advisor on LMS creation, BBM Premium development and Tin Can integration


The main focus would be placed on post secondary institutions or companies and large firms that wish to do in house training where they can have control over the content packaged. BBM Premium for education, the LMS, and cloud space provided on the Blackberry secured LRS’s would be packaged and prices would be dependent on the need of each institution. In addition Blackberry premium with screen share, video and audio calls on both mobile and desktop versions would be sold on a monthly subscription with comparative pricing to Skype at $9 a month or $99 a year.


7 Things You Should Know about Learning Tools Interoperability. Publication. Educase, Aug. 2013. Web. Nov. 2013. Gonzalez-Barbone, Victor, and Luis Anido-Rifon. “From SCORM to Common Cartridge: A Step Forward.”

Computers & Education (2009): n. pag. Print.
“IMS Global Developer.” IMS Global Developer. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

BBM Premium for Education and Blackberry Connected 6

Silcoff, Sean. “Interim CEO Chen Takes the Reins at BlackBerry.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

Silcoff, Sean. “‘Incredible Demand’ for BlackBerry’s BBM ServiceAdd to …” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

“Tin Can API.” Tin Can API. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

“What Is SCORM?” SCORM – . Rustici Software, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.



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