Stephen Gilfus

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Stephen Gilfus
Ethnicity American
Alma mater Cornell University
Occupation Entrepreneur
Organization Gilfus Education Group
Known for Co-founder of Blackboard Inc.

Stephen Gilfus is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He is a founder of Blackboard Inc. and CourseInfo LLC, where he held positions from 1997 to 2007. In July 2007, Gilfus founded the Gilfus Education Group, a strategic consulting firm focused on education innovation for academic institutions, education businesses and industry investors.

Early life[edit]

Stephen Gilfus grew up in Pittsford, New York. He developed an interest in computers at age 8 when he received a Commodore VIC-20 computer as a holiday present. His first computer program was that of a computer game recorded on the systems stored tape drive, a Commodore Datasette. Shortly after, he began attending Apple Inc. Homebrew Computer Clubs with his father during the days of Verbatim and Elephant floppy discs, Elephant Memory Systems. Other computer systems that he enjoyed during this period included, the first Pong, Atari, and Nintendo systems.

Fascinated by computer capabilities he remained interested in computers and gaming systems during his high school years at Pittsford Mendon High School, sharing computer games and working through various programs on early Apple II and Macintosh computers. In college, he shared an IBM PC 486 DX2 66 with his brother.

Gilfus attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the undergraduate business program in the Cornell University Department of Applied Economics and Management.

Early career[edit]

While at Cornell, Gilfus focused on the development of new businesses through his studies as a part of a burgeoning new series of studies within Cornell's Entrepreneurship Personal Enterprise program. In this capacity he was a TA for a business planning class of 90 students, mentoring students on the development of new business ideas and approaches. His mentor, Professor Deborah Streeter gave him guidance and support in launching a new student club, the Cornell Entrepreneur Organization (CEO), focused on bringing together students from business and engineering in support of new business ideas.


In 1997, Gilfus met Daniel Cane while he was a teacher's administrator for Cornell's entrepreneurship studies assisting Professor Deborah Streeter with her business plan writing classes. 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. 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.[1]

CourseInfo LLC was a small e-learning company focused on the development of an innovative course management system.[2] As a founder of CourseInfo, Gilfus directed the business's initial vision, writing the company's first business plan and developing its foundational sales and marketing strategy. "It's a Web course-management tool," explains Stephen Gilfus, "The entire structure is set up to provide areas...[3]

CourseInfo released several product versions including the "Teachers Toolbox"and its foundational first release the Interactive Learning Network v.1

Released Products[edit]

  • 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. As a primary designer and inventor of the platform Gilfus drove the overall feature and function set, and web design of the product.
  • Gilfus led sales and marketing and product management efforts to build awareness for the company. Much of the company's initial communication was on educational listservs and web boards.


In 1998, CourseInfo Llc., founded by Daniel Cane and Stephen Gilfus, and Blackboard LLC, founded by Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky merged to form Blackboard Inc. CourseInfo technology became the core technology to the Blackboard platform for future generations to come, and the original business plan became the model that Blackboard adopted. The first e-learning product as Blackboard Inc. was branded Blackboard CourseInfo, but the CourseInfo brand was dropped in 2000. Gilfus was one of the primary designers and inventors of the CourseInfo and Blackboard Learning System products as head of corporate and product strategy for the company.

Product Strategy[edit]

As the company expanded its market and business relationships Stephen along with Matthew Pittinsky (both company co-founders) jointly wrote a Blackboard Product Strategy & Vision White Paper on Building Blocks (B2) Initiative outlining the launch of a "Building Blocks Initiative" introducing new thought concepts to extend the Blackboard Platform and allowing for greater extensibility of the technology as an open platform for allowing for technology extensions. In 2001 the company (Blackboard Inc.) began to explore "mobile learning" initiatives and Stephen joined a Mobile Steering Committee established and led by the President and CEO of McGraw-Hill Ryerson to answer the question "What can “ anytime, anywhere” access to learning material contribute to the education experience?"

eLearning Standards[edit]

Further to Blackboard's development path Stephen led the companies initiatives to introduce new learning standards as the Head of Corporate and Product Strategy collaborating with NDU, the National Defense University, and the ADL Co-Labs to design, implement and deploy a free Blackboard SCORM 1.2 through Blackboard Building Blocks. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Repository Model) is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, which comes out of the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.

Education Framework[edit]

During this time, around 2004, still with Blackboard, Stephen began to assemble data from the experiences of thousands of Blackboard customers and authored the "Educational Technology Framework", a model used to contemplate organizational, technological, and social impact of educational technologies on academic institutions – sometimes referred to as “The Gilfus Model of Educational Technology Adoption”.[4] The model was updated in 2010.[5]

Consulting Services[edit]

From 2004 to mid-2008, Gilfus was head of Blackboard's Global Education Consulting Practice where he led a team of professionals focused on providing strategic consulting services and implementation services for the Blackboard Platform. Serving over 2200 academic institutions in integrating into PeopleSoft, Datatel, SunGard and other SIS applications as well as creating custom applications.

Gilfus was one of the key strategists behind Fairfax County Public Schools launch of the Blackboard platform for Fairfax 24/7 Learning.[6] He also led a core team of individuals that designed and implemented Pearson's Course Compass, a private-label version of Blackboard for Pearson Education.[7]

Company Leadership[edit]

Gilfus worked cross-organizationally within Blackboard, holding key leadership positions throughout the company in Marketing and Sales, Product Management/Development, Strategic Development, Global Services, and the Office of the CEO. Gilfus is known as an expert facilitator and change agent. His final role at Blackboard was to provide strategic counsel to the individual Presidents of each of Blackboard's industry divisions.

Published Works[edit]

Gilfus Education Group[edit]

In February 2009, Gilfus left Blackboard to found the Gilfus Education Group, an independent strategic education consulting and management company based in Washington, D.C. The company provides "Education Innovation" development capabilities to education institutions, education companies and critical insights and due diligence to education industry investors.

In this capacity the company has provide strategic services to some of the worlds leading academic institutions, publishers, and education technology companies, including Pearson Education, Elsevier, Ellucian (the combination of Datatel and Sungard, Blackboard, Moodlerooms and countless others. In this same capacity the company has assisted acamademic institutions such as University Maryland University College in understanding and reinventing approaches to student services. He has provided due diligence services to New Enterprise Associates, JMI Equity and provided strategic insights for investors in their participation in Desire2Learn and Instructure.

Published Works[edit]


Gilfus is an active angel investor. He has provided market and technology due diligence services to dozens of industry investors, including New Enterprise Associates for LBO's, strategic investments, and strategic acquisitions.

Personal life[edit]

Gilfus lives in Chantilly, Virginia with his wife. Gilfus is also an "Entrepreneurship@Cornell" advisory council member.[8]


Industry References[edit]


External links[edit]

See also[edit]