Stephen Gilfus

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Stephen Gilfus
Alma materCornell University
Known forCo-founder of Blackboard Inc. along with Michael Chasen, Matthew Pittinsky, Daniel Cane

Stephen Gilfus is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He is a founder of Blackboard Inc. and CourseInfo LLC, where he held executive positions from 1997 to 2007. Stephen is known as a "father of modern day eLearning"[citation needed], as the primary business, and technical lead of Blackboard Inc. one of the world's most widely used eLearning systems. In July 2007, Gilfus started a management consulting firm focused on education innovation. Gilfus is a global education advisor, mentor, investor and inventor.

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.

Cornell University[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. Early on, 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, this club evolved into an organization now known as CEN (the Cornell Entrepreneur Network). In this capacity he was a TA for Professor Streeter's (ARME325,) a business planning class of 90 students, mentoring students on the development of new business ideas and approaches, where he met Dan Cane, who was one of his students. He won an award from Cornelll for Business Consulting on a project he did in Streeter's ARME 425 class. During this time he was also an active student participant during the creation of Cornell's Entrepreneurship@Cornell program.


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 cutting edge 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.

December 8, 1997 - Gilfus Declares.. "It's a Web course-management tool," explains Stephen Gilfus, CourseInfo's co-founder and vice president for marketing. "The entire structure is set up to provide areas where you can input your own information. It supports all file types, including multimedia.".[3]

The CourseInfo platform was technologically advanced as it was one of only a few relational database powered web based applications launched in the late 90's. CourseInfo released several product versions including the "Teachers Toolbox"and its foundational first release the Interactive Learning Network v.1

Released Products[edit]

  • Early 1996-97 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 that Gilfus wrote 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]

In addition to writing the companies first business plan, Gilfus was head of corporate and product strategy during the first 5 years of the business. He was the companies first Chief Learning Officer driving product direction, functional requirements, leading product development and guiding sales and marketing laying the foundation for Blackboard's success . As the Company grew Gilfus worked cross-organizationally within Blackboard, holding key leadership positions throughout the company in Product Management/Development, Marketing and Sales, Strategic Development, Global Services, and the Office of the CEO.

As the head of Blackboard Global Services Gilfus and his team worked with over 1400 academic institutions in providing capabilities for data integration, and customizations, influencing industry standards for enterprise data specifications and learning tools interoperability. 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 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. Mr. Gilfus is an Advisor and Investor in several Angel Networks and market specific funds including:

and is frequently asked to participate in new business venture reviews, business judging and investment due diligence. Other investment and advisory or board positions include:


DC Education Think Tank[edit]

In February 2009, Gilfus left Blackboard to found 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, and dozens of companies of other companies Blackboard, Moodlerooms as well as leading institutions like University Maryland University College. 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.

MindRocket Media Group[edit]

Gilfus founded MindRocket Media Group Inc. in 2015 and is currently Chairman of the Board. MindRocket Media Group is a multi-channel ETD (Education, Training and Development) marketing communications and media company, bridging education and workforce.

MindRocket Media Group is focused on industry thought-leadership. Assisting industry companies in defining and shaping their messaging, guiding distribution efforts, and making appropriate connections for growth and advancement. The group also represents several key industry leaders, provides key industry insights on as well the MRMG website, and columns in Forbes, Huffington Post and Scholastic. In addition, the MRMG team is working with talented talented individuals either currently engaged or with expertise from Forbes, Huffington Post, CNN, CBS, Miramax including the talents of Jack Ford and AmericanEdTV. Efforts led by MindRocket Media group's President and CEO, Dr. Rod Berger.

Industry References[edit]


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