Life After the LMS or, The Post-LMS Era

The recent announcement of Blackboard’s absorption of their biggest LMS competitor -Angel, leads me to think we are moving toward a new era of delivery systems for online learning. As a user and admin of Web-CT, e-College, and Blackboard I appreciate their relative strengths and weaknesses. My brief exploration of Angel gave me a glimpse of really well thought out design. My boss, in fact, asked me the other day if our university should consider moving to Angel. Three years ago we upgraded our basic Blackboard installation to the Enterprise version, and integrated it with our business systems. The integration has been a huge step forward in terms of automation and scalability. However, the price tag is more than a little scary.

The cost of Blackboard has steadily increased, and represents a substantial portion of a tuition-driven operating budget. What is Blackboard’s incentive to moderate their pricing when their biggest competitor is now on their books as an asset? Yes, Blackboard has begun bundling new premium features into its system (e.g. Wimba Pronto Basic, Echo360, etc.) at no extra cost, but that does not change the bottom line cost to the university.

Some in the blogosphere are hinting that we are looking at the end of the LMS. Responders to Michael Feldstein’s open questions about the future of the LMS suggest the possibility of mashing up Web 2.0 tools as an LMS alternative. That might work for some individual courses, but from an enterprise standpoint it simply is not scalable.

I would love to see the Moodle community seriously tackle the re-design of the core Moodle engine, separating the LMS engine from the presentation layer. If Moodle allowed me to easily create course layouts and structures other than the frenetically busy 3-column layout, I would become the evangelist for moving to Moodle. As it is however, I simply cannot abide the cognitive overload inducing 3-column layout. Yes, I know I can create custom templates. But, that is neither simple or permanent. If I upgrade my Moodle install I will have to re-install my custom templates.

Moodle developers everywhere: This is your clarion call to re-work the core Moodle code, and by doing so providing breakthrough power and flexibility in an open source LMS. Moodle market share is growing strong. But, imagine the flood of adoption that could occur if Moodle was re-designed for instructional design flexibility.

What do you think about the merger?