Carter, D. (2009) Blackboard-Angel deal gives pause to some eSchool News, May 7

The latest on LMS wars. Even less choice of commercial software now. Can we expect the European Commission to take on Blackboard as a monopoly in the same way they have done with Intel and Microsoft? And what has happened to the court case between Blackboard and Desire2Learn? I suspect that by the time all the legal issues over copyright and monopoly are resolved, LMSs will be obsolete anyway.

For more on this purchase (and some interesting comments on Blackboard), see:

Young, J. (2009) Blackboard and Angel Learning Officials Try to Reassure Skeptical Clients Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus, May 14


  1. Dear Dr Bates

    I am interested in your assertion that LMSs will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future. We have been discussing this in our department but not too seriously as our immediate problem is to get lecturers to use the current LMS.

    I work in South Africa and at our university only 45% of the modules are on our LMS (Blackboard Vista). I don’t think that 10% of those are used effectively as learning environments: they are just information repositories – where they are updated at all after being created.

    I know you are familiar with the South African situation of limited bandwidth, disadvantaged students, etc. Given what you know about our context, how long do you think it would take for LMSs to become redundant here? What should we be working towards? We are experimenting with m-learning, podcasts, youtube, etc. but on a small scale.


    Wendy Kilfoil

    Professor Wendy R Kilfoil
    Department for Education Innovation
    University of Pretoria

  2. Hi, Wendy.

    Thanks for your e-mail. I’m not sure that LMSs will become completely redundant, because they provide useful administrative functions, but I see them becoming less important or rather just one piece of a broader ‘personal learning environment’ that will include other tools, and over which the learner will also have some control with regard to tools and links. This personal learning environment is likely to be more like a customisable web ‘portal’ into which both academic designers and learners can add and withdraw tools as the technology changes. Indeed, the portal may vary depending on the device the learner is using. Thus a mobile phone with a limited screen size may have a different look (and different tools available) for the same course than a learner accessing the course through a high speed network.

    What is changing is the idea that the LMS is the course container into which everything must fit. It is true that you can add web 2.0 tools as plug-ins, but it’s a clumsy way to enable learners to create their own multimedia project portfolios, for example. I don’t see content being the main ‘stuff’ much longer in LMSs, since more and more, learners will be encouraged to access content outside the LMS, and they will need their own tools for managing and organizing their unique collections of content.

    The advantage of LMSs is that they allow academic and administrative functions to be easily integrated (e.g. posting student grades), and provide analytics on students’ use, and they provide a structure for academics who don’t have the knowledge or experience to design their own course structures. Thus the more flexible ‘personal learning environment’ approach is more challenging. However, I foresee PLE templates built around different approaches to teaching/learning being used, and easily adapted to a particular instructor’s or learner’s requirements. I don’t think these changes will come quickly so I see at least another five years of LMSs being the ‘standard’ approach to online learning.

    Thanks for a great question, and I hope my answer makes sense for your situation – I’d be interested to hear more about what you are doing.

    Tony Bates


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