So Blackboard is to acquire (sorry, merge with) WebCT. Does it mean anything, other than to all those folks who will soon be looking for jobs?
What we are seeing is simply further implosion of the dedicated e-learning technology industry. The more oligopolistic this market becomes, the more generic it becomes, and the less able it is to sustain the pretense of any meaningful differential advantage. As open source systems undermine it from below (particularly in the academic arena) and ERP systems make it redundant from above (particularly in the corporate arena), the less relevant this relatively small software market segment becomes.
Hence the increasing investor wariness. Soon to be followed by more enthusiastic uptake of what I have been advocating for ten years now – educators, trainers, and especially learners will start to focus less on the means and more on the end, invoking whatever technologies happen to be mainstream to facilitate whatever learning experience is most appropriate to them. IT departments will find it easier to wrest away from training departments the decisions about enabling technologies, and learning information flows will move out of their relatively proprietary niche and finally become fully integrated with the rest of the corporate nervous system.
The openness and dynamism of the web will finally be allowed to permeate the thinking of the learning establishment, and Model-T e-learning will succumb to a flood of performance-driven innovation.