A few of my colleagues will be heading off to the annual WebCT, a.k.a., Blackboard, conference. It is probably far too early in the merger to get a real sense of where the new company is going as I am sure they are doing a fair bit of corporate melding. The market is very dynamic so it's always a good idea to check the course heading on a regular basis and make sure there is alignment with institutional needs. Here's a couple areas I'm watching:
MS - Always the 800lb gorilla in the room. Even though, as I understand it, they own a portion of BlackBoard, they need to protect their own base and respond to the Web2.0 and convergence forces out there. Case in point, check out their Unified Communications roadmap. The VoIP/audio/video conferencing components will have a significant impact on DE technology and is where we will see the most significant changes of over the next 3 years. The Burton Group is referring to it as a "sea change" in an email invitation I received to their "When Words Collide: Communication, Collaboration, and Content convergence " telebriefing. The competititors response, open source or otherwise will be interesting. With Ray Ozzie starting his transition towards the MS helm, it's not a stretch to see that a more collaborative/integrated software environment will be core to MS strategy. The affect on all LMSs will be increased pressure to adopt and adapt. Bares watching.
Of course Google is turning the whole world around with its web-as-services strategy. We can only imagine the level of discomfort of future users once they have grown accustomed to a polished-consumer-grade interface and functionality in a Google-portal-writely-spreadsheet-IM-?-environment. LMS environments are going to have to keep up or risk becoming marginalized.
Sakai, one of two popular the open source LMS initiativies, recently added Oracle as a collaborator. Add that with Oracle's involvement in the CampusEAI and you have an interesting set of solutions. And then there's the value of OSP which is integrated with Sakai. It might be worth sending someone to the Atlanta Sakai conference coming up in early December, 2006.
Moodle keeps on innovating with the release of 1.6 and consequently is putting pressure on the commercial vendors to keep up. So the new and bigger Blackboard can't afford to spend too much time in Meyers-Briggs like team-building exercises.
There are others, so I'll be adding to this post as I go.