Now for some background. For those not familiar with the “villain” in the Fantastic 4 comic book, Galactus is the most powerful being in the universe and must devour planets for energy to sustain his own life (yes, a comic book reference …you realize that you are reading an article in a journal with “geek” in the title don’t you?). According to Wikipedia, “Galactus is depicted as the primary antagonist or super-villain. Nevertheless, he is not an evil being, and harbors no ill-will to any living creature. Because Galactus brings balance between the two opposing universal forces of Death and Eternity, he considers himself to be outside of the concepts of Good and Evil.” While this being will destroy civilizations and planets, without him the universe would collapse. Stay with me here.
Am I a huge blackboard fan? Not really. In fact until we recently upgraded to CE6 I was a die hard WebCT guy, but that is another discussion all together. Do I think the company is evil? Probably not. Does Blackboard have an appetite for absorbing the competition? Absolutely (WebCT, Prometheus). The three “opposing universal forces” that bring balance in this scenario are open source/other LMSs, Blackboard, and Educators and Students.
Let’s face it; Learning Management Systems leave a lot to be desired. All of them. A year ago, it was WebCT vs. Blackboard vs. the rest of the little guys. Everyone had (and has) their own proprietary way of doing things. With the merger, we can expect increased standardization. I see this trickling down to the smaller companies and open source folks as well. Once everyone “falls in line” with this standardization so to speak, they will continue to improve upon their products and be able to respond more quickly to market demands while the bloated Blackboard conglomerate counts it’s profits (Microsoft/Apple anyone?). Let them. Educause and the US Patent and Trade Office have made it clear that Blackboard’s actions are under the microscope. I anticipate Galactus will remain in check for the foreseeable future now that the other opposing universal forces have made it aware of its limitations. Who are the big winners in this scenario? Educators and students. I’m not saying the hybrid/online education universe would cease to exist without Blackboard, but I definitely see online course delivery thriving more because of it.
Is this fair to Angel and Desire2Learn? No. Would they have done the same thing as Blackboard did if they were in the driver’s seat? Probably …but I will choose to believe they would have been a whole lot smarter about it. Blackboard must have been eating intergalactic paint chips when they came out with the assertion that they essentially created the learning management system concept and therefore have the exclusive rights to all associated functionalities. Following that logic, Al Gore should be getting a cut every time a webpage is opened (he did invent the internet you know). In fact, shouldn’t Blackboard be paying him?