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Shall we call it Blackangel? Or Angelboard?

May 9, 2009, 7:52 am

The two biggest players in the learning management system world, Blackboard and Angel, will soon be one company, since Blackboard has purchased Angel Learning, Inc. for $95 million.  From a superficial reading of the press release, it appears that Blackboard thinks of itself as having a more technologically innovative product, whereas Angel has a better track record with customers — and Blackboard has the money to pull off the purchase.

I can’t verify any of those claims, but I can say that we switched from Blackboard to Angel at my college a few years ago due to a general dissatisfaction with the quality of the product compared to the price we were paying. I don’t recall Blackboard as being particularly innovative, although admittedly that was 4-5 years ago. Angel has not been much of an improvement, and I’ve blogged before about the maddening UI design decisions that Angel has made. In going from Blackboard to Angel, we basically traded one set of deeply flawed LMS technology for another.

And now we have the situation where the current sub-par LMS technology maker is being bought out by the previous equally-but-differently-subpar LMS technology maker. So who knows what exactly we, the users at my college, are going to end up with. The best-case scenario is that we would get the best of both technologies. There are some things that Angel does  pretty well, well enough at least that I am no longer finding myself forced to roll my own LMS at Wikispaces just to retain my sanity. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, Jon Mott has some excellent thoughts about life post-LMS. I think he’s right that the basic problem isn’t the implementation of the technology (although, as I’ve noted, there are some big problems there with Angel and probably with Blackboard as well) but rather the paradigm on which the technology is based. It makes me wonder if the real LMS that best suits the modern college or university is already out there, in the form of previously-released tools that just need to be cobbled together rather than an expensive proprietary software package that tries to emulate those tools.

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