One year ago I made a series of 8 predictions for learning technology in 2009. Below are the predictions, with an accompanying evaluation that in most cases tries to explain why I got most things so wrong.
Prediction 1: Blackboard will be purchased by Microsoft or some other big fish (like HP, Google, or Oracle).
evaluation: Some people see conspiracies, other people see dead people, I see mergers and acquisitions everywhere. This is one prediction that, a) I'm happy did not come to pass, and b) I'll keep predicting until I'm proved right.
I'm relieved that this did not happen because mergers and buy-outs are seldom happy or successful (just look at Time-Warner and AOL, or in my opinion Adobe buying Macromedia). Nimble, creative, and innovative companies get swallowed up, the people who made the company special eventually leave, and the combined entity is no where near as agile.
But in the case of Blackboard, I can't imagine why the "big fish" would pass up the opportunity to buy so deeply into the educational technology market. Revenues and profits in the future will come from selling integrated services and platforms, and managing and adding value to data. The LMS will never be a huge profit center, as it is becoming commoditized and faces stiff competition from open-source offerings, but the services that touch on the LMS (such as data/student management) will have high margins. The importance of the data will become even more acute as the LMS (and other services) migrate to the cloud.
Prediction 2: The SaaS (software as a service) model for CMS's (Blackboard and open-source platforms like Moodle) will grow significantly.
evaluation: I'm probably not wrong on this one, just a bit early. The growth of MoodleRooms as a SaaS provider of Moodle demonstrates where this market is going. The question, for me, is: When the majority of schools will move to a SaaS model for their LMS? Certainly the purchase of Blackboard by a huge cloud company provider (see above) will hasten this trend, but however the market shakes out I see this as inevitable.
Prediction 3: Moodle will experience major growths in adoption.
evaluation: According to Fortune, Moodle has about a 10% market share. Does anyone know Moodle's trajectory? Was this prediction correct - i.e. did Moodle's adoptions in 2009 grow much faster then in previous years and as compared to other LMS systems?
Prediction 4: Digital texts, in both digital reader and audio form, will begin to achieve critical mass - becoming a compelling alternative to traditional paper based books.
evaluation: I'd say I got this sort of right when it comes to popular reading, but mostly wrong about academic and curricular materials. Truth is, we've just been slow to figure out alternative platforms to paper for our curriculum and academic library holdings. I think we've made the mistake of focusing on the device, with some schools buying Kindles, then putting resources into providing digital content (and letting the students and faculty come with their own devices). Offering our curricular and library content in multiple formats (print, e-paper, audio) is so critical if we want to create a new generation of readers that we can't wait for the marketplace to solve this one. Higher education needs to figure out a way to organize and work across our institutions.
Prediction 5: 2009 will be the year of mobilized content and the portable CMS.
evaluation: Again, this prediction works okay for entertainment and comes out pretty badly for education. 2009 was the year of the App store, with over 100,000 third-party applications and over 2 billion downloads. Yet the mobile platform did very little to change how postsecondary education is developed or delivered. Despite the promise of a mobile CMS, which was given more energy by Blackboard's purchase of TerriblyClever Design in July, we have yet to see mobile learning gain much traction.
Some people will argue with me, pointing to Abilene Christian University and other innovative projects - or provide examples of mobile educational apps being used on some campuses - but I'd argue all of these have only influenced pedagogy at the margins. This is another area where we need to step up our games, as the mobile platform will quickly become the preferred device for young people to consume content, communicate and collaborate. If course content and active learning opportunities are not available on mobile platforms then our students will simply spend less time doing learning activities, and the gap between what educators believe is relevant and how students actually spend their time will continue to grow.
Prediction 6: 2009 will see dramatic increases in the adoption of consumer, cloud based e-mail, calendaring, media hosting and productivity software among IHE's.
evaluation: Does anyone have the numbers of levels and trends for adoption of Google Apps, Live@EDU (Microsoft), and Zimbra - as compared to locally hosted e-mailing/calendaring/messaging? I'm betting 2009 saw much faster adoption then 2008 for cloud based consumer communications services on campus.
Prediction 7: Adobe will purchase Techsmith.
evaluation: Okay, I got this one wrong - and thankfully. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm a huge fan of TechSmith and their wonderfully agile and connected products. How did Adobe miss the boat so badly in offering lecture/presentation capture solutions and cheap cross-platform screencasting? (See Camtasia Relay and Jing for lessons on how to get this right). The mystery deepens when one considers how perfect Adobe's AIR platform and Acrobat.com suite of services would be to deliver cheap, light, and flexible authoring, publishing and sharing tools to education.
Prediction 8: Microsoft will introduce a Windows branded Netbook.
evaluation: Wrong, wrong wrong. But I still think that Microsoft will need to do this unless they want to cede the entry-level Netbook market to Google and the upcoming Chome OS. The issue for Microsoft is that the OS will be the gateway to cloud services - productivity applications, storage, search etc. Giving up even more consumers to Google with Chrome netbooks will make enticing these people into the Microsoft cloud ecosystem even more difficult. A Chrome vs. Windows 7 (light) netbook battle would be a wonderful thing for learners everywhere. We would see the true $100 laptop at a much earlier date if the hardware became a loss-leader for services and content.
2010?: I don't think I'll make any 2010 for learning technology, as I think I'd continue to say the same things that I did for 2009. We all believe that learning and learning technology move to the cloud, causing all sorts of disruptions and opportunities. I firmly believe that we will begin to see a significant roll-up of educational technology vendors, particularly in fragmented markets such as lecture capture. We all think that open source will continue to grow, mostly on the LMS side, but who knows how disruptive OpenCast will be in the lecture capture world. 2010 is going to be an exciting year to work in learning technology.
How did your 2009 predictions hold-up? Do any of my predictions for the future of learning technology look particularly bone-headed to you? What does your crystal ball tell us for the year to come in learning technology?