As this Inside Higher Ed article notes, Blackboard is, at the moment, the clear leader when it comes to providing e-learning tools. But a new partnership between The New York Times and SunGard Higher Education is going to at least make things more interesting:

SunGard Higher Education is today announcing plans to integrate Epsilen, a learning-based social networking platform, into its learning-management system. The partnership will give SunGard clients access to Epsilen’s collaboration and e-portfolio tools — as well as 158 years’ worth of digital archives of The New York Times, whose parent company owns the majority share of Epsilen.

When professors are building a course, said Felice Nudelman, executive director of education at the Times, they will be able to use keywords to locate relevant Times content on particular topics and events, and integrate the material into their classes. Students, meanwhile, will be able to manage and share their Epsilen e-portfolios through the SunGard portal. While the combination of services doesn’t equal everything Blackboard offers, given that Blackboard’s services go beyond classroom experience, it represents a significant addition of content and online communities to the SunGard product for courses.

This is becoming an interesting market.

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Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.