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State of the Higher Ed LMS Market: A Graphical View

Post going up on e-Literate Monday morning

The transformation of the higher education LMS market continues, and I expect more changes over the next 2 – 3 years. However, it seems time to capture the state of the market based on changes over the past year.

I shared the most recent graphic summarizing the market in mid 2011. As with all previous versions, the 2005 – 2009 data points are based on the Campus Computing Project, and therefore is based on US adoption from non-profit institutions. This set of longitudinal data provides an anchor for the summary.

The most significant changes over the past two years include the following.

 * The data has been adjusted to include international usage and online programs in order to capture the rise of online programs, including MOOCs, as a driving force in the future market. Keep in mind that there is no consistent data set to capture the current market, so treat the graphic as telling a story of the market rather than being a chart of precise data. Sources include a combination Campus Computing reports, ITC surveys, company press releases, and extrapolations from Blackboard’s and Pearson’s quarterly earnings. Caveat emptor.
 * There is a new band / category for “homegrown systems” to account for a relatively new trend where organizations, primarily MOOCs for now, are opting to develop their own learning platform rather than adopt a pre-existing LMS.
 * Instructure has established itself as not just a disruptive influence, but a full-fledged competitor in the market with proven adoption at scale.
 * Blackboard changed their strategy, purchased two Moodle service providers (MoodleRooms and NetSpot), and cancelled the end-of-life for the ANGEL LMS.
 * Desire2Learn has grown much faster than has been represented by US-only data.
 * Pearson eCollege has a much stronger position when considering their market strength in the for-profit sector and with fully online programs.
 * The gray band representing pricing has been removed, due to the rise in open source alternatives and change in market pricing pressures.

#lms #highered #lmsgraphic
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Wow, +Phil Hill , this is so cool - it's kind of like seeing my entire teaching life flash before my eyes (I came to OU in Fall 1999). Great graphic! Blackboard looks kind of like the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. :-)
+Laura Gibbs thanks! This graphic is most commonly known as the "squid graphic" :}
Not sure what I'm looking at here. It would appear that the VLE market has shrunk pretty dramatically since 2005, mostly at the expense of Blackboard/WebCT. Is this right? Institutions are jettisoning the VLE? Some kind of scale  would help.
+Paul Jinks it looks to me as though Blackboard has begin to lose Market share to other courseware, particularly Moodle, which is either a result of Moodle having been purchased by Blackboard last year or the cause of Blackboard's decision to acquire Moodle. More likely the latter. Overall, it would appear from the graphic that the market peaked between 2005-2006 and that institutions are just switching platforms at this time. That's my rough interpretation of the graphic. 
+Paul Jinks It's more that Blackboard and WebCT were about the only big games in town in 2005, and Moodle and D2L have eaten some serious chunks out of that piece of the pie - I don't think it's so much shrunk since 2005 but it has not grown significantly. That real growth took place 2000-2005 and then the pie has been getting sliced up very differently (my school is one of the ones that dropped Blackboard and went to D2L around 2007 so we are part of that growing D2L bulge).
+Paul Jinks Thickness of each band represents approximately % of institutions or online programs using a particular LMS / VLE as its primary solution. I'm not sure what you mean by "VLE market has shrunk" - if you're referring to the number of competitors, then yes. Many have gone away, often by Bb acquisition. There is a new surge of competitors over the past 1 - 2 years, so this is changing.
+Drew Foell Pretty close to intent. First, Blackboard acquired MoodleRooms & Netspot, 2 Moodle providers. They did not acquire Moodle. Second, Bb's market position peaked around 2006. You are correct that most activity since then has been switching platforms.
+Laura Gibbs Thanks for the clarification. What you describe makes sense, but I'm not sure if it's what the graphic shows exactly (hey, who knew I was a graphics pedant?!). 

+Phil Hill  I'm honestly not trying to be a pain in the backside, just curious about what's going on. Because there are no doubt other people who will look at this graphic like I did (it takes all sorts), I'll elucidate: 

You might expect that the aggregate thickness of all lines would more or less equal 100% since we're looking at market share, not market size; although individual shares of the market change, the total width is the same. But that isn't the case, so I thought it must be indicating changes in the size of the market, with the width of each line indicating proportionate share. Reading the graphic like that, it looks like the market shrank after 2005.

I suspect Blackboard's long-term plan will be to switch focus from the VLE to content provision or service provision +George Siemens  has written some interesting stuff about this.
It Came from Beneath the Sea. My campus fled the giant squid in the mid-late '00s as we migrated amid rocky seas to Moodle, open-source self-supported version. Another campus in our system doubled-down on Bb over the same period. I was very surprised, meaning I wasn't really tuned in at the time. :-) The next two years will be really interesting with the Pearson partnership. You may need a new critter metaphor...
I'm curious how many (U.S.) institutions are reviewing their LMS contract/decision over the next 1-2 years. I realize there is no way of determining this beyond anecdotally, but further market shakeup feels imminent.

+Paul Jinks Hard to believe market would be shrinking...can you name one institution who has abandoned their LMS altogether? One trend I see (at least among larger institutions like my U of Wisconsin) are going with a multiple LMS ecosystem in order to meet diverse needs and gain experience in a shifting landscape.
+Jeff Bohrer The force of INERTIA is huge. At my school, it feels almost insurmountable. Although I would really like to see us do a review (we've been with D2L I think for 7 or 8 years now), there doesn't seem to any reason compelling enough to switch that would compensate for the sheer trauma and total resentment by the faculty of going to a new system. Basically we go from trauma to trauma - the only reason we left Blackboard and did a review all those years ago was as a result of absolutely horrifying failure on Blackboard's part... if it had not been for that particular failure, I doubt we would have ever left Blackboard.
+Paul Jinks fair point, and I'll check thicknesses in aggregate. I do appreciate the feedback.
+Laura Gibbs Plus-many for your comment about inertia. Our campus is finally getting used to iLearn (our "branded" version of Moodle) and the old guard, myself included, are finally ceasing making comparisons to Bb.

Meanwhile, a few of us are openly discussing how to move on and be successful online without an LMS at all, with the apparent goal of putting Phil out of the graphics business. :-) But most faculty, myself included, are just getting Moodle to act right amid near-annual upgrades and that's time invested... AKA inertia. I'm "ahead" by virtue of using blogs, FB, and external sites since the late '00s, but miles to go. And here comes OpenClass...

While I'm proud of one colleague who has gone nearly LMS-free, almost cold turkey, and I want to be like her when I grow up, I'm slowly doing this each semester while gaining inspiration from the PLNs here & on Twitter.
+Jeff Bohrer Agreed. VLEs will be with us for a while yet, though the writing is surely on the wall as they fall further behind other tools for creating, sharing and interacting online in terms of ease of use if nothing else. The question is, what will replace them? The multi approach is attractive for the reasons you give but maybe offers several headaches in place of one? 
+Paul Jinks The drumbeats for "one tool to rule them all" is still very strong at my school (supposedly because students will be "confused" otherwise... as if all classrooms have to have the same layout or all textbooks have to follow the same style of presentation or all classes have to observe identical class procedures...) - but I notice that as the LMSs get more and more complicated (and more and more like Rube Goldberg machines, in my opinion), it is less and less clear that they even have ease of use to commend them, either to faculty or to students.
+Laura Gibbs Please don't forget to take attendance. In your LMS you can handle this with a simple login requirement. Aside: I know a colleague who uses a Moodle attendance feature in his f2f class! I think attitude plays a part here. He wasn't a disciplinarian about it, but it was deemed important for focusing the class at the start of the period. So I'm not really scoffing about that aspect.
+George Station I've heard a lot about clickers for attendance. I would guess that is one of the main factors driving their adoption... D2L does not really have a handy attendance feature, which is kind of interesting. Are you supposed to create a Gradebook item for every darn day...?
+Laura Gibbs I'd never heard of Rube Goldberg - perfectly captures the Blackboard/Moodle experience! Goldberg's British counterpart was Heath Robinson - at his best a cross between Ford and Escher.  

+Paul Jinks Oh, Heath Robinson is new to me: thank you! There is fabulous Rube Goldberg stuff at YouTube. :-)
As a fan of open source, I had been petitioning my local K-12 school board to shift away from Blackboard to Moodle for the past couple of years. I am pleased to state that they finally made that transition this past spring at significant cost savings.

Having used Blackboard extensively when I returned to school to pursue a degree in paralegal studies, I found that Blackboard was a good system, but having investigated Moodle, I couldn't see where Blackboard had any truly significant advantages over Moodle, and nearly every other school district in our area was using Moodle.

To date, most of the public K-12 institutions in the area are not offering significant distance learning opportunities. The LMS is basically used to extend the traditional classroom, and the "mega providers" Connections Academy and K-12 have the market cornered for K-12 distance learning. I'm hoping this will change as I hate watching the local district lose students (and dollars) to corporate run charters. Of course, that is a whole separate can of worms!

Interestingly, K-12 and Connections aren't using any of the above VLEs. They have their own proprietary LMSs, and in the case of Connections Academy anyway, where my oldest son attended last year, the capabilities of their LMS would likely knock your socks off compared to Blackboard, etc.

I have also been a tutor with, and they have a great interactive whiteboard application. I'm sure, as someone else mentioned, that Pearson will continue to garner market share, too. Of course, as a part-time Pearson employee, I have to say that. ;-)
Argh - wrote some comments on airplane, then their wi-fi went down.

+Jeff Bohrer I suspect that we have 500 - 750 schools in the US who will evaluate / change LMS over the next 2 years (based on the past 2 years, also considering remaining ANGEL customers, etc). It's guesswork, but I agree that we will have continued market churn for that long.

After that point, I think that people defecting Blackboard due to past acquisitions or Learn 9.1 up-or-out decisions will slow down. I'm guessing that the homegrown learning platform, as well as the multi-tool, patchwork approach, will start having a much bigger impact.
+Drew Foell I believe that K-12 uses Pearson eCollege as their high school LMS, but a homegrown LMS for K-8. Connections uses a (very robust, as you describe) homegrown LMS.

I think this is a broader trend, which is the reason for the new "Homegrown Systems" band at the top of graphic. None of the xMOOCs chose an existing LMS as their platform. With edX and Google Course Builder, schools will also have starter open source code bases to develop their own learning platform.
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