What Is Growth? No Clear Winner In U.S. LMS Higher Ed Switches

us lms higher ed market share growth moodle canvas blackboard sakai brighstpace

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Another report from the Higher Ed LMS North American space shows little surprise for Canvas LMS fans:

  • Between 2017 and summer of 2019, Canvas LMS did not lose a single existing customer, while gained the most from switches.
  • Blackboard was by far its main source, followed by Moodle, Pearson and Brightspace. No exact number or even percentages are shared.
  • Blackboard shows the largest customer losses, mainly to Canvas and Brightspace. Moodle and Pearson follow Blackboard in terms of sheer losses, but again, there are no numbers and no sense of scale anywhere on the report.
  • Brightspace was the second largest winner, with most switches coming from Blackboard, Pearson and Moodle.
  • It is unclear is the Moodle losses were from self-hosted or self-serviced solutions, as opposed to LMS serviced by Moodle Partners.
  • Canvas has in fact loss customers, but due to closures. Hence the “existing” qualifier.

Instructure, Canvas LMS parent company, is a customer of the data reporting service. Despite the victory lap around the cord pie, investors aren’t terribly excited. After the company’s latest quarterly call, the stock rose modestly and is now in an undecided trend towards the heights reached in May early this year.

Due to Moodle’s limited disclosure, it is not clear how important the Higher Ed segment is for the Australian company. A previous estimation made by us set it at around 10% a few years back. Be it or not a reliable guess, the reality is that the US continues to be the fountainhead of Moodle’s sites, registered users and revenues; all of which continue to grow. US Moodle Partners, including Moonami, My Learning Consultants, Lingel Learning and eThink Education (the largest worldwide) have all continued their growth track record in 2019. Admittedly, it is unclear how much of this growth comes from Higher Ed instead of other segments.


A similar situation happens with Blackboard, which is in fact the name of a company with at least 3 different LMS products. In neither case the reporting services discloses the kind of solution (cloud or self-hosted) nor support (internal, external independent or official).

Regarding Sakai, the even more open source LMS does not show any concerns about market share. It’s maintainers, members of the Apereo Foundation, are seemingly too busy dealing with surveillance, environmental sustainability, civic engagement, inclusion and so on.

Edutechnica, a contrasting data source, seems to claim the Higher Ed LMS space is done for. Saturation and consolidation mixed with merges and a decline of enrollments show doubtful promise to anyone who bets their future growth here.

Recent notable switches

  • Sakai, WFU? Not anymore Wake Forest University, some 5,000+ alumni strong, will be a 100% Canvas LMS by fall 2020. Old Gold & Black, the student newspaper, reports on the decision to leave Sakai behind after almost 10 years. The main reason is, apparently, the belief that “Canvas was brainstormed by students,” as opposed to the US-based Open Source LMS. The story incorrectly attributes capabilities to Canvas as exclusive, including mobile notifications, online grading, Google Calendar sync and video-based feedback among others.
  • Meanwhile, Sakai just released version 19.3. Compare and contrast features.
  • We reported on Blackboard’s stronghold in Colombia, always a strategic place for regional domination. New offices, increasing staff and a respectable fish (Universidad Central) means the Latin American game is still on for the EdTech giant.
  • Canvas’ days of future past The latest corporate blog post “Welcomes” new customers along with many they’ve had for years. The new ones include:
    • Princeton (it is now serving all US “Ivy League”)
    • Prairie View A&M University in Texas
    • Ferris State University in Michigan
    • University of South Alabama
    • Eastern Gateway Community College in Ohio
    • Chapman University in California

PowerSchool acquires Schoology

The PowerSchool Student Information System, formerly owned by Apple, then Pearson and now equally shared by two PE firms, made the acquisition of the lower-segment US LMS vendor, a press release reported. A sensible move, and one that is surprisingly uncommon. Despite reasonable demand for a unified SIS-LMS experience, only a few companies show expertise in both.

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