As promised, here’s the interview:
I have a couple of take-aways from both the interview and the conference. First of all, I was astonished at how much D2L is growing. Based on what I saw at the Sakai conference, what the market surveys have been saying, and what I know from talking to people, it was already clear to me going in that there’s a big shift happening in the LMS market. I expected to see D2L benefiting from that. But I wasn’t prepared to see the number of new clients they’re on-boarding. I’m trying to get a list to illustrate the size of the growth. In his keynote, John had three slides’ worth of new logos. These aren’t expanded client relationships, which is the kind of thing that Blackboard tends to highlight these days. These are new clients.
Second, the economic downturn is affecting the market, but the effects are somewhat unpredictable. John’s story about PASSHE, a system with fourteen different universities, migrating to D2L in a couple of months, is remarkable. There’s only one thing that can drive a fractious group of state colleges to act that quickly in unison: a budget crisis.
And finally, I do see a vision for the future of the LMS emerging from D2L’s development work (although it’s hard to convey a clear sense of it in the interview format). It’s a vision that is significantly different in some ways from Sakai’s, Moodle’s, or Instructure’s. My sense is that it’s also different than Blackboard’s, but I’m not familiar enough with the details of Blackboard 9.1 and their roadmap to say so with a great deal of confidence. Desire2Learn is headed straight into the thicket of some thorny cultural change management problems at the university. Adopting and sharing learning objectives, sharing learning content, taking a systemic approach to ePorfolios, discovering metrics in student activity and performance data—each of these efforts individually is hard to sell in a university culture and results in failure more often than success. D2L appears to be betting that the problems are actually easier to solve together than separately because you can get synergies from integrating the technologies behind them. It’s not clear to me whether they’ve fully articulated their approach that way, even to themselves, but it is, in fact, what they appear to be trying to do.
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I have more to say about what I learned about the conference, including about the company’s announcements about their mobile plans and how they stack up against the other market entrants, but I also have a Jim Farmer post, a post about another new LMS entrant called NIXTY, and probably the most important Sakai conference post to get up as well. And next week I’ll be at Campus Technology all week, which both limits the amount of blogging time I have and will undoubtedly provide fodder for new posts.
I’ll crank it out as fast as I can.