LMS Market Update: May and June News

There have been a number of LMS and Learning Platform announcements over the past month or two that will help shape the market over the next year or more. One trend I’ve described is the transition from an LMS market to a Learning Platform market, which includes a broader scope of products. Below are some of the notable announcements. I expect that Michael and I will write separate posts in more detail on several of these updates.

  • LMS CEO panel discussion at Learning Impact
  • Instructure, maker of Canvas LMS, raises $30M
  • Desire2Learn announces Student Success System as predictive analytics with new release
  • Sakai OAE recovers from loss of partners, rebrands as Apereo OAE
  • Coursera shifts strategy in partnering with schools, now overlaps with LMS market
  • edX finishes releasing platform code as open source
  • LMS conference season approaching

LMS CEO panel discussion at Learning Impact

In mid May, Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik hosted a panel discussion of the LMS CEOs at the Learning Impact conference. Blackboard’s new CEO, Jay Bhatt, was welcomed into the higher education community with the, ahem, liveliest panel discussion in recent memory. Given the all-star panel (John Baker, CEO, Desire2Learn; Jay Bhatt, CEO, Blackboard; Josh Coates, CEO Instructure; Martin Dougiamas, Moodle Founder and Lead Developer, Moodle; Manoj Kutty, CEO, LoudCloud Systems; Matt Leavy, CEO, Pearson eCollege), I’ve been surprised to see very little discussion after the event.

But then I remembered:

The First Rule of the LMS Panel is you do not talk about the LMS Panel

Instructure, maker of Canvas LMS, raises $30M

Ever since Instructure’s release of the Canvas LMS in 2010, the company has been gaining steadily in the LMS market within North America. This morning the company announced that they have raised $30M in series D funding (often the last round of venture capital funding before a company goes public or has some other equity event). As reported at TechCrunch:

Utah-based Instructure launched Canvas in 2011 to capitalize on the new opportunity and audience emanating from the crazy growth in online education (and students moving online) and give colleges and universities a flexible, open-source alternative. And, if the company’s news today serves as any indication, it’s been working, as Instructure announced this morning that it has raised a hefty $30 million in series D financing.

The new round, which brings the startup’s total investment to $50 million, was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from the company’s existing investors, including EPIC Ventures and Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures. As a result of the round, Bessemer partner and former IBM exec Byron Deeter will join Instructure’s board of directors. [snip]

Today, Canvas has six million teacher and student users from across 425 institutions, and the company itself has booked more than $90 million in contracts. This, the founders said has led to double-digit revenue growth over the last three year — a trend which they hope the new capital will continue.

Desire2Learn announces Student Success System as predictive analytics with new release

Desire2Learn has been in the LMS market since 1999, but they have been experienced significant growth during the past 3 years after their success in the Blackboard patent lawsuit struggle. Their focus on learner analytics is not new, as they’ve offered data and reporting tools since 2010. The new announcement from early May puts Desire2Learn into the game of predictive analytics – using learner activity data to predict course and program success, as reported in the Wall Street Journal:

Computer-based educational systems have long helped impart information to students and assess their understanding of it. The next step, one company in the field says, is using their behavior to make predictions.

That’s the aim of technology being announced Tuesday by Desire2Learn, a Canadian company that specializes in cloud-based based learning systems it markets to colleges, schools and companies.

Desire2Learn, launched in 1999, competes with companies like Blackboard and Instructure. It claims that 10 million learners at a range of institutions have made use of its technology, including some at big U.S. university systems.

John Baker, the company’s president and CEO, says that over the years it has gathered extensive data about students’ usage of its software, including records on how often they read or otherwise engaged with instructional materials and how they subsequently performed on tests.

With the aid of that data, Desire2Learn has developed a series of “machine learning” algorithms to make predictions about how users ultimately will perform based on their activity as online classes progress, Baker says. The idea is to give instructors’ early warning about students that might need extra encouragement or individualized attention.

Sakai OAE recovers from loss of partners, rebrands as Apereo OAE

Last year I described the difficulties faced by the Sakai OE project based on the departures of founding members University of Michigan and Indiana University, followed by UC Berkeley and Charles Sturt University. At the time I questioned the “sustainability of the community source model as practiced by Sakai” and asked whether the project could use the changes to “coalesce behind a unified vision and leverage the community source model to execute on that vision in a timely manner”.

Based on initial reports from the Apereo conference this week, there is now reason to believe the answer might be yes. From the OAE session:

The Sakai Open Academic Environment [ed. now rebranded Apereo OAE] is a platform that focusses on group collaboration between researchers, students and lecturers, and strongly embraces openness, creation, re-use, re-mixing and discovery of content, people and groups. A core principle is enabling actual end-users to drive innovation from the inside and contribute in a number of different ways.

During the summer of 2012, the number of stakeholders in the project shrank, and changes were made to the project?s anticipated usage and deployment model, as well as the initial project scope. In September 2012, the OAE team embarked on a re-architecture of the code base, targeting a much higher scale and a multi-tenant cloud-compatible deployment model, where a single installation can host multiple institutions at the same time.

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Coursera shifts strategy in partnering with schools, now overlaps with LMS market

In a November 2012 post referencing the Canvas Network and Coursera / Antioch partnership, I argued that “However this development turns out, I do believe the LMS and MOOC markets are starting to overlap and influence each other.”

One additional aspect of Coursera’s announcement last week that it is partnering with 10 statewide higher education systems is the significant overlap in role between Coursera’s learning platform and the traditional LMS-based learning platforms. Now that schools will be using Coursera to embed content within their hybrid or online courses, the platform is now indirectly competing with established LMS solutions. As described at Inside Higher Ed:

Morgan [ed. from Tennesse Board of Regents] said his system currently uses Desire2Learn to offer online classes, but he wants to test out the analytics software that Coursera offers to instructors trying to track student progress and prevent students from derailing.

“We believe it will offer opportunities beyond what our current capacity is,” Morgan said. (He said he had not yet looked at Desire2Learn’s new analytics service, which was announced several weeks ago.) [snip]

At SUNY, Hatch said a large enrollment course at Stony Brook University that uses Blackboard has run into difficulty.

“We know Coursera scales and can handle hundreds of thousands of users at a time and we can’t say that today about our current platforms” — primarily Blackboard, Hatch said.

Koller said Coursera does not currently view itself as a competitor to Blackboard and other learning management systems, though she said there is a “70 to 80 percent” overlap in capabilities. [emphasis added]

“It’s pretty clear to me that we will not replace every single course with this format,” she said.

edX finishes releasing platform code as open source

After a long process that started with MITx promising to be an open source platform back in late 2011, edX has now completed the work to make its code fully open source. As described by The H Open:

The edX learning platform has now completed its transition to open source and is available under an AGPL licence. The core of the system is the edx-platform which includes both the LMS (Learning Management System) and Studio, a tool for creating courses. Other parts of the system, such as the XBlock component architecture for courseware, machine-learning-based grading such as EASE, the discern tool, deployment tools, interfaces to external grading systems and Python execution utilities, can all be found on the new code.edx.org.

LMS conference season approaching

Expect more news from the LMS / Learning Platform market as the LMS user conferences approach this summer.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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2 Responses to LMS Market Update: May and June News

  1. Bruce says:

    It’s true the OAE project now has a more focused vision. But two things vis-a-vis your astute comments from last year: 1) is it the right vision; is there really a market for this?, and 2) what about the sustainability of the development model bit (there’s still no independent development community)?

    I’m still rooting for the project; just not seeing how it comes (back) together.

  2. I’ll be writing a separate OAE update post once I work through some of my backblog, but regarding the independent development community, (1) I think that three schools counts as a (minimal) community, and (2) one of the points that I think OAE proves is that the balance of centralized versus decentralized that the Sakai community tends to strike is not the right model for all projects.