By Phil Hill
Michigan State University has been one of the most well-known implementations of the ANGEL LMS for the past 9 years. Penn State selected ANGEL in 2001 under an agreement that also provided the school perpetual access to the source code. The next major higher education institution to select the LMS was Michigan State in 2003, essentially putting ANGEL on the map as a significant LMS solution to compete with Blackboard, WebCT and Desire2Learn (which won the University of Wisconsin System contract in the same year).
After a selection process triggered by the 2009 Blackboard acquisition of Angel Learning (parent company of ANGEL), Michigan State announced a decision at the end of July 2012 that the school will migrate to Desire2Learn’s Learning Suite as the new LMS. As described in The State News article:
After many technical difficulties, lost homework assignments, complaints and deliberation, MSU announced Tuesday the selection of Desire2Learn, or D2L, as the university’s new online learning management system, or LMS.
Blackboard’s purchase of the company that built ANGEL in 2009 was the push for MSU to officially start looking for a new LMS, Brendan Guenther, director of teaching and learning support teams in MSU Information Technology, said.
MSU considered proposals from two systems to potentially replace ANGEL: Blackboard and D2L.
The LMS Futures Committee, consisting of spokespeople from each college and Libraries and IT Services, along with faculty and student input, considered both systems before making the final decision this summer.
“These are two really good options,” Guenther said. “The differentiation came from the majority of faculty choosing one over the other.”
Guenther said D2L will be able to solve the issues and complaints people have with ANGEL, including better mobile access for smartphone users and compatibility with more web browsers.
Prior to the primary evaluation of Blackboard and Desire2Learn, Michigan State had run some pilots of the open source Moodle LMS starting in 2010. The evaluation of Moodle was described on the university’s technology portal:
In spring 2010, MSU began evaluating the Moodle 2.0 Learning Management System (LMS) by running a series of limited field trails (LFT). [snip]
The LFTs determined that Moodle provides tools for basic instructional needs, but has shortcomings in content management, messaging, assessment, and analytics.
During the trial use period, it became apparent the Moodle development community lacks the coordination and resources to keep pace with its competitors, casting doubt on Moodle’s long-term prospects.
While this evaluation seems fairly harsh, it does provide another indicator that open source LMS solutions are at risk of falling behind the commercial market, which is changing rapidly.
The MSU decision comes on the heels of Desire2Learn’s users’ conference in July, where the company announced some rather surprising information about their recent growth.
- Desire2Learn now has over 650 clients, up from ~350 just 18 months ago.
- Desire2Learn now has over 520 employees, up from ~350 at the beginning of the year.
The changes to the LMS market are quite significant, and these growth numbers give further evidence to just how many schools are switching systems over the past 2 – 3 years.