Moodle has quietly become the dominant LMS for online service providers

One subject that we have not covered much at e-Literate lately is the market position of Moodle. Given the significant LMS market changes over the past two years, it might be worth considering how institutions are adopting and using Moodle. In the US at least, there has been a significant change – whereas in previous years Moodle growth came primarily from institutions moving away from Blackboard, today much of the growth appears to have shifted to online service providers.

Traditional US Market

From 2006 – 2011 Moodle grew quickly in the US, both in terms of the number of users (students, faculty) and in terms of the number of schools adopting Moodle. This growth appears to have slowed considerably since 2011, although the data can be difficult to interpret since the system is open source – anyone can download for free and run Moodle, without even notifying Moodle headquarters or often the institution.

While the data is inconclusive, my assumption is that traditional Moodle growth – institutions adopting the LMS as the campus standard, typically moving away from Blackboard or WebCT – has significantly slowed from its peak growth in 2009 – 2011. I’ll write a separate post on this subject in the future.

New Growth Model

While the traditional growth may have slowed, there is a market segment in the US where Moodle is quietly dominating – as the preferred learning platform (or LMS) for online service providers.

Online service providers are organizations (mostly for-profit companies, but with at least one non-profit variation) that help non-profit schools develop online programs. These providers, also known as online enablers, online program management  or school-as-a-service, provide various services for which non-profits institutions typically do not have the experience or culture to support. Some examples of the services include marketing & recruitment, enrollment management, curriculum development, online course design, student retention support, technology hosting, and student and faculty support.

The Parthenon Group last year reviewed this growing market for nonprofit institutions, including a summary of the largest online service providers.

What has sparked this increase in online enrollment at non-profit institutions? Choosing not to “reinvent the wheel,” many non-profit institutions have partnered with online enablers like Embanet, Bisk, Deltak, and Pearson that provide institutions the blueprint and support to transition into online learning. More importantly, these companies offer schools a full value chain of services (e.g., course development, IT support, recruiting/marketing, processes,
and cycle times) that are quite different from traditional non-profit strategies.

Parthenon fig 2


Parthenon fig 3


It is this market where the Moodle LMS has seen its most impressive growth in the US in the past two years, as approximately half of these providers use Moodle as their core learning platform. Typically the companies customize the platform by extensions to Moodle and white labeling. This market is interesting, as the companies themselves are growing, leading to organic growth in LMS usage.

I took the list above from Parthenon (which is now 9 months out of date, but still captures the biggest players in this market), and added a few more companies. Some of the information below is based on the CalState RFP process and associated documentation.

SaaS LMS Chart 2


This is impressive adoption of a single LMS choice, especially for a growing market segment. From the information that I have, these were independent decisions on the part of online service providers rather than a coordinated push by Moodle or its partners.

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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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9 Responses to Moodle has quietly become the dominant LMS for online service providers

  1. And did I not hear that Blackboard are moving to becoming a full-service provider and is now agnostic on platforms (well they bought Moodlerooms)?

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  6. Chris Munzo says:

    Moodle may have become dominant here but the CalState selection document notes Moodle as a negative when rating the providers that use it. All Moodle users were eliminated before the finals.

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