Instructure: Accelerating growth in 3 parallel markets

I’m not sure which is more surprising – Instructure’s continued growth with no major hiccups or their competitors’ inability after a half-decade to understand and accept what is at its core a very simple strategy. Despite Canvas LMS winning far more new higher ed and K-12 customers than any other vendor, I still hear competitors claim that schools select Canvas due to rigged RFPs or being the shiny new tool despite having no depth or substance. When listening to the market, however, (institutions – including faculty, students, IT staff, academic technology staff, and admin), I hear the opposite. Canvas is winning LMS selections despite, not because of, RFP processes, and there are material and substantive reasons for this success.

The only competitor I see that seems to understand the depth of the challenge they face is Blackboard. Other LMS solutions are adding “cloud” options or making incremental improvements to usability, but only Blackboard is going for wholesale changes to both its User Experience (UX) and cloud hosting architecture. Unfortunately, I question whether Blackboard will be able to execute this strategy, but that is a story for another post.

Like last year’s post about InstructureCon, I believe that the company growth chart[1] gives a lot more information than just “gosh, we’re doing well”. Continue reading

  1. The chart shows the number of clients, which is essentially the number of contracts signed with institutions, school districts, or statewide systems adopting either Canvas or Bridge LMS products. []
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Promising Research Results On Specific Forms Of Adaptive Learning / ITS

Recently I described an unpublished study by Dragan Gasevic and team on the use of Knowillage / LeaP adaptive platform.[1] The context of article was on D2L’s misuse of the results, but the study itself is interesting in terms of its findings that adaptive learning usage (specifically LeaP in addition to Moodle within an Intro to Chemistry course) can improve academic performance. I will share more when and if the results become public.

If we look to published research reports there are other studies that back up the potential of adaptive approaches, but the most promising results appear to be for a subset of adaptive systems that provide not just content selection but also tutoring. Last year a research team from Simon Fraser University and Washington State University published a meta-analysis on Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) which they described as having origins from 1970 and the development of SCHOLAR.[2] The study looked at 107 studies involving 14,321 participants and found:

The use of ITS was associated with greater achievement in comparison with teacher-led, large-group instruction (g .42), non-ITS computer-based instruction (g .57), and textbooks or workbooks (g .35). There was no significant difference between learning from ITS and learning from individualized human tutoring (g –.11) or small-group instruction (g .05). Significant, positive mean effect sizes were found regardless of whether the ITS was used as the principal means of instruction, a supplement to teacher-led instruction, an integral component of teacher-led instruction, or an aid to homework. Significant, positive effect sizes were found at all levels of education, in almost all subject domains evaluated, and whether or not the ITS provided feedback or modeled student misconceptions. The claim that ITS are relatively effective tools for learning is consistent with our analysis of potential publication bias.

Continue reading

  1. When the study started Knowillage was an independent company; mid-way through study D2L bought Knowillage and renamed product as LeaP. []
  2. I would link to G+ post by George Station here if it were not for the ironic impossibility of searching within that platform. []
Posted in Higher Education, Instructional Design, Openness, Tools, Toys, and Technology (Oh my!) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unizin One Year Later: View of contract reveals . . . nothing of substance

I’ve been meaning to write an update post on Unizin, as we broke the story here at e-Literate in May 2014 and Unizin went public a month later. It’s one year later, and we still have the most expensive method to get the Canvas LMS. There are also plans for a Content Relay and Analytics Relay as seen in ELI presentation, but the actual dates keep slipping.

Unizin Roadmap

e-Literate was able to obtain a copy of the Unizin contract, at least for the founding members, through a public records request. There is nothing to see here. Because there is nothing to see here. The essence of the contract is for a university to pay $1.050 million to become a member. The member university then has a right (but not an obligation) to then select and pay for actual services. Based on the contract, membership gets you . . . membership. Nothing else. Continue reading

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The Importance Of Student Control Of Learning, Especially For Working Adults

When giving keynotes at conferences over the past two years, I have observed that some of the best non-verbal feedback occurs when pointing out that personalized and adaptive learning does not equal black-box algorithms choosing content for students. Yes, there are plenty of approaches pitching that solution (Knewton in its early state being the best-known if not most-current example), but there are other approaches designed to give faculty or instructional designers control over learning paths or even to give students control. There seems to be a sense of relief, particularly from faculty members, when discussing the latter approach.

In the Empire State College case study on e-Literate TV, I found the conversation Michael had with [faculty member] Maya Richardson to be a great example of not just giving faculty insight into student learning but also giving students control over their own learning. As Maya explains, this is particularly important for the working adult population going back to school. The software used in this pedagogical approach is CogBooks.

Continue reading

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D2L Again Misusing Academic Data For Brightspace Marketing Claims

Update 7/23: Read this blog post for D2L admission of mistakes and changes to claims.

At this point I’d say that we have established a pattern of behavior.

Michael and I have been quite critical of D2L and their pattern of marketing behavior that is misleading and harmful to the ed tech community. Michael put it best:

I can’t remember the last time I read one of D2L’s announcements without rolling my eyes. I used to have respect for the company, but now I have to make a conscious effort not to dismiss any of their pronouncements out-of-hand. Not because I think it’s impossible that they might be doing good work, but because they force me to dive into a mountain of horseshit in the hopes of finding a nugget of gold at the bottom. Every. Single. Time. I’m not sure how much of the problem is that they have decided that they need to be disingenuous because they are under threat from Instructure or under pressure from investors and how much of it is that they are genuinely deluding themselves. Sadly, there have been some signs that at least part of the problem is the latter situation, which is a lot harder to fix. But there is also a fundamental dishonesty in the way that these statistics have been presented.

Well, here’s the latest. John Baker put out a blog called This Isn’t Your Dad’s Distance Learning Program with this theme: Continue reading

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