On Dr. Chuck Leaving Blackboard

Dr. Chuck Severance recently announced that he was leaving Blackboard. You should read his post about it; the only thing I will say is that Chuck never leaves a job undone. To be honest, it surprised me that he joined the Blackboard team to begin with. For many years, Chuck was the executive director of the then Sakai Foundation, and I highly believe that his employment by Blackboard was a huge Michael Chasen win on Michael’s quest to steer the company in an LMS-agnostic direction.

I remember one of the first times I met Chuck. At the time I worked for another ex-Blackboarder, John Fontaine, who is famous for his tinkering (and may very well be the first person in the world to hold the title VP of Google Glassware). Chuck at the time was spreading the good word about an open standard called Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and was encouraging all vendors to pursue its use. While it would be another year and a half before Blackboard would natively support LTI (and another three years almost to the day that he would join Blackboard as an employee), over the course of about a day we built the first-known implementation of its type allowing Blackboard to use a Sakai-based learning tool from within a Blackboard course. It really proved the concept in a very tangible way that it was possible to wire together pieces of different LMSs (and different learning tools) to achieve a best of breed solution. This opened up possibilities that were just not previously possible without significant work and effort.

Many individuals have collectively influenced the educational technology space over the years, but Dr. Chuck is someone special. He was (and still is!) on a mission to break down the barriers between Learning Management Systems and learning tools across vendors, across programming languages, and across software delivery methods. He really wants to make it incredibly (and elegantly) simple – to lower the barrier to entry so low – so that anyone can build a learning tool and in doing so contribute in some way to evolving educational technology education. And in my opinion he has been incredibly successful. The current versions of all major LMSs now natively support LTI. And by cross-referencing with the IMS Conformance Certification status chart we calculate that greater than 60% of all production LMSs from our data set support LTI natively and further that greater than 85% of all LMSs now have the ability to do so by using a LMS plugin. LTI’s adoption since its creation less than four years ago has been nearly universal as has been Dr. Chuck’s dedication to the entire space, no matter where he’s worked or what his roles have been or who he’s worked with

So kudos to you, Dr. Chuck, on your career move, and for succeeding with your efforts while at Blackboard to ensure that Sakai 10 became the first LTI 2.0 certified LMS. May this newest version of the LTI standard see similar success and adoption in the years to come.

This post written by George Kroner

LMSs of Smaller Colleges

When we provided our initial analysis of LMS usage in fall of 2013, one point of feedback that we heard loud and clear is that because our data only included institutions with greater than 2000 enrollments, we excluded a fair number of community colleges, career colleges, and liberal arts colleges. To the credit of those who provided this feedback, they were absolutely correct. Three-quarters of all recognized higher education institutions in the United States have fewer than 2500 FTE – a critical demographic as the majority of universities in the US are of this size or smaller. To more fairly represent LMS usage we needed to include data on smaller schools.

We are now excited to be able to provide analysis of a data set for institutions with greater than 1000 students. This increases our overall coverage to almost 2900 institutions. In addition to our previous statements about data quality, we additionally believe this data set to be greater than 95% accurate for all universities between 1000 and 2000 FTE.

For this analysis, we’ve broken out a separate category for “no detected institutional LMS” and combined what previously were the “legacy” and “other” categories into just one – “other.” We define “no detected institutional LMS” as lack of a central system with online classroom capabilities. Schools that have a portal but not an LMS fit into this category as do schools such as vocational technical schools, trade schools, schools that teach driving, auto mechanic schools, beauty schools, some medical technologist schools, some dental hygienist schools, schools that focus on the performing arts, culinary schools, and other schools that rely heavily on face-to-face or hands-on delivery of educational experiences.  For this data set, a higher percentage of manual verification was performed to ensure its validity.


LMS by institutions with 1000+ FTE (United States)

Comparing this data to our previous post, there are some interesting differences to notice. The first thing we noticed was the increasing diversity of LMSs in the 1000-2000 FTE range. The LMS capability of Jenzabar had a strong showing as did eCollege, LearningStudio, OpenClass, WebStudy, ed2go, Epsilen, CampusCruiser, Edvance360, BrainHoney, and several other small-scale and homegrown LMS-like solutions. Together, these reflected roughly one-fifth of all LMSs in this segment (in comparison, they reflect less than 10% of schools with greater than 2000 FTE).

Nevertheless, the major LMSs still maintained dominance. The average and median sizes now begin to show material differences. Overall market share dips slightly for each LMS except for Moodle which increases significantly and for institutions choosing “other” LMSs.

Seeing Moodle’s increased usage prompted us to investigate Moodle further. An interesting thing happens below 2500 FTE; Moodle actually exceeds Blackboard’s market  share.  Only after this point do the demographic segments diverge.


Number of institutions running each LMS by FTE

When factoring smaller colleges into our Winter 2014 update  we discover that still other demographics change in interesting ways. A higher percentage of smaller institutions running Blackboard Learn run its latest version. A lower percentage of smaller institutions run the latest version of Desire2Learn (preferring to stay back one major release). And a slightly higher percentage of smaller institutions also prefer the next-to-latest release of Moodle.



LMS versions in use, 1000+ FTE

With additional, new data in hand we intend to keep the community informed of the interesting patterns and trends that we continue to learn about as we collect and update this data moving forward.