Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google Are Fighting a War for the Classroom

Inc. featured an interesting article recently titled Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google Are Fighting a War for Your Living Room. It’s not only the living room that these companies are after, but the classroom as well.

In recent months we’ve seen Apple release an iPad app for the classroom after making improvements to iTunes U to give it LMS-like capabilities, Microsoft introduce LMS capabilities into Office 365 Education, Google committing resources to provide APIs for Google Classroom that support assignment workflow and grading, and Amazon announcing a platform to allow instructors to share open educational resources.

It is encouraging to see these mainstream technology companies offering solutions for education, and we’d like to share some data on the number of institutions using certain products from Apple, Google, and Microsoft.


Despite privacy concerns, slightly more than half of institutions with greater than 700 FTE students have become agreeable in recent years to using Google’s and Microsoft’s online productivity software, particularly as e-mail services have been outsourced to the cloud. Over 375 institutions, though, appear to use a separate e-mail service for faculty and staff, perhaps as a way to address privacy or intellectual property concerns. A couple dozen universities offer both Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 Education accounts.  Some institutions are actively migrating between these two solutions.

Google Classroom appears to have experienced minimal uptake. We only counted 9 institutions who actively promote the service for use at an institution-wide level, though there are pockets of individual instructors who have shared links to individual online classrooms. Perhaps this indicates greater grassroots adoption of this technology, as opposed to institutionally-driven.  It is also encouraging to see iTunes U used by almost 500 institutions. Curiously, 78% of those institutions who actively use Google Classroom at scale also use iTunes U – compared to just 14.8% of the general population set – perhaps validating that certain institutions exhibit profiles that are more supportive of innovative technology practices.

The best part of our findings, however, is that while these companies may be warring in the living room, they are thriving in the classroom, and this is a trend that we hope continues.

The data set used for this blog post is available for purchase from Client Stat.

Sakai by the Numbers

UC Davis’s recent multi-day Sakai LMS outage offers a cautionary tale for all schools – but in our opinion, not in terms of the knee-jerk open source versus commercial software debate that tends to pop up when these events happen. Institutions need to plan for unscheduled downtime for all the types of software they use.  It is an imperfect reality that any software can stop working at any moment, including the most respected commercial software products such as Salesforce which recently suffered a multi-hour outage and deleted four entire hours of some of its customer data during its recovery efforts.

For schools that are offering online courses, continuity of operations should be a topic that is top of mind. There is, however, no perfect way to fully address this concern. SLAs with fines or penalties only incentivize vendors to restore service as soon as possible (or attempt to proactively minimize disruption). Running all software in-house requires different trade-offs in terms of staffing, skill sets, and cost. Differences among commercial and open source software offer still more options to consider including flexibility in terms of support and the size and expertise of their respective user communities.

We expect in this case that there will be a lot of discussion in the coming days, especially following the recent Apereo conference, about the health and viability of the remaining Sakai community members. The Sakai platform remains the most open major LMS in terms of licensing. It has seen recent and encouraging interest from international schools. Finally, it has seen exciting new developments in terms of usability and feature improvements. But here we’d like to present Sakai by the numbers.

141 universities having more than 500 FTE students currently run Sakai as a primary LMS. The average size of a Sakai school is 7945 FTE students with a median of 3548. Sakai is most popular in California, Hawaii, and New York.

In our data set, 15 universities have stopped using Sakai as their primary LMS over the past 2 years (roughly 10% of the installed base by number of institutions). All but 2 have migrated to Canvas (with one moving to Moodle and the other to Brightspace). There have been 2 announced migrations to Sakai, of which 1 was successful and the other has failed to materialize. Additionally there have been many schools (including Indiana University and Stanford) that have announced intentions to migrate away from Sakai or are in the process of doing so. 34 schools (roughly 1/4 of the remaining installed-base) are currently running another LMS in addition to Sakai, a behavior strongly correlated with an intention to switch. The percentage of at-risk institutions, or those we define as likely to switch LMSs in the coming year, is higher for Sakai than any other LMS that is not currently experiencing a forced-migration (for example ANGEL and Pearson’s Learning Studio which are both facing imminent end-of-life).

Of remaining Sakai installations, 62 are on version 10 or higher. 47 are on version 2.x. 16 are running a version older than 2.9. (The remainder are customized or secured behind Single Sign-On, and an accurate version number cannot be determined.)

Longsight remains the most popular choice for hosting provider, with more than one-quarter of Sakai installations hosted here, and has migrated several rSmart institutions to their hosting service during past 12 months. rSmart still hosts just over a dozen institutions. Unicon remains the smallest provider of Sakai hosting with fewer than 5 institutions.

The data set used for this blog post is available for purchase from Client Stat.