For nearly a decade, the team at Client Stat has been tracking and trending the use of institutional Learning Management Systems (LMSs) at US higher education institutions. This past year has proven to be one of the most significant yet. In July, Instructure, maker of the popular Canvas LMS, went public – a second time – after having been acquired by a private equity firm only last year. Blackboard, makers of the popular Blackboard Learn LMS, was wholly subsumed into Anthology in a significant private equity deal. And just this week, D2L, makers of the popular Brightspace LMS, became a public company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Underlying all of these announcements is the fact that post-secondary student enrollments in the US continue to decline. For some educational technology firms, this trend has recently resulted in stability challenges including recent stock price crashes. For educational institutions, these enrollment struggles have resulted in an ongoing series of campus mergers, closures, and consolidations that continues. And this is where we begin our analysis.
As a brief reminder, our work tracks and trends current, active institutional LMS adoption. If an institution is switching or using multiple LMSs, whichever LMSs are confirmed as being used to actively teach courses are counted in our numbers. LMSs used by individual instructors or for individual courses are excluded from the results. For most of our historical analysis, we define the total addressable market of LMS adopters as higher education institutions having more than 500 students. At smaller schools, pandemic-times excepted, fewer students has equated with smaller technology investments translating into disproportionately-low LMS adoption. The nature of smaller schools also lends itself to not needing a LMS. Most institutions in this category are residential liberal arts colleges, local community colleges, and a long-tail of nursing schools, cosmetology schools, commercial driving schools, and other vocational technical schools that would not fully accommodate a completely-online course format.
Each year, we have updated our LMS analysis to match the most-current IPEDS enrollment data available at the time, and this year there are significantly fewer institutions enrolling more than 500 students – hundreds less. As a result, when comparing against previous years using this consistent criteria, every LMS has lost market share over the past year in US higher education despite new and continuing implementations.
While on the surface this may seem problematic in many regards, it is worth noting that the average enrollment of remaining LMS-adopting institutions increased for many LMSs. For providers of commercial LMSs, this likely means increased stability and sustainability of remaining customers even if smaller institutions continue to merge, close, or discontinue using a LMS due to budget constraints. It is also worth noting that smaller schools did tend to adopt new technology during the pandemic, but the chosen virtual classroom solution more-often provided a synchronous classroom experience (think Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Class Technologies) – not an asynchronous one as provided by a LMS. This could signal a shift in the type of virtual classroom software desired by the market at least for certain needs and customer segments.
Other trends this year remained consistent with previous years. Instructure and D2L continue to grow the footprints of their Canvas and Brightspace LMSs. Blackboard Learn continues to decline with additional future losses expected. Moodle and Sakai continue a gradual decline. And institutions using other LMSs, including homegrown solutions, continue to migrate to the 0other established LMSs.