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8th Annual LMS Data Update

The fall 2020 US LMS market share data referenced in this post is available for purchase. Additionally, a complete historical data set of all LMS usage data dating back to 2013 is also available for purchase.

For the 8th year, Client Stat is providing findings from our analysis of institutional Learning Management System (LMS) usage in US higher education. This update is particularly noteworthy as institutions grapple with the need to quickly pivot to online instruction as the primary means of delivery due to the ongoing pandemic. As in the past, our methodology begins with the current list of institutions provided by the US Department of Education with more than 500 full time equivalent students and counts all LMSs in active, production use at an institution at a department-level scale or larger. Our QA process removes any LMS that is determined to be used by only a single professor, for a single course, or that only exists for sales or evaluation purposes.

Instructure Canvas and D2L Brightspace See Positive Gains

After a period of slowing growth, Instructure is again seeing accelerating adoption of its Canvas LMS. Most schools migrating to Canvas this fall are coming from Moodle and legacy Blackboard Learn (that is, not an Ultra-capable version). D2L Brightspace also experienced an uptick in adoption this fall driven by the University of Maine System and other institutions along the east coast.

Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Sakai Losses Continue

While Instructure and D2L saw gains this fall, Blackboard Learn continues its steady and protracted decline without slowing. Also seeing losses are Moodle – which saw a mix of additions and losses – and Sakai which also sees steady decline.

Use of “Other” LMSs has also dropped to an all-time low as institutions migrate to the more dominant LMS platforms. This may be driven by the poor usability or lack of ability to scale sometimes seen from LMSs bundled with Student Information Systems (SISs), homegrown LMSs, and other lesser players in the market during a time period when the quality and reliability of the online student experience is critical to institutional success.

LMS Migrations Aren’t Slowing

200 institutions either switched LMSs or adopted additional LMSs between spring and fall of this year, a higher-than-normal amount compared to previous years. Schools are choosing to migrate either all-at-once (immediately decommissioning the former LMS) or in a phased approach during which both LMSs remain accessible over 1-2 semesters.

There appears to be no noticeable variation in these two approaches based on size of institution. Tools and other mechanisms exist to make such migrations largely automated and turn-key with some manual validation and clean-up. Institutions would be wise to consider the impact of change management and institutional culture as two significant factors when determining an appropriate LMS migration strategy.

Some Schools Just Can’t Pivot Online

There remains a long list of schools – music and fine arts schools, vocational schools, beauty and barber schools, automotive training schools, flight schools, and commercial driving schools as examples – for which it is arguably impossible to offer an equivalent or approximate online experience. Despite the ongoing circumstances, these schools have shown little sign of offering online courses as an alternative to in-person instruction.

LMS Data – Spring 2020 Updates

The complete historical data set of all LMS market share data available since 2013 is available to purchase for further analysis.

According to Punxsutawney Phil, spring will come early this year and with it our newest report on LMS market share. We accelerated the timeline for producing this data set considering recent news that Instructure is pursuing an acquisition by a private equity firm to present factual, current data on LMS market trends. See this post for a brief review of our US methodology and this post for more information on our international methodology used for Australia, Canada, and UK.

Instructure’s Lead Widens

At the start of spring semester 2020, Instructure’s Canvas LMS continued to widen its lead in US higher education over top rival LMS, Blackboard Learn. D2L Brightspace also saw a slight increase, while all other LMSs saw a net decline.

Global Trends

Globally, however, LMS market share has remained remarkably stable with little-to-no changes. Almost every university in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom continues to use the same LMS that it did last year with very few leading indicators of any impending changes. (This year’s global LMS data set, as in previous years, is available to download for free.)

Comparing regions, Moodle continues to be the predominant LMS outside of the US with Blackboard Learn or D2L Brightspace continuing to hold the position of top commercial LMS.

Blackboard’s Positive Momentum

Despite gradual ongoing losses, Blackboard continues to rapidly move its user base onto its newest Learn SaaS offering. Fewer universities than ever are running older, unsupported versions of Blackboard Learn. And the newest version of Blackboard Learn is even beginning to receive positive coverage from students, who historically have been extremely critical of the company’s software.

Outlook for Instructure

Though Instructure is certainly poised for continued success, it is less well-positioned for continued growth. The market for higher-education-focused, institution-centric Learning Management System software is finite. There is a known maximum number of potential customers (the number of colleges and universities in existence), and nearly all of them currently use a LMS. Fewer institutions than ever are purchasing and supporting multiple different LMSs. And outside of the US, the data we collect indicates little-to-no appetite for switching LMSs.

As LMS software continues to evolve as a product category, there are increasingly fewer ways to differentiate one product from another. Additionally, Instructure’s competitors at this point have largely compensated for past weaknesses. Some are even beginning to argue that the LMS product category as it exists today may be becoming obsolete (1, 2, 3, 4).

In the US, financial struggles for higher education institutions continue despite a modest recovery. Demographic trends, personal financial limitations, and changes in the perceived value of a college degree are reducing the number of high school graduates immediately pursuing college as traditional students. Difficulty securing student visas has also reduced the number of international students attending US colleges and universities in recent years. These trends will have an impact on edtech software packages such as LMSs that have traditionally been licensed by the number of full-time enrolled students.

To Instructure’s credit, the company capitalized on dissatisfaction in the marketplace to secure a commanding presence that will not soon fade. At this point, however, all of Instructure’s easy wins and major system and consortium deals are almost-fully implemented with fewer and fewer schools actively considering a change in LMS. From this point onward, it is likely that each new sale will become increasingly harder to win.

There are, of course, solutions to each of the above challenges – and with every challenge comes new opportunity. We will continue to provide future data and analysis in response to developments in this space.

The complete historical data set of all LMS market share data available since 2013 is available to purchase for further analysis. A current snapshot of just the spring 2020 data is also available