Daily Archives: April 24, 2019

Why do People Like Sakai, given the Market Share?

A Sakai user saw this report where Sakai was highly ranked against its market competitors and wondered “How could this be with Sakai at a 5% market share?”


Here is my answer.

There is a pretty simple explanation as to why Sakai polls well in some situations and yet there are a lot of folks that say “lets go Canvas”.

It depends on who you ask.

I knew a school that did a year-long evaluation of Sakai, Canvas, Blackboard and Desire2Learn. The faculty and students ranked them in exactly that order. The IT organization that was already convinced they wanted Canvas, removed the Sakai data, published the report, and then chose Canvas based on the report that showed Canvas#1 – it was clearly the “overwhelming favorite” of the faculty and students.

In general, IT staff prefer Canvas because it means less responsibility for them. Canvas rarely listens to its end-users and throws good parties – there is a certain stability and simplicity in not being able to influence the direction of your commercial vendor. Just accept it and move on. Faculty and IT staff at Sakai schools can dream up ideas and some of those ideas make it into the core product, often surprisingly rapidly. That is both a joy and a responsibility.

I would like to see a survey of a lot of schools (Sakai and others) where we ask the faculty and students how well they like their current LMS. I think that if you exclusively listened to the end-user’s voices, Sakai schools would “like their current LMS” more often than commercial LMS schools. (see the NYU data on this)  I expect this would even be true for end-users who had no idea of our wonderful community or our 100% commitment to open source.

If you, on the other hand, polled the IT folks at schools across the board and asked them, “Does your current LMS make your job easy or hard?”, Canvas would win as the LMS that makes IT folks jobs easiest – by far. I would say that Sakai schools that completely outsource hosting to LongSight, EDF or OpenCollab would also get pretty high marks. The more a school is involved in the Sakai community, the more they are working to make Sakai better, the more some of the IT staff might want to switch to Canvas to “take a load off of themselves”. Sakai schools that are self hosted and have senior (expensive) in-house Sakai developers are great for a few activist IT organizations – but too much to handle for IT organizations that can barely handle Wifi, the SIS, printers and desktop support on their campus.

So you get this strange anomaly that does not correlate to market share. If you ask the end users at Sakai schools – they love Sakai. If you ask Canvas users at Canvas schools, they like Canvas and it kind of goes down from there.  And the graphs you cite reflect that.

And it is why Sakai continues to be so focused on meeting the end-user requirements above our “corporate” profitability and market share. Our end-user satisfaction is high, our community is strong, our profitability is zero, and our market share is low. Separately, our impact on overall market innovation is *extremely high* through Sakai-led innovations like LTI and Common Cartridge. Our contribution and impact and end-user satisfaction unfortunately does not correlate to rapidly growing market share because after we meet end-user needs year after year with a best-of-breed 100% open source product, we don’t have any money to hire sales people to visit every university on the planet and buy free lunches for the IT staff.


P.S. We do have a pretty cool SakaiCar with ears – https://www.sakaiger.com/sakaicar/ – like which other LMS has a race car?

P.P.S. Instructure spent $135M last year on marketing and sales.  They took this money from the pockets of higher education and used it to convince more schools to give them more money.  (link)