Monthly Archives: November 2020

What is the “Next Next LMS?”

There is a certain restlessness for any university using any LMS. Faculty and students generally love their LMS after they have used it for 3-4 years and are opposed the idea of switching to a new LMS, often the IT organization starts to get restless about that time and starts a “Next LMS” evaluation effort. Perhaps there is a new Chief Information Officer and they want to “make their mark”. Perhaps the IT organization has gotten tired of broken promises from their old commercial LMS vendor and are looking for a new vendor who will again tell them sweet little lies. Perhaps, it is just that the beginning of a new relationship is just “so exciting”. In many ways by changing LMS systems every 5-10 years IT gets a “do over”.

It seems as though as soon as any commercial LMS vendor reaches a threshold of market share, they slow down, begin to take their customers for granted, and prioritize “shareholder value” . There is always the ascendant “Shiny LMS” and the descending “Rusty LMS” and the inevitable transition from shiny to rusty to restart the process. There is an active consulting business to advise CIOs on the rusty to shiny transition. Here is a simple table of these commercial LMS’s over time:

Year Rusty        Shiny
1997 emacs        Blackboard
2001 Blackboard   WebCT
2006 WebCT        Angel
2008 Angel        MoodleRooms
2012 MoodleRooms  Canvas
2019 Canvas       Desire2Learn

By this analysis – everyone should just choose Desire2Learn as their “Next LMS”. At this point with Canvas and Blackboard owned by private equity and focused on paying off $1B+ loans through revenue and profits – both are in the “Rusty” category.

The shiny to rusty transition of Canvas was pretty quick. Two years ago, they announced that they had a lot of learner data and “AI was the future”, then they did a “hostile sale” to private equity to cash out, and then announced that “AI was not the future” – but the damage was done. I know of at least one school that had selected Canvas during this time and as Canvas rusted before our very eyes, they called their consultants back and asked them to hurry back and re-advise the school to go to Desire2Learn instead. Whew! Skipped one unnecessary commercial LMS switch!

It is kind of scary that Desire2Learn (with a 15% and growing marketshare) is the only major commercial LMS vendors with its founder(s) still involved and not owned by anonymous billionaires. I have liked working with and partnering with all of the commercial LMS systems over the past 15 years – when their founders were still part of the company. I loved working with Michael Chasen, Chris Vento, David Mills, Phil Miller, and Brian Whitmer. They are gone – their companies are gone or run by accountants. John Baker is the “last founder standing”. D2L is the last commercial LMS vendor with “values” that go beyond shareholder value. For the time being.

The problem is that the CIO sheep are going to run from rusty Canvas to shiny D2L like they have always done. When enough switch so D2L has a 40% market share, then D2L will begin to rust and as things start to nose down, someone will write a $2B check for D2L and at that point 85% of the higher education marketplace will be owned by soulless billionaires. They won’t make the mistake that Blackboard made and forced new “recruits” to switch software – they will slow innovation to a crawl and put skeleton maintenance crews on Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L and drain higher education dry for a decade to pay off their $6B of loans.

It is difficult to imagine a new Canvas-like startup in a garage somewhere in 2020 that has any chance of success. You get your version 0.1 wander into the marketplace fighting Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L. The open source lane is well covered by Sakai and Moodle. The K12 market is no longer available as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams have won. Community colleges have little interest in anything other than using the same thing they have always used. And R1 schools in higher education – decided to “outsource it all” to the big-three commercial cloud-vendors.

This suggests that by around 2025, the commercial LMS market will start feel like the opening sequence to Joe Versus the Volcano.

It seems inevitable – :(

Abstract: Pedagogy and Privacy in a Pandemic

This presentation will look at how teaching and educational technology has and will continue to change during the Pandemic. When the pandemic hit, there was very little time to prepare for the move toward increasing use of technology. In many ways the world did not have the luxury of being concerned about impacts to pedagogy or privacy – we just dove in and started solving problems. As the pandemic continues it has brought a lot of focus on concerns for student privacy and ways to improve pedagogy. The speakers will discuss issues of pedagogy, privacy and technology in light of the pandemic.

Laura Gibbs is a long-time online instructor at the University of Oklahoma teaching Gen. Ed. Humanities courses. She is the author of Aesop’s Fables: A New Translation (Oxford World’s Classics) and the Tiny Tales book series; you can find out more at TinyTales.LauraGibbs.net.

Charles is a Clinical Professor and teaches in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He is the Chair of the Sakai Project Management Committee (PMC). Previously he was the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation and the Chief Architect of the Sakai Project and worked with the IMS Global Learning Consortium promoting and developing standards for teaching and learning technology. He teaches 21 popular MOOCs and three specializations to students worldwide on the Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn platforms and is a long-time advocate of open educational resources to empower teachers.

This abstract was for the 2020 Sakai Virtual Conference – Recorded Video