October 23rd, 2013 E-Learning

It is now becoming common practice for higher education institutions to utilize elearning in some capacity. As a result, these universities and colleges need to select a learning management system to host and deliver their content.

In a survey conducted by Whitney Kilgore, faculty across various higher ed organizations responded to questions relating to their use of online learning and learning management systems. The individuals who responded were employed by institutions from all over the world.

While there are many fascinating results from this study (perhaps a topic for another day), the one area that stood out to me the most was in regard to the learning management system that faculty had the most experience with.

The result? Blackboard still rules the day.

In the image below, created by faculty ecommons, you can see the distribution of which systems are apparently most commonly used in the higher education landscape. Specifically, the survey asked participants to list all the learning management systems that they have had experience with using to deliver online course material.


Blackboard… Still?

Despite all the new entrants into the learning management space, Blackboard still has a stranglehold on the LMS industry. I suppose I am not all that surprise as they do have one of the most popular brand names.

And even though Moodle lacks of user-friendliness, it has positioned itself well. I suspect that it will continue to evolve (it needs to) now that there are new APIs available and higher expectations from a user interface standpoint.

But then there is WebCT rounding out third… funny thing is, since this survey was originally conducted (2012), WebCT has been bought out by Blackboard. Oh , and same with Angel Learning.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that participants had experience with Canvas – I have heard some pretty good things about their set-up. I can’t help but wonder if it is just a matter of time until Blackboard swoops in for the buy-out.

So What Does this All Mean?

I think this survey does provide some valuable insight into what systems educators have experience with in delivering their online course materials, but the bigger story is that we clearly see Blackboard’s demographic.

Blackboard’s strategy is to buy out their competition. Nothing wrong with this; business is business. But it actually indicates the focus that they are putting into higher education.

Quite some time ago I was working on a project where the corporate client was investigating using Blackboard for their LMS. Long story short, they went another direction.

Today, I don’t know if Blackboard would really come up anymore in the corporate sector. Perhaps because of the brand name, but a quick look at their site gives a clear impression on who they prefer as customers. Sure, they still list corporations on their target market list, but I think the focus has shifted to education.

Industry Needs Blackboard

The elearning and LMS industry need Blackboard. Love them, or love to hate them, they play a major role in helping to educate the general market about the importance, and benefits, of an online learning approach. And just like all major companies can trace their roots back to Xerox, many elearning companies can do the same with Blackboard.

That said, the entire industry is poised for (much needed) change.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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8 responses

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We are using LearnDash for a post-graduate university master on International Commerce:
This will be our first year since we decided to change our own LMS. We are prety delighted with LearnDash until now and I’m quite sure it will be even better during the current course as the software is updated very frecuently.

Hi Luis-
Many thanks for the comment and sharing your user-case for LearnDash… Great to hear you are enjoying the product!

Thanks for the post Justin. Can you point me to the LMS survey/study you’re referencing?

Hi Matt-
Thanks for the comment. You can read more about the study here

Good insights Justin 🙂
As a man in the field who works with faculty everyday with instructional technologies, I come across a basic fact: Bb is not that great but having it is much better than learning/dealing/using a new LMS.
In my opinion, Bb has good potential to beat all LMSes in the market if:
-Get their known issues database (yes it’s a huge database) smaller
-Stop building new service packs that introduces a set of new features and new problems

Avatar Ahmed Lachheb

The reason Bb still rules the nest is not because it is easy to use or popular. It is simply inertia. Universities have multi-year contracts, and faculty don’t want to learn something new, so when the time comes to sign the contract, they do what they’ve always done rather than looking at a new player. Plus Bb has used their near-monopoly status to make a lot of publisher tie-ins.

Another trend is that IT departments don’t see nearly as many budget cuts as other areas, so they’re not forced to make a switch for budget reasons (although if they do, that’s probably where moodle comes in.) Having just been through an LMS search, I can tell you that at least in our case, Bb was the most expensive bid. I guarantee that if we’d signed a contract with them, we’d never switch to another LMS again. Not because they were that good, but because education is that slow to innovate.

Avatar mk

Hi MK-

Thanks for the detailed comment. I think it is well known that Bb is the most expensive (I think they have the luxery to charge that because of their brand). Many consulting firms do the same in their bids. Companies like Accenture are never the lowest bid for multi-million dollar consulting work, and they know it. They attempt to leverage their brand and translate it to implied quality. Blackboard knows how slow the EDU space is, so they charge a certain amount that they know they will be locked-in with.

Thanks again for the comment.

Our entire community college system in the state of Mississippi recently (and abruptly) switched from Bb to Canvas. As one commenter noted, some folks were upset by simply having to make a change, but overall, it went smoothly. Canvas is already proving more reliable and flexible than Bb, and it is much more student-friendly. I hope they don’t get bought out. Bb needs some stiff competition.

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