It if were about which LMS had the most features, for the most user cases, no matter how specific, there would be no contest. If it were about the number of plugins, even counting only those that are currently updated, and the number of developers behind them, there would be no contest either. The presence of Moodle around the world gives the Open Source contender a comfortable advantage, backed by the power of a global community who keeps growing after a decade and a half.
But this is not what the competition is about. Or at least, that is the mindset Canvas is expecting their users, or more so their buyers, to move away from. They are explicit about it:
«How to choose an LMS:
There’s the old way
(Features, features, features!)
and there’s a new, better way.
And that way is to start by asking one simple question:
Will it get used?»
Canvas’s promotional materials make a case based on the assumption that the sheer number of features has no influence on the user experience. It follows with statistics about Chief Information Officers reporting a low opinion on the effectiveness of instructional technology investments, and the high level of LMS on review in campuses.
«A lot of these campuses will try to choose an LMS the old way (features, features, features!), but, with all due respect, 1,001 of the most blazing hot features do nothing at all for the person who uses the LMS zero times. 0 x 1,001 still = 0.»
If it were up to Canvas, the decision process would not only be focused on the following six questions, but the questions should not be answered in terms of the features that may enable them.
Is it easy to use?
Does it do what is expected?
Does it provide easy mobile access?
Is it dependable?
Does it make IT and admins jobs easier?
Does it save time?
There is one more reason why it’s not about the features, according to Canvas, and that’s because there may not be a contest at all. Here is why:
Moodle is non-profit. Canvas is the product of Instructure, a public company listed in stock exchanges. It is subject to investors’ pressures and quarterly results. Some of the investments Canvas must make (marketing, for starters) have nothing comparable in Moodle. As Moodle’s creator seems to suggest, the growth of Canvas in markets such as US Higher Education could even be compatible with Moodle’s mission.
They cater to different customers. Some organizations have their own servers for a variety of reasons and skilled staff to boot. Adding Moodle with few or no customizations is practically free and something a skilled in-house engineer can set up in a matter of hours. Less equipped organizations would be happy or even grateful if they never have to deal with cables and boxes, which is why the cloud exists. Different cultures take different LMS.
Canvas sells support. Meanwhile, Moodle is free. While a procurement manager can reach out to Canvas and receive a complete and tidy package, when they go to Moodle they find many courses of action, often involving third parties. Canvas has capitalized on this perceived burden.
Canvas is SaaS. Moodle is not. Some Moodle Partners do offer complete solutions including hosting and support. But they belong to a different business than Moodle. Perhaps a better comparison would be Canvas versus MoodleCloud.
Users and buyers are not the same people. Depending on how well represented teachers and students are during a procurement process, the reasons to choose an LMS could have very little to do on how it is used on a day-to-day basis.