Moodle In The Timeline Of ‘Canvas Beats Blackboard’ (US Higher Ed) Media Coverage

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Moodle In The Timeline Of ‘Canvas Beats Blackboard’ (US Higher Ed) Media Coverage
“apples and oranges 2” by matthewreid is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Canvas seems to have caught up with Blackboard in the US higher ed LMS market. To counter the noise, here is an adjective-free timeline of the media frenzy that followed focusing on new facts they offer. Good or bad news for Moodle? You decide!

It is important to emphasize that the news regards only the US or North America (US and Canada) higher ed segment (colleges and universities only), a fact missing from almost every headline. No new information is offered about LMS installations and enrollments in segments such as K-12, Corporate, Government, or Non-Profit, let alone other places around the world.

Background reading\foreshadowing

Last Fall, “Moodle Is The Number Two LMS In North American Higher Education In 2017… And Climbing?”. By the source’s account:

  • Moodle has 25% share in US and Canada in terms of installations, same as the year before; 12% if measured by enrollment.
  • Blackboard rules with 28% of LMS and 37% of users.
  • Canvas follows with 21% and 27% respectively.
  • Higher ed represents about 10% of Moodle in North America.

October 2017, “Campus Technology Readers Vote Blackboard As Best LMS In 2017.” In the “Learning Management Systems & E-Learning Platforms” category, Blackboard Learn was awarded “Platinum,” Canvas by Instructure “Gold,” and Moodle “Silver.”

Spring 2018, “Cornell Academic Learning Management System Evaluation Project.” [email protected] A 99-page report on Cornell’s “year long evaluation” of a new LMS to replace Blackboard Learn and switch to a cloud-based, SaaS model reveals that:

  • Among 11 US universities considered “Ivy League” or “Ivy+” (not including Cornell), 8 use Canvas, 7 exclusively. Only Princeton uses Blackboard Learn. None of them use Moodle.
  • 70% of Blackboard users at Cornell report being “Satisfied” (or better) with the LMS. 45% are “Neutral” about a switching process, and those against outweigh those in favor 2 to 1.
  • 34% of users consider Blackboard’s mobile experience “Extremely bad.” (Canvas on mobile was not reviewed.)
  • 4 users in a 10-subject pilot test preferred Canvas over Blackboard. 3 felt it was “about the same.”
  • The cost of switching to a new LMS outweighs any cost reduction from a new one for a 5-year contract. The report finds “no single LMS that is superior across the board,” yet it concludes: “Cost savings cannot be a significant driver or rationale for changing to a new LMS.”
  • Moodle was not a candidate in Cornell’s evaluation.

March 4, “LMS Data – Spring 2018 Updates,” Edutechnica. Using data from Clientstat, which reportedly covers 100% of US LMS with more than 500 full-time students, it reveals that:

  • Moodle is third in LMS (644, or 18%) and enrollments, with 2.45 million users.
  • Blackboard is first with 1,129 institutions (31.4%) Canvas second (893, 24.9%).

May 2, “Instructure Quarterly report (10-Q),” public SEC filing hosted by Seeking Alpha. It reveals that:

  • Instructure, Canvas’ parent company, has accumulated a $235.8 million USD deficit in the first three months of 2018. It expects revenues of up to $209 million for the year.
  • 50% of operating expenses are related to “Sales and Marketing.” They increased 27% compared to the same quarter of 2017. R&D expenses grew even higher.
  • Revenues have grown more than 40% each year since 2015, but they are expected to slow due to maturity and seasonality, among other reasons. The company admits “limited experience” related to optimal pricing and long-term retention, among a variety of risk factors.
  • 82% of revenue comes from the US.
  • Canvas’ entire infrastructure is supported by Amazon Web Services.
  • The upshot: After 7 years, Instructure may not be profitable yet, but investors don’t seem to mind.

July 5, “Cornell to Replace Blackboard with Canvas for All Courses by 2019,” The Cornell Daily Sun. It links to the report and reveals the decision, which ends a relationship dating since 1996. The transition should be complete by 2019.

The reveal

July 8, “Canvas Surpasses Blackboard Learn in US Market Share,” mfeldstein.com, MindWires or e-Literate. The post reports Canvas has 1,218 LMS and Blackboard Learn 1,216, statistically tied at a 28% market share in the US. Moodle with 23% (amounting to 998 to 1,001 sites). As the Blackboard figure focuses explicitly on Learn, it is unclear how Blackboard Ultra and Moodlerooms, a Moodle-based solution run by Blackboard, figure in the share. It does not disclose the sample size, which in the fall of 2017 was self-reported as 90% of US and Canadian colleges and universities. The blog post data comes from LISTedTECH, a self-reporting service.

July 10, “Blackboard Debt Takes a Hit After Colleges Drop Its Education Software,” Bloomberg. It cites the same market share data from MindWires and Edutechnica, which are also the market share data sources for the Cornell study. It also reveals that:

  • S&P downgraded Blackboard’s debt to “CCC+” (Very high risk).
  • Blackboard has a current estimated “rated debt” of $1.3 billion. No longer a public company, Blackboard does not reveal full financial statements.
  • Net earnings and revenue have declined, with EBIDTA down 15% quarter-to-quarter.
  • Blackboard’s CEO is quoted as saying that adoption of Blackboard Ultra grew 70% between spring and summer.

July 10, “Canvas Catches, and Maybe Passes, Blackboard,” Inside Higher Ed. Reiterates MindWires. No new information on Moodle is mentioned. It reveals that:

  • Anecdotally, Canvas is starting to ask for yearly increases beyond what is usual.
  • Also anecdotically, Blackboard has offered up to 50% discounts.
  • Blackboard’s Phil Miller, is quoted as saying that MindWires’ reporting is “not consistent with our own.”

July 11, “Canvas gains slight lead over Blackboard in LMS market,” Education Dive, mostly a repeat of the MindWires claims.

July 11, “Canvas edges out Blackboard in LMS market share,” EdScoop. Reiterates MindWires, speculations included. Based on the LISTedTECH 2-site difference it still uses words like “eclipsed” and “dethroned” referring to Canvas over Blackboard.

Aftermath: No new world order

July 11, “What’s Important about the Blackboard Market Share News,” mfeldstein.com. It mostly stands by the original post. It concedes that “Counting installations is more complex and requires more methodological decisions than you might think.”

July 13, “Sensationalizing LMS Market Share in an Era of Fake News,” Edutechnica. It takes issue with statements suggesting Canvas is the incontrovertible winner, and it is the only one scrutinizing MindWires. It reveals that:

  • Their findings give Blackboard 1,212 and Canvas 1,059. (US higher ed LMS with more than 500 users.)
  • Blackboard has 6.9 million users, 1 million more than Canvas’ 5.8.
  • 144 Canvas sites belong to 10 schools. LISTedTECH might be counting installations by campus, which benefits Canvas. Clientstat tallies by unique identifier provided by the US Department of Education.
  • 50 of the institutions that have both Blackboard and Canvas used to have only Blackboard. It suggests the blog posts may include Canvas deals not yet materialized, and pilots (such as Cornell’s which should not count for Canvas, as of yet).
  • The author, Clientstat’s George Kroner is a former Blackboard employee.

July 14, “Canvas Chases Blackboard Learn For Lead LMS Spot,” forbes.com. It quotes news from 2016 and older, and an email from Blackboard’s Miller with no new facts.

July 16, “How Canvas came to unseat Blackboard as the leading LMS,” EdScoop. It quotes Miller: “There’s no doubt Blackboard has lost market share over the last 10 years.” Other quotes from Miller include:

  • “Clients hold Canvas to a much lower bar than they do with us.”
  • “When clients say they’re leaving us for Instructure, we scratch our heads. We have more functionality.”
  • “We think we’ll get a handful of Canvas takeaways between now and the end of the year.”
  • “We want to offer tools that share data and share a common user experience, that meet a different set of needs than just basic LMS needs (…) With us, you’re getting it all in one package.”

July 19. Instructure’s stock reaches its highest price ever at $49.18 USD, for a valuation upwards of $1.7 billion.

July 20, “Blackboard’s Debt Grows While Canvas Gains Contracts,” Elearning Inside News. Another reiteration of the blog post.■


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