April 2018 – Two Interviews, Two Public Graphics, and Two-Year Anniversary

Welcome to old and new subscribers alike. We’re approaching the end of April, and in approximately one month we plan to release the Spring 2018 report.

This month we share two recent interviews with Phil (with Bryan Alexander on the Future Trends Forum and with EdWeek on the K-12 market), we share two graphics to allow public usage, and we get ready for our two-year anniversary.

On to the report.

Future Trends Forum

Last summer Phil participated in a Future Trends Forum, hosted on the Shindig platform, with host Bryan Alexander on the topic of “What’s next with the LMS?”. This was one of the best virtual discussions we’ve had, and more than half of the session was driven by audience questions. You can see a YouTube archive of that discussion as well as follow-up questions in this e-Literate post.

The session seemed to be popular enough that Bryan had Phil back on for a subsequent discussion earlier this month. You can see the full interview here on YouTube, and we have a partial transcription – edited to make Phil sound more structured in his responses – below.

Bryan Alexander: Tell us about the state of the art of the learning management system – what are some of the major issues that we should all be thinking about?

Phil Hill: I guess I’ll describe two mega trends. One is that to a degree a lot of the same dynamics that we’ve described in previous years are still there in 2018. What I mean by that is if you look at some of the items we’re watching for this year, it’s stuff like with Blackboard and the introduction of Learn Ultra and whether that system going to impact the market significantly. We’ve analyzed Learn Ultra over the past four years, but now you’re starting to get schools rolling it out, so we’re gonna be tracking what their experiences are. D2L has had a real uptick in the past two years, and one of the big things we’re trying to watch this year is whether it a two-year blip or is there some real legs to keep that momentum. Instructure has been consistently growing in academic, and they’ve been expanding in K-12 and international (outside of North America) over the past two years, but they’ve also been expanding in corporate learning. At the same time they have had some pretty significant executive team changes. Should they be viewed as the same company as they were last year, or are we seeing changes based on what’s happening in the corporate market? We’ve written about the sort of inflection point of Moodle is facing. The system is dominant in so many areas of the world – in terms of installed base but not in terms of new implementations. Do we see any changes in those trends or are we going to see continued decline.

On one hand you can say that 2018 is a lot like 2016 and 2017. On the other hand there’s a lot of pressure to get solid answers this year. Blackboard Learn Ultra really needs to deliver in terms of customers accepting it and giving good feedback this year, otherwise there’s a risk of Learn Ultra not being a material factor. As I recently wrote about, the company just got downgraded for their debt rating, and there is pressures on the company to to show financial results from the turnaround. With Instructure, their new executives – particularly in sales and in marketing – how does that impact them as a company? Are they still going to be able to provide the same service? There is a lot of tracking of previous trends but this year we will likely determine the shape of the market for the next 3-4 years based on resolving these open questions.

What a lot of people are calling the next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE), the whole ecosystem approach of multiple applications, is sort of in the same area as Learn Ultra. It’s a concept with a lot of promise, but part of the question is who’s actually using these third-party apps in a significant way other than just a few faculty at each campus. That’s a big trend to watch as well – is this ecosystem approach to learning management sticking and is it making a material change to the teaching and learning mission? Can people point to significant numbers of examples of faculty and programs taking advantage of the ecosystem to develop new pedagogical approaches?

Watch the YouTube video for the full interview.

EdWeek Market Brief

In March Phil was interviewed by Michele Molnar for an article in EdWeek’s Market Brief. The focus was on the K-12 market, but some of the discussion applies across higher education as well.

Michele Molnar: If you were an ed-tech provider (third-party app vendor), what questions would you ask?

Phil Hill: Do I need to make sure that I’m integrated with just two [LMS] vendors? Four vendors? Can I just rely on standards for my integration, or do I need to go and have a point integration for every single vendor? And so much of that decision is going to be driven by the tradeoff of time. So how do I invest my time?
And the issue is that you can get a much deeper, cleaner integration if you use standards, but you also do some customization for each LMS vendor. I think a lot of the other vendors have to make that choice—is it worth it?—and that’s where this market data, I think, is going to be very important to them.

MM: Do ed-tech vendors typically know of the need to customize beyond the standards- based integration?

PH: No. We’ve actually been surprised about this. In general, they’re not necessarily aware that this is a market-wide phenomenon. The big surprise [for them] is that they’re not the only ones having to deal with these challenges.

You might have somebody in an engineering group saying, “Yeah, we were following the IMS standards. But we couldn’t solve this one problem that’s very unique to our tool, so we figured out a workaround. Sometimes they almost feel guilty that they’ve done it. You need to understand the market shape and where things are going to make the appropriate choice.

MM: How can vendors address this issue?

PH: Understand what standards can and can’t do. Around 2011 or 2012, there really was a significant change with the IMS Global set of standards, particularly around LTI, learning tools interoperability. There was now finally a standard that could solve a lot of the integration problems so that you could just do it once, and not have to do it for every vendor. But that’s got limitations. It can only do so much of what different vendors want to do.

As a vendor you have to ask, “Is that enough so that students and teachers can take advantage of what our tool does in a clean, sort of natural way to work?” And, “Do all LMS vendors support the standard the same way?” And they don’t.

You can download a PDF of the full article here.

Publicly-Available Graphics

We have had requests for a few of our graphics to be available for public consumption. To make sure that all of our subscribers have the same access, here are North American LMS Migrations 2016 – 2017, and North American New Implementations, both with a Creative Commons license. Feel free to use in public, and let us know if there are other graphics that would be useful to be in public.

Until Next Time

We hope that you found these updates useful. We’re always open to feedback, which you can send to eLitLMS@mindwires.com.

Coming up soon – the two-year anniversary of our LMS market analysis service, and the Spring 2018 report. Stay tuned!


Phil & Michael & O’Neal