September 2017 – Subscriber Web Access, LMS Profiles, and Implementation Speed

Welcome to our new subscribers, and we want to thank everyone for your support and interest in this work!

We are excited to announce a new website to access archived market analysis reports and newsletters, coming in early October. We also are extending our profiles of LMS solutions beyond the big four. And finally we note that students might prefer quicker LMS migrations and less confusion.

On to the updates.

New Subscriber Web Access

That’s right, we’re ready to move past emails and try out login-controlled web sites. 1999 style.

While we will continue to release new reports and newsletter updates via email, we have created a market analysis login area on e-Literate to allow subscribers to access past content without having to find old emails. With a planned update to the e-Literate web site this weekend, you all should receive notifications in the next week or two on gaining access to this site.

The initial content includes an archive of past reports and past newsletters. You will also be able to manage your profile and account, which will become more important as we roll out new features.

If you have any problems or questions, send a note to

Additional LMS Profiles

In our Spring report and recent e-Literate coverage, we have noted how the global markets – at least in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania – are increasingly consolidating on the same four top LMS solutions. Moodle, Blackboard Learn, Canvas, and D2L Brightspace dominate in installed customer base as well as new implementations for higher education.

But there are other vendors in this changing market, and we don’t want to overlook them. In our last newsletter we provided a form of profile for the top four LMS solutions, and in this issue we’d like to add Sakai and Schoology to the mix.

We noted at e-Literate last year that while Sakai continues to lose market share, the project is surprisingly health in terms of open source contributions and progress on usability. The open source community has moved past the early dominance of founding members Indiana University, University of Michigan, and others (many of whom are no longer using Sakai), but rather than rolling over, there have been others picking up and leading in new directions.

In particular, NYU, Duke University, Notre Dame University, Marist College, and a strong community in Spain. We also noted (and have continued to see) progress in Sakai improving the user experience, streamlining the design.

Primary Recent News

  • Sakai 11, released mid 2016 and up to version 11.4, continues to be adopted by current Sakai schools with positive feedback
  • Sakai 12 just branched and is entering full development phase
  • New responsive user interface, new gradebook, new assessments design

Primary Strengths in Market

  • Active open source community that provides alternative to commercial providers
  • History of leading the move to IMS standards adoption
  • International approach not dominated by North American usage

Open Questions

  • Will remaining leading Sakai schools (in terms of open source contribution) remain on Sakai or will additional schools migrate to commercial systems?
  • How long can Sakai community remain active with smaller user base?

We first started covering Schoology as a viable higher education LMS in Spring 2016 based on recent wins. By last summer we described Schoology as “the strongest LMS you’ve never seen”, noting the potential of its rich feature set to meet higher ed needs yet light sales & marketing presence. Schoology’s set of mastery learning features and Facebook-like activity stream seemed to differentiate the system whose primary market is in K-12.

It turns out that 2016 and 2017 are and were difficult years for new market entrants like Schoology – forced to compete on big, expensive selection processes right out of the gate. This is likely a large factor in Schoology’s change in strategy to focus on smaller schools and staying under the radar. The company is gaining market share in small, mostly private, colleges and universities that often don’t require expensive RFP processes.

Primary Recent News

  • Full integrations with Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365
  • K-12 focus: new partnership as the only external LMS in the U.S. to be embedded into PowerSchool’s Unified Classroom
  • Schoology wins Best Higher Education Enterprise Solution in 2017 CODiE awards

Primary Strengths in Market

  • Intuitive, cloud-based system
  • Strong feature set for mastery learning
  • Facebook-like activity stream 

Open Questions

  • Does the company have the financial strength to remain competitive in the LMS market?
  • Will the company finish the features and designs needed by higher education markets?
Does It Really Pay to Be Patient on Migrations?

The default approach for LMS migrations has long been to overlap the old LMS and the new LMS for one, two, or even three academic terms. This often happens even after the basic system integrations are in place and the new LMS is technically available. The thinking is that change is difficult and that schools should be patient – allow faculty and student time to adjust to the new system, assuming that they don’t want to move too quickly.

But in the modern world and the increased usage of managed and even cloud hosting models, much of the technical reasons for such an approach have gone away. Most modern LMSs not hosted on campus are capable of handling the load of the full institution, and more-intuitive designs take less time to learn.

There are growing signs that students, at least, might not like to have time to adjust. Having multiple systems can be a frustration to students as described in a recent article in the Yale Daily News:

“I don’t think it was that smooth of a transition because there was a year when some professors were using Canvas and others were using Classes*v2,” said Lane To ’19. “It was not very cohesive, so I think that could have been done a little better.”

We see this same dynamic in our consulting practice, where schools often over plan their migrations and end up with student and also faculty demand to go faster.

Our partners at LISTedTECH have been playing around with Twitter analysis, and we’re seeing similar sentiments there. And with student usage of Twitter, I’ll share some examples while actively editing to keep our hard-earned PG rating. And let’s get it out in the open: Canvas has the most new implementations and gets mentioned frequently in tweets.

  • i hate that only one of my classes is on blackboard and the rest are on canvas 
  • BU: we gonna use blackboard as an overall portal for grades for the whole school
    AET profs: were using schoology 
    BU: wait wha
    AET: yeet
  • ok but why are some of my courses on the new canvas thing and others are on blackboard, that’s annoying
  • Getting emails for classes that are still on Blackboard instead of Canvas and honestly I thought we were past this Mizzou
  • love having to go through moodle, jupiter, & canvas to find my grades & assignments bc the profs won’t stick to one program
  • The next [person with poor judgement] that chooses to use moodle over d2l is getting sued
  • Why does my school have two classroom aid websites?!?!
  • Temple switched to Canvas and now half my classes are on Blackboard and half are on Canvas please make my life harder
  • already missed a quiz bc half of my stuff is on Blackboard and half is on Canvas college is confusing bring back summer C
  • When 1 class is on Sakai 2 are on blackboard and 2 are on canvas #ruscrew
  • Why are half my classes on Sakai and the other half on Blackboard can y’all choose one and run

The point is that institutions should check past assumptions and question if it is better to speed up migrations and remove confusion for students.

Until October

We hope that you found this news roundup useful. We expect several product updates in October in advance of the EDUCAUSE conference Oct 31 – Nov 3.

We’re always open to feedback, which you can send to


Phil & Michael & O’Neal