October 2018: Global Market Share Tables and the Persistence of Moodle

The fall ed tech conference season is in full swing. We’ve been to Online Learning 2018 Global Summit in Toronto, OpenEd in Niagara Falls, and we just left WCET in Portland. In the following weeks we’ll be attending MoodleMoot and Educause in Denver and OLC in Orlando. Thankfully, we are able to divide and conquer.

Last month, we suggested that this is the time of year when LMS companies often make product or roadmap announcements. The first out of the gate was D2L’s announcement of its Magenta release for Brightspace. By the next newsletter, we’ll share updates from all of the vendors during the fall conference season.

Meanwhile, EDUCAUSE released its 2018 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, where their overall findings on LMS usage are quite positive.

“LMS use remains prevalent across higher education institutions, with continued high rates of use and student satisfaction. Three-quarters of all students reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with their institution’s LMS, and more than three-quarters of students reported their LMS was used for most or all of their courses. This likely reflects satisfaction primarily with the functional aspects of their institution’s LMS.”

Later in the report, however, the authors include a highly questionable claim in attribution which they give to Richard Sebastian, Director of the OER Degree Initiative for Achieving the Dream.

“As one expert recently put it, ‘It’s more like the used minivan of ed tech.’ 27”

May 7, 2015 on e-Literate: LMS Is The Minivan of Education (and other thoughts from #LILI15). Deep breath . . . go to happy place . . . we’re above this.

In this month’s newsletter we take a closer look at Moodle and their role in the broader LMS market. First, we present views of historical market shares in the four global regions we cover, focusing on Moodle’s trajectory since 2010 and implications for the global LMS market. Then we address the question of whether we should expect big changes due to the recent breakup of Moodle and Blackboard in terms of the former’s partner program.

Moodle’s Global Market Position for Higher Education Institutions

Following a recent e-Literate post in which we presented a consolidated view of historical market share and enrollments for North America, several readers noted that Moodle’s losses from 2017-2018 were smaller than the previous year.

While we still have 2+ months left in 2018 and have had less time to collect this data, we did an internal analysis adjusting for these two factors, and the results are similar. Moodle’s losses are decreasing. With the MoodleMoot US 2018 conference coming up in a few days, we decided to take a closer look at a consolidated view of  market share across global regions going back to 2010.

Our data set is growing over time, and earlier in the year our partners at LISTedTECH improved our ability to detect LMS past implementations, particularly for the smaller schools and global sub-regions that are harder to detect. One result is that Moodle’s market share in Europe and Latin America has increased with our recent data when compared to our market share reports from 2017 or earlier. In places where a school implements an LMS for extremely low costs, the most common method is for a self-hosted Moodle implementation, which is often done without public announcements. In North America, particularly in the US, we have very good government data that lets us know an official list of schools and avoid the detection problem. For this reason the North American data has not changed for Moodle. Put another way, we have better data on previous years’ market data than we did at the time.

The view below shows market share in terms of primary systems in higher education institutions across the four regions we officially cover.

Moodle’s combined market share in Europe, Latin America and Oceania started the decade at 63% and grew to 73% by 2014. Since then it has plateaued. As we look underneath this data:

  • In Europe, Moodle grew from 58% of the market in 2010 to 69% in 2014 and basically held steady through 2017.
  • In Latin America, Moodle’s share has ranged from 74%-81% of the market. In 2017 it stood at 79%, down slightly on the previous couple of years.
  • Similarly, in Oceania, Moodle began the decade at 63%, had a high of 74% in 2014 and wrapped up last year down at 70%.
  • In North America, Moodle travelled a similar path, albeit at a lower market share, going from 21% in 2010 to a high of 27% a few years ago, and finishing 2017 at 24%.

The most obvious lesson from the data is to again note how dominant Moodle is on a global scale, with 68 – 78% market share outside of North America. This is significant outside of just market views, as Michael noted in a blog post last year.

“According to the 2016 Analytic Report of Distance Learning in Brazil published by Brazil’s premiere distance learning association, the Associação Brasileira de Educação a Distãncia (ABED), about three-quarters of a million Brazilians took online or blended courses in 2016. According to our analysis, Moodle has over 80% of Brazil’s higher education institutional LMS market share. It’s entirely possible that we would not have seen that kind of growth in access to education if Moodle had not existed. Yes, one or more other open source LMSs might have been adopted, but the existence of that Robin Hood sustainability engine built by Martin Dougiamas ensured that significant developer resources went to developing a high-quality globally adoptable LMS that could be deployed by even poor institutions. It has been an engine of educational growth.”

We have described Sakai, Claroline, and Chamilo as other open source LMS solutions, but they do not operate at the scale of Moodle.

The other big observation is that Moodle has continued to lose market share in every region – more so in North America recently and Oceania in 2015 & 2016 – an item we covered in a seriesof 2017 e-Literate posts. Part of the reason for this updated view is to see if these trends are changing. Initial views of the data indicate that the losses are slowing, at least temporarily.Looking at the source data, in North America, a good chunk of the decline in 2016 and 2017 was driven by system-wide decisions in the California Community Colleges and Remington College (a not-for-profit chain that spans multiple states). LMS data tend to be lumpy, and sometimes individual decisions can have big impacts on the market.

Despite these recent drops in market share, however, overall Moodle has a dominant global position and is persistent – dropping just 1.3% – 5.5% since 2014/15 peaks.

What About Last Summer’s Breakup Between Moodle and Blackboard?

We are planning a blog post very soon at e-Literate on the effects of the recent break-up between Moodle and Blackboard. Previously, Blackboard had been a Moodle Partner and its Moodlerooms platform was a key part of Blackboard’s international growth strategy. Moodlerooms also drove significant revenue for Moodle Pty, the company behind the open source  platform. Blackboard subsequently rebranded its open source Moodle product as Blackboard Open LMS and Moodle Pty. does not collect any revenue from the sale of that product. 

The short-term consequences of the Moodle/Blackboard breakup are likely to be minor for both organizations. Blackboard intends to keep import and export compatibility with Moodle. They are reporting some minor blowback—our characterization, not theirs—regionally, but overall, we don’t see signs that there will be a major customer exodus. And with their product surround strategy, they can innovate around the edges of the platform without needing the core to evolve much. For Moodle Pty, their relatively recent influx of investment money means that they can afford to burn some cash if they need time to recover from the revenue loss of Blackboard as a partner. For both organizations, their respective strategies may well carry them for a couple of years before there are major visible consequences of the split.

Thanks for subscribing, and we’ll share more updates soon. Expect a summary of announcements based on MoodleMoot and EDUCAUSE conferences over the next week.

Phil & Michael & O’Neal