In this month’s subscriber newsletter we share what we’re hearing at the EDUCAUSE conference and share updates on the LMS Market Slowdown.


This event used to be *the* conference for EdTech, leading to big product news from LMS vendors each year. This situation has changed, where the big news predominantly comes during each vendor’s users conference, but there are still some interesting updates that we heard in Chicago this week.

We present this news with only light commentary, so expect the descriptions below to be mostly positive messages. Later this month we’ll take a harder look at market progress.

Blackboard Learn

Blackboard continues to make progress on its Learn Ultra adoptions, as they are now up to 187 schools worldwide (up from 173 in July), with roughly the same proportions as reported this summer – half using Base Navigation only, a quarter using Navigation and some Ultra course views, and a quarter using Navigation and all Ultra course views. The latter number is somewhat aspirational, as several clients listed as full Ultra are starting institution-wide Ultra usage this term or at the end of the calendar year, but the point remains that Ultra is fully in production and growing now.

The broader Learn SaaS adoption continues to increase, with the company now reporting 620 clients worldwide with this deployment model (up from 586 in July).

Recently we included Blackboard on our Online Program Management (OPM) chart, and this area continues to grow (whereas core LMS continues to decline). It is not well know how Blackboard currently offers pretty much the full suite of OPM service in an unbundled fee-for-service basis, including the upfront pieces of market research, marketing, enrollment support, full call center usage. The company’s booth message seemed to be more aligned with this broader set of services.

D2L Brightspace

The biggest news for D2L is that they have essentially completed their multi-year migration to the cloud for their LMS offering. There is only one Brightspace client remaining that is not using SaaS hosting (through AWS), and that client (Deakin University in Australia) is migrating in early 2020. Additionally, D2L has closed all company-run data centers.

This progress is significant, in combination with the company’s Continuous Delivery model, moving them to primarily one code base. One of the benefits of a cloud strategy is the simplification of not having to support multiple code versions, configurations, and hosting instances – a regression-testing nightmare.

D2L did not have significant product news at the conference (their press release on the cloud migration has yet to be released), but the company continues with their partnership message. As we described this summer:

“A further area of differentiation is that D2L’s leadership team was fairly explicit that they do not think of themselves, nor do they want to be thought of, as a software company. They prefer to think of, and position, D2L as a learning company and a partner in learning (an approach and even phrasing that they share with Blackboard).  Partially by design, and partially by coincidence, this self-image and projection is in direct contrast to Instructure who entered the market explicitly as a software company.”

Note that we also included D2L in our OPM chart, based on their growing set of services.


After the Portfolium acquisition earlier this year, it was not yet clear how Instructure planned to integrate that product with Canvas, both from a software perspective and a revenue perspective. We have more clarity based on EDUCAUSE news from the company.

“The combined capabilities allow students to showcase their achievements, projects, and competencies to potential employers. Students can create a Folio from inside the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) that will link to the Portfolium Network and follow them throughout their academic and professional careers, serving as an expanded resume or CV.”

The Portfolium Network  – essentially the underlying platform from the acquisition – is free for Canvas users, thus answering a question from earlier this year about monetization. In addition, Instructure has changed branding on addition services, now labeling them as Canvas, for additional charges: Folio Management, Pathways, Talent Match, Outcomes Assessment.

In additional product news, Instructure announced the integration of Canvas with Microsoft’s Immersive Reader.

Immersive Reader demonstrably improves reading comprehension through tools that read text out loud, break it into syllables, and increase spacing between lines and letters. It offers text decoding solutions for students with learning differences such as dyslexia. The learning tool encourages independent reading and provides a teaching aid that helps teachers support students with learning differences.”

Market Slowdown Update

In our mid-year LMS Market report this summer, we described the ongoing slowdown in terms of the number of LMS switches occurring each year, concluding:

“The next few months are likely to shape the trajectory of the market for the rest of the year. The summer and early fall is when we are most likely to observe new institutional decisions made during the Spring academic term. It is also a peak for schools completing a migration. For now, the slowdown continues, but watch for updates in the coming months as more data becomes available.”

We now have updated data through September, 2019, and it is clear that the LMS market slowdown continues. Keep in mind, that we are using Trailing 12 Month data, so some of the recent drops come from changes started last summer. But the key point is that we see no signs of a reversal of the market slowdown.

With that situation in mind, however, it is worth noting that there are several large system LMS evaluations in progress: Texas A&M, City University of New York (CUNY), and State University of New York (SUNY). We believe SUNY evaluation is expected to be a centralized system decision that will occur in 2020.

If anyone has updates or insights on these evaluations, including corrections, please send a note to

We have some broader market updates – beyond just conference news – that we will share later this month.

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The MindWires Team