At today’s Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2015 conference (#LAK15), Charles Severance (aka Dr. Chuck) gave the morning keynote organized around the theme of going back in time to see what people (myself and Richard Katz primarily) were forecasting for education. By looking at the reality of 2015, we can see which forecasts were on track and which were not. I like this concept, as it is useful to go back and see what we got right and wrong, so this post is meant to provide some additional context particularly for LMS market. Chuck’s keynote also gives cover for doing so without seeming too self-absorbed.
But enough about me. What do you think about me?
I use the term forecast since I tend to describe patterns and trends and then try to describe the implications. This is different than the Katz video which aimed to make specific predictions as a thought-provoking device.
I introduced the LMS squid diagram in 2008 as a tool to help people see the LMS market holistically rather than focusing on detailed features. Too much of campus evaluations then (and even now) missed the big picture that there were only a handful of vendors and some significant market dynamics at play.
A 2009 presentation, by the way, was the basis for Michael and me connecting for the first time. Bromance.
In early 2011 I wrote a post on Visigoths at the LMS Gates, noting:
I am less inclined to rely on straight-line projections of market data to look ahead, and am more inclined to think the market changes we are seeing are driven by outside forces with potentially nonlinear effects. Rome may have been weakened from within, but when real change happened, the Visigoths made it happen. [snip]
Today, there is a flood of new money into the educational technology market. In addition to the potential acquisition of Blackboard, Instructure just raised $8M in venture funding and vying for the role of Alaric in their marketing position, Pearson has been heavily investing in Learning Studio (eCollege for you old-timers), and Moodlerooms raised $7+M in venture funding. Publishing companies, ERP vendors, private equity, venture funding – these are major disruptive forces. And there is still significant moves being made by technology companies such as Google.
In August I started blogging at e-Literate with this post on Emerging Trends in LMS / Ed Tech Market. The trends I described (summary here, see post for full description):
From my viewpoint in 2011, the market has essentially moved beyond Blackboard as the dominant player driving most of the market dynamics.
- The market is more competitive, with more options, than it has been for years.
- Related to the above, there is a trend towards software as a service (SaaS) models for new LMS solutions.
- Also related to the above, the market is demanding and getting real Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 advances in LMS user interfaces and functionality. We are starting to see some real improvements in usability in the LMS market.
- The lines are blurring between content delivery systems (e.g. Cengage MindTap, Pearson MyLabs, etc) and LMS.
- Along those same lines, it is also interesting in what is not being seen as a strategic blurring of lines – between LMS and student information systems.
- Analytics and data reporting are not just aspirational goals for LMS deployments, but real requirements driven by real deadlines.
Looking back at the 2011 posts, I would note the following:
- I think all of the basic trends have proven to be accurate, although I over-stated the analytics importance of “real requirements driven by real deadlines”. Analytics are important and some schools have real requirements, but for most schools analytics is not far beyond “aspirational goals”.
- Chuck over-interpreted the “it’s all about MyLabs”. The real point is the blurring of lines between previously distinct categories of delivery platforms and digital content. I would argue that the courseware movement as well as most CBE platforms shows this impact in 2015. MyLabs was just an example in the graphic.
- My main message about outside forces was that the internal players (Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, etc) were not going to be the source of change, rather “new competitors and new dynamics” would force change. Through the graphic, I over-emphasized the ERP and big tech players (Oracle, Google, Pearson & eCollege, etc) while I under-emphasized Instructure, which has proven to be the biggest source of change (although driven by VC funding).
- I still like the Rome / Visigoths / Alaric metaphor.
In early 2012 I had a post Farewell to the Enterprise LMS, Greetings to the Learning Platform that formed the basis of the forecasts Chuck commented on in the LAK15 keynote.
In my opinion, when we look back on market changes, 2011 will stand out as the year when the LMS market passed the point of no return and changed forever. What we are now seeing are some real signs of what the future market will look like, and the actual definition of the market is changing. We are going from an enterprise LMS market to a learning platform market.
In a second post I defined the characteristics of a Learning Platform (or what I meant by the term):
- Learning Platforms are next-generation technology compared to legacy LMS solutions arising in the late 1990’s / early 2000’s. While many features are shared between legacy LMS and learning platforms, the core designs are not constrained by the course-centric, walled-garden approach pioneered by earlier generations.
- Learning Platforms tend to be SaaS (software as a service) offerings, based in a public or private cloud on multi-tenant designs. Rather than being viewed as an enterprise application to be set up as a customized instance for each institution, there is a shared platform that supports multiple customers, leveraging a shared technology stack, database, and application web services.
- Learning Platforms are intended to support and interoperate with multiple learning and social applications, and not just as extensions to the enterprise system, but as a core design consideration.
- Learning Platforms are designed around the learner, giving a sense of identify that is maintained throughout the learning lifecycle. Learners are not just pre-defined roles with access levels within each course, but central actors in the system design.
- Learning Platforms therefore are social in nature, supporting connections between learners and customization of content based on learner needs.
- Learning Platforms include built-in analytics based on the amalgamation of learner data across courses, across institutions, and even beyond institutions.
- Learning Platforms allow for the discovery of instructional content, user-generated content, and of other learners.
Going back to the Farewell post, the forecast was:
Another trend that is becoming apparent is that many of the new offerings are not attempting to fully replace the legacy LMS, at least all at once. Rather than competing with all of the possible features that are typical in enterprise LMS solutions, the new platforms appear to target specific institutional problems and offer only the features needed. Perhaps inspired by Apple’s success in offering elegant solutions at the expense of offering all the features, or perhaps inspired by Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation model, the new learning platform providers are perfectly willing to say ‘no – we just don’t offer this feature or that feature’.
Looking back at the 2012 posts, I would note the following:
- I still see the move from enterprise LMS to learning platform, but it is happening slower than I might have thought and more unevenly. The attributes of SaaS and fewer features has happened (witness Canvas in particular), and the interoperability capabilities are occurring (with special thanks to Chuck and his work with IMS developing LTI). However, the adoption and true usage of multiple learning and social applications connected through the platform is quite slow.
- The attributes of learner-centric design built-in analytics can be seen in many of the CBE platforms, but not really in the general LMS market itself.
2013 / 2014
In 2013 and 2014 I updated the LMS squid graphic.
- Chuck was right to point out the revision that I no longer included the outside forces of ERP & big tech. The key point of 2011 forecasts was outside forces making changes, but by 2013 it was clear that ERP & big tech were not part of this change.
- There is also a big addition of homegrown solutions, or alternative learning platforms that is worth noting. The entrance of so new CBE platforms designed from the ground up for a specific purposes is an example of this trend.
Thanks to Chuck, this has been informative (to me, at least) to go back and review forecasts and see what I got right and what I got wrong. Chuck’s general point on my forecasts seem to be that I am over-emphasizing the emergence of learning platforms at least as a distinct category from enterprise LMS, and that we’re still seeing LMS market although with changed internals (fewer features, more interoperability). I don’t disagree with this point (if I am summarizing accurately). However, if you read the actual forecasts above, I don’t think Chuck and I are too far apart. I may be more optimistic than he is and need to clarify my terminology somewhat, but we’re in the same ball park.
Now let’s turn the tables. My main critique with Dr. Chuck’s keynote is that he just didn’t commit on the song. We know he is willing to boldly sing, after all (skip ahead to 1:29).
Update: Clarified language on LTI spec
Phil I’ve been following your and Michael’s posts for years. Thank you for the overview (and all your many contributions).
Here’s a question: At what point, if ever, do the leading LMS systems (transitioning to lean, core-feature, intuitive, learning platforms) pull a Netflix and start developing their own content that competes with the MyLabs of the world.
If that happens (and I suppose that’s a big if) will the big publishers, as currently constituted, have the mojo to keep up with the pace of development (ever leaner, ever more intuitive, ever more problem-focused deployment platforms) being driven by companies like Instructure? From your vantage point, is that even a slice of pie Instructure and Blackboard want to sample?
I suppose the questions I’m really asking here is “Are two industries that have historically been on parallel paths now on a collision course? And, if so, what’s the likely timeline?
Phil Hill says
David, I think the two industries already have been colliding through the courseware movement.
Courseware combines content with leaner, more intuitive platforms. The primary players so far are publishing companies (both the big ones and the niche providers) and even competency-based learning platforms. Both sets of platforms (at least newer generation) have some very usable designs.
The mainstream LMS providers (Instructure, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L, Sakai, etc) have not shown a big interest (at least lately) in adding content to their platform. Blackboard talked about it years ago, but I didn’t see that as more than dipping toe in the water.
You could argue that the commercial MOOCS are courseware providers through their own brands. At one point they even claimed to be considering a courseware for sale approach.
Long-winded answer to say that industries are on collision course, even if not publicly acknowledged (most courseware providers tout their integration into an LMS, even if that is redundant). But LMS providers adding content is not the source of the overlap.