On April 1, long-time eCollege (aka Pearson's LearningStudio) customer Texas Christian University (TCU) gave an update on their LMS selection process to the student newspaper TCU360. In this article there was an interesting statement1 worth exploring [emphasis added].
"eCollege" will soon be a thing of the past.
TCU has narrowed its search for a Learning Management System to two platforms, Blackboard and Desire2Learn (D2L).
“We’ve had feedback, from faculty specifically, that it’s time for change,” Assistant Provost of Educational Technology and Faculty Development Romy Hughes said.
TCU has used Pearson’s Learning Studio system since 1999.
“Pearson is out of the learning management system game,” Hughes said. “We need something to evolve with the Academy of Tomorrow and where we’re moving to at TCU.”
That last comment got my attention. The eCollege / LearningStudio platform has been around for a long time, and there have been questions about where Pearson was going in the LMS market based on 2011's introduction of OpenClass. Would OpenClass replace LearningStudio over time, and would it strongly change the LMS market? Would both OpenClass and LearningStudio continue as standalone LMS products? It is quite clear by now that OpenClass itself has not changed the market, but LearningStudio has a long-time customer base of fully online programs - many in the for-profit sector.
The overarching idea was that our investments should be driven towards those products which deliver the highest impact for learners while sustaining us financially so we can continue to invest in new models and improvements.
There is a question of whether Pearson's internal reviews around LearningStudio and OpenClass are leading to strategic changes around their position in the LMS market.
I asked for Pearson to provide official comment, and David Daniels, president of Pearson Education, responded with the following clarification.
Pearson has not left the LMS space and will continue to invest in our current generation MyLabs and support our many customers on LearningStudio into the future. Pearson's Learning Studio still powers over 3 Million enrollments annually in the fully remote, online learning space. Our commitment to servicing these students and their institutions is unwavering. Our focus has been and will be on how we support these students within the learning environment. Our range of support services includes learning design and assessment support, integration, data and analytics , student retention, tutoring, and technical support.
This statement is quite clear that there is no imminent end-of-life for LearningStudio, and it is also quite clear about their focus on the "fully remote, online learning space". This system is primarily used by fully online programs, but there have been a handful of campus-wide clients such as TCU still using the system from the early days. That Pearson LearningStudio would not be appropriate for TCU's future is partially explained by this focus on full online.
The statement does make an interesting distinction, however, between investing in MyLabs and supporting LearningStudio. My read is that Pearson is not investing in LearningStudio in terms of major product advances and next generation plans but is continuing to fully support current customers. My read is also that Pearson would add new customers to LearningStudio if part of a broader deal tied to content or online "enabling" services (such as Embanet), but that there is no plan for the company to compete in pure LMS competitions.
To help back up this reading, I discovered that the TCU360 article was updated as follows:
“Pearson is out of the learning management system game,” Hughes said. “We need something to evolve with the Academy of Tomorrow and where we’re moving to at TCU.”Hughes said Pearson withdrew from the LMS search process for TCU but remains an LMS provider.
At TCU, at least, the competition is down to Blackboard and D2L, with D2L in the driver's seat. This competition is also notable by Canvas not being one of the finalists (haven't seen this situation lately).
One final note on TCU's selection process described in the article.
These percentages were based on a 214-item questionnaire called the Review Request for Information (RFI) document. These questions were used to assess whether or not a system had the features that TCU was looking for.
“Most LMS vendors told us it took them exactly three months to complete [the questionnaire] because there were so many specific details we were looking for,” Hughes said.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - making a strategic platform selection by a laundry list of hundreds of detailed feature requirements is not a healthy process. I would not brag that it took vendors three full months to complete a questionnaire. But we have one more example to clarify Michael's classic "Dammit, the LMS" post.
Do you want to know why the LMS has barely evolved at all over the last twenty years and will probably barely evolve at all over the next twenty years? It’s not because the terrible, horrible, no-good LMS vendors are trying to suck the blood out of the poor universities. It’s not because the terrible, horrible, no-good university administrators are trying to build a panopticon in which they can oppress the faculty. The reason that we get more of the same year after year is that, year after year, when faculty are given an opportunity to ask for what they want, they ask for more of the same.
I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of those 214 items in the RFI are detailed features or direct derivatives of what TCU already has. Even if I'm wrong, it makes little sense for a school to specify the future with detailed requirements; they're selecting a vendor, not specifying a new design. I wish TCU the best in their LMS selection process, but I would recommend that they put more emphasis on strategic analysis and less on counting check-boxes.
By Phil Hill
- Statement from the original article before it was updated. [↩]