Sometimes I get asked why I haven’t blogged about a certain new LMS or LMS-like product. To be honest, it seems like there is a new one every other week that is followed by another one shutting their doors. Everyone looks at the success of Coursera or Instructure or a few other recent start-ups and figures this success will happen with all new LMS ideas that come along. But the truth is, many of them just don’t make it very far.
I did get to look at some screenshots of the new Blackboard redesign recently – it seems like they are taking Facebook pretty seriously. Everything that I saw looks like it will be a social network for education. But they also thought their current version was user-friendly at one time (it never was), so you will have to excuse some skepticism on my part. The new Blackboard looked a bit like information overload to me – and I still saw some pop-up windows. One pop-up is just too much – use some AJAX already people.
I am currently taking a course in Schoology, and so far I like their interface. It seems to be missing some features here and there, but what they do have is easy to use from a student standpoint. I can’t speak for instructors or instructional designers, but I like it so far.
I also plan on keeping an eye on the Sensei project by WooThemes – they are building an open source LMS-ish project as a plugin to WordPress. If it works good and can be kept up to date, it could be an attractive option for schools to use as a content management system, blogging platform, and LMS all rolled into one.
Despite what others have said, Moodle is still out there and still gaining some ground (according to pesky statistics, that is.). Same can be said for Desire2Learn. Both are well-designed systems that could really use some big press right about now. I am hearing that some people who went with a newer LMS start-up are wishing they did their homework more and considered one of these two. Moodle and Desire2Learn definitely appeal to more select crowds, but once people really dig into them they tend to find that there is a lot to like that they never thought they needed, whereas there isn’t much depth (yet) to the start-ups – which is understandable.
But those are all just random thoughts about random LMS providers. Many industries that see as much as we have seen announced about new options and ideas tend to settle in for a long period of relative quiet. I don’t think that will be the case in the LMS realm. There are still many players that are just getting started (like Google). There are others (like Pearson) that have been around a bit but are really still just getting warmed up. Even Blackboard has pulled out some big surprises recently that makes people second guess where they think they are going. What will probably happen is that a few companies will try to beat Blackboard to the punch and jump out with their big announcements early. Then the new version of Blackboard will probably shock and surprise many. This will lead many others to hurry up and jump on the band wagon. Then companies like Instructure and others that have taken many steps to differentiate themselves from Blackboard will step-up and make some big announcements on just how different they are. Which is good – we need the diversity in the market.
So, in other words, if you think it is time to kick back and not pay attention to the LMS market, I think you are in for a bit of a jolt. Things aren’t going to slow down anytime soon.
Matt is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education and a Part-Time Instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously he worked as a Learning Innovation Researcher with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His work focuses on learning theory, Heutagogy, and learner agency. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.