LMS Conference Lookout - Anthology and Instructure

What we're looking for at the upcoming LMS users conferences

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We have several LMS conferences coming up when we should get insights into LMS roadmaps and insights from customers. The conferences we’re attending in date order:

From the LMS archives, Blackboard was the market leader in the early 2010s, and it was BbWorld 2011 at the Venetian in Las Vegas when the Instructure folks set up a guerrilla conference at the VBar, handing out Canvas tee shirts and having a good time. It is now Instructure that is the market leader holding its users conference at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Full circle stuff here. I endorse Morgan’s suggestion that Anthology should at least book a table at the VBar on July 10th!

Here are some questions that Morgan and I have ahead of the conferences.

Anthology Together (Bb Learn)

Buried in the news under Canadian hyper-sensitivity to sharing information is another full-circle story. Centennial College, located on the northeast side of Toronto with ~45,000 students (the oldest of the Ontario Colleges), was a Blackboard client from 1998 through 2011, when the school moved to Desire2Learn (using historical names here). Centennial remained on D2L Brightspace from 2011 - 2024, but it has been announced that after an LMS Request for Proposal (RFP) evaluation process, the school is moving (back) to Anthology Bb Learn Ultra. This is the biggest Bb Learn win in North America since the University of Phoenix in early 2016.

Unfortunately, no one is willing to talk publicly beyond the official press releases. I have done some research but am unable to share much of what I learned. But I will say that the press release appears accurate in its descriptions.

  • Anthology won in part due to its generative AI strategy, including the AI Design Assistant and the product’s roadmap.

  • Anthology was judged to have the best mobile experience from a student perspective, which also influenced the selection.

  • I will add that price was a factor. Enough said.

Our biggest questions:

  • Is Centennial College a one-off new logo win for Bb Learn LMS, or are there others in the pipeline to counteract losses?

  • How are clients reacting to the AI tools - not just the roadmap but actual usage - and how will Anthology make this usage financially viable (AI is not free in terms of costs)?

  • Will Anthology have meaningful improvements that take advantage of its data capabilities (particularly by having SIS, CRM, and LMS products)?


With these full-circle stories, we now consider Instructure as the opposite of Anthology (or more precisely 180 degrees out of phase). Instructure Canvas has been the market leader in new logo wins globally for years and is the clear market leader in North America with a very small handful of client losses. That is quite a contrast from Anthology. However, Canvas is a successful product line in search of an actual roadmap.

The only real news item of Canvas improvements over the past year is the addition of offline abilities in the Canvas student mobile app. That is an improvement, but all of the Canvas major competitors already have some form of offline capabilities.

Instructure promises news on the AI front for the conference.

Front and center will be the unveiling of several new AI-driven innovations to provide more customized, intuitive learner-educator experiences.

The company appears to be very well-run, with solid financial performance and with meaningful acquisitions, particularly with Parchment. That acquisition not only adds a growing company with meaningful revenue (~ $115 million), but it also adds capabilities to Instructure’s overall ecosystem to support non-traditional and lifelong learners, which is key to many university strategies.

Our biggest questions:

  • Will Instructure be able to meaningful differentiate it’s overall product ecosystem based on the addition of Parchment, or is it too soon given the February 1st completion of the deal?

  • Will Instructure continue to focus most product improvements to its ecosystem rather than meaningful roadmap changes for its Canvas LMS? Will the front-and-center AI capabilities be substantial?

  • We have heard many clients online refer to this lack of roadmap as a concern, but will we hear meaningful grumbling at the conference?

Coming Soon

We will share another post describing what we’ll be looking for at the D2L Fusion and MoodleMoot Global conferences. And two new LMS market share visualizations for our premium subscribers.

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