LMS Decommissions: A view of lost clients and campus closures

One theme of our coverage of the academic LMS market over the past 1 – 2 years, both at e-Literate and in this blog, continues to be worth watching:

there are strong arguments that company financial health in 2018 / 19 for the providers will continue to have an outsized impact on the future of LMS offerings.

Both posts linked above described the overall market slowdown – where there has been a significantly lower number of LMS switches – that we first described to our LMS market analysis subscribers just over a year ago and in the blog starting this year. Our updated data over the summer shows no signs of the slowdown ending.

Another issue to consider is not just who is winning and how often, but from the opposite side. Who is losing LMS clients? Let’s first look at the US and Canada for LMS switches since the beginning of 2017, from our report this summer. The left side shows the previous campus LMS, measured by number of institutions, and the right side shows the new LMS.

LMS migrations in North American higher education from 2017 - mid 2019, showing the previous LMS on left side and new LMS on right.

Blackboard Learn lost the largest number of campuses, followed by Pearson LearningStudio and Moodle, then by D2L Brightspace and Homegrown and Sakai.

When looking at company finances, however, it is important to expand this view. One expansion is to look at global regions beyond North America. Another expansion is to include campus closures as a source of losses in addition to switches. The following chart shows the percentage of decommissions each calendar year in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania combined (but note that North American numbers are the largest portion of these numbers). Decommissions is a combination of switches and closures, and the percentage is calculated on a per-year basis.

We see that two LMS end-of-life situations created by Blackboard acquisitions (where bought their competitor and eventually cut off the product line) were huge factors through 2015. WebCT was acquired in 2006 and shut down by 2013. ANGEL was acquired in 2009 and shut down in 2016.

Blackboard Learn has consistently lost customers since mid 2000s, with roughly 27 – 36% of decommissions each year coming from this solution recently. While Blackboard is the primary beneficiary of the LMS market slowdown, and its improved performance is clearly one of the causes of that trend, when looking at the data it is clear that they are still a big source of LMS losses. Consider their recent loss of long-time clients Purdue University and Princeton University. They also are at risk from several high-enrollment systems expected to complete LMS evaluation processes this year and next.

One of the most remarkable stories in EdTech is that Instructure has not lost a single Canvas higher education client due to an LMS switch. 1 But Instructure has lost clients due to campus closures, particularly from Education Corporation of America (two systems shut down) and secondarily from DeVry University (several campuses closed), mostly in 2018.

D2L Brightspace has lost a relatively small number of clients over the years, but their LMS decommissions ramped up in 2018 and 2019, largely due to campus closures. They were particularly hard hit by the closure of Dream Center systems (Art Institutes, South University, and Argosy University, all acquired from the for-profit EDMC).

Moodle has lost a consistent number of clients over the years, particularly in North America, despite it having the largest installed base worldwide. We documented a broader look at the overall changes in Open Source systems recently.

Pearson LearningStudio, formerly known as eCollege, was popular with for-profit chains and with some nonprofit fully-online programs, but Pearson shut down that system by the end of 2017.

Sakai has slowly but steadily lost clients for years, and it continues to do so with recent decisions at the University of Rhode Island and UC Davis, and potentially with several other decisions expected within the next year.

Every LMS provider loses clients, and these losses are important to understand in terms of the organization’s financial health. If you’re interested in seeing more information on the data behind these charts, we have them available with our LMS Market Analysis service.

1 In terms of primary systems available campus-wide in higher ed. They have lost two K-12 clients to Schoology.