Postscript on D2L Fusion and LMS Market Slowdown

In O’Neal’s post yesterday he noted that despite D2L’s continuing improvements in its Brightspace LMS and its consistent market approach, we are just not seeing significant market changes.

Our view has not changed. D2L has some good wins lately (including several we expect to be announced in the next two months), but their overall market share is not improving in the core North American higher ed market. Phil will address this point in a separate post.

In interviews at the D2L Fusion conference, company executives essentially stated that their sales pipeline is strong, and they’re not seeing any sign of a market slowdown. These points could use clarifications for those following the LMS market.

Sales Pipeline vs Market Share

For its part, D2L has some recent wins in North American higher education this summer, winning new clients over Canvas and Blackboard and Moodle 1 in competitive bids. These wins include the University of Rhode Island (moving from Sakai), Northeastern Technical College (moving from Moodle), and the Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health (moving from Jenzabar). In addition, we are aware of two large system wins (30,000+ students each) moving to D2L that we should be able to confirm within a month of two. I could see an argument of strong sales pipeline based on these wins and potential news ones this fall.

D2L is interesting, however, in that they are both winning and losing clients. Canvas in higher ed has only been winning new clients. Until the recent win with the Galileo Global Education, Blackboard had primarily been losing clients, where the primary question has been how fast these losses occur. Moodle is mostly losing schools or seeing them shift from self-hosting or mom-and-pop hosting to more professional cloud hosting. To get a sense of D2L’s market market wins and losses, consider the following two charts from our January 2019 LMS Market Analysis report show the migration of schools from one system to another during 2017-18.

LMS institutional migrations for 2017 - 18 in Europe & Latin America & Oceania, showing the previous and current systems.

Note that D2L is the second biggest winner of new LMS implementations for both North America (primarily from Blackboard and Pearson) and the combined three international regions we currently cover (primarily from Blackboard and Moodle). But in North America, D2L also had a number of losses – takeaways where schools moved (mostly to Canvas). This year is different in that D2L has stemmed from losing clients to another system. We are finishing our mid-year report and will have more data in August to share.

D2L’s bigger “loss”, however, is the case of campus closures largely due to their wins in the for-profit sector and the Pearson LearningStudio end-of-life. The largest example is the closure of the former EDMC institutions (renamed as the Dream Center after converting to nonprofit status), a 2017 win. The net effect of both types of losses is that D2L is not gaining market share in the global LMS market based on our data, despite being the second-most-selected system for new LMS implementations. We’ll have to watch to see if their recent wins and sales pipeline changes this dynamic.

Market Slowdown

Despite D2L’s statements during Fusion interviews, we stand by our position that there is indeed a general slowdown for academic LMS market, starting last summer and continuing today. We have performed additional analysis for our premium subscribers showing that the slowdown applies beyond North America (it includes Europe, Latin America, and Oceania, with the exception of Blackboard’s recent win with Galileo), and it applies at small, medium, and large enrollment bands of institutions.

Brian Peterson from Raymond James recently downgraded Instructure’s stock based on his company’s data – independent of ours but coming to the same conclusions.

Proprietary checks indicate a meaningful deceleration in large deal activity in the North American higher-ed learning management system (LMS) market in 2018, with a double-digit decline in the number of full-year students, Peterson said in the Monday downgrade note.

Despite this slowdown, Infrastructure’s Canvas LMS recorded an improvement in win rates in 2018, bagging the majority of large deals in the forth quarter, the analyst said.

A resurgence in higher ed deals in 2019 seems unlikely given the modest year-on-year deceleration in the deal activity pipeline, Peterson said.

Combined, the two issues of wins offset by losses and the market slowdown clarify the challenges that D2L faces in turning its product improvements and recents wins into meaningful improvements in market share.

Disclosure: D2L, Instructure, Blackboard, and Moodle HQ are all subscribers to our LMS Market Analysis service.

1 Disclosure: D2L, Instructure, Blackboard, and Moodle HQ are all subscribers to our LMS Market Analysis service.