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Why does an institution switch an LMS?

November 21, 2011 by Mary Ann Chappell Uncategorized  No Comments

Duke University compiled the following report that reviewed LMS reports from eight institutions looking at reasons for switching an LMS –

Learning Management System (LMS) Review:  Summary of Findings (December 2009)

The key ideas from this report include:

  • There is no clear trend to explain why institutions have chosen any particular Blackboard alternative.
  • Schools that move from a proprietary system to an open source system often do so for institutional reasons as much as for functionalities that faculty use.

Duke found  the following guidelines/recurring themes informed the selection process –

1. Flexibility and options for customization.

2. Support for multiple pedagogical approaches.

3. Ease of integration with campus services.

4. Multi-campus support or ability to configure system to support diverse programs.

5. Ability to brand the LMS in different ways for different purposes.

6. Reporting tools on system-wide usage for assessment and continuous improvement.

7. “Deal breaker” requirements – requirements that must be met. Prioritize others (important vs. nice-to-have, for example).

8. Exit strategy (if company or supporting organization folds or becomes otherwise unsustainable).


The Duke report was completed in December 2009.  Since it was issued, there have been a number of significant developments in the LMS marketplace including:

  • The end of the Blackboard lawsuit against Desire2Learn.
  • The introduction of Instructure Canvas and other software-as-a-service (SAAS) learning management systems.
  • Perdue University’s use of data from LMS to develop Signals, an application  for detecting early warning signs and providing  intervention to under-performing students.
  • Blackboard’s continual lost of market share to  just above 50 percent of the LMS market according to the  2011 Campus Computing Survey.
  • The acquisition of Blackboard by Providence Equity Partners in October 2011.
To update the Duke Learning Management System (LMS) Review, the group decided to review public LMS selection reports issued after December 2009.  The objective was to see of the key ideas and guidelines identified in the Duke report still apply or whether new ideas or guidelines have emerged.
The online documentation from the following schools were included in this review:
Systems considered:  Blackboard 9, Desire2Learn, Canvas, MoodleRooms
Decision:  Canvas
Systems considered:  Blackboard 9, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Pearson, Sakai
Decision:  Desire2Learn
Systems considered:  Cascade, Sakai, Blackboard 9, Moodle, Desire2Learn
Decision:  Sakia
Systems considered:  Blackboard 9, Moodle
Decision:  Blackboard 9
Systems considered:  Blackboard 9, Desire2Learn, Pearson, TimeCruiser, Epsilen, Moodlerooms (commercial Moodle provider), Sakai
Decision:  Moodlerooms
The analysis of these reports continues to support the key idea of the Duke report.  There is no clear trend to explain why institutions select a particular LMS.

Looking at the final evaluation criteria used to evaluate the vendor proposals did reveal some new preferred requirements including:

  • Mobile access from a wide variety of mobile devices(phones, mobile apps, iPad, etc.) and providers
  • Push or subscriber messaging services


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