By Jeremy Auger | Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
A View on Recent Industry Activity
Ok so I'm a day late... Lots going on at Desire2Learn, and seemingly at some of our competitors! I've gotten many inquiries as to my thoughts on Blackboard's acquisition of Moodlerooms and NetSpot, so I figured I'd join the fray by posting here. I've had some time to think about what this means for us, and what it means for them... and while I've come to a few conclusions, mostly what happens (here comes the cliché) still remains to be seen.
At the end of the day, its business as usual for us at Desire2Learn. We've seen this before – a few times, actually. Prometheus, WebCT, and Angel all come to mind. And while making these acquisitions certainly helps with their apparent focus on market share and incremental revenue, I think the real focus needs to remain on the advancement of teaching and learning, and improving the experience for our clients. This remains our focus as does our commitment to being a long-term trusted partner to our clients.
Predictions are tough and distracting. We all know that the integration of different people and platforms is difficult for any company who acquires a new technology built as a completely separate entity. The reality is that there remains a customer base out there right now wondering: "what's next?". We know that a lot more comes with a vendor relationship than just the pure technology. The corporate culture, the support, and the vision are all things our clients think about - as they should. It's not just an investment in technology, it's a partnership. I can't help feel a bit uncomfortable with the state of the LMS industry overall. There's lots of talk out there about the LMS being "commoditized", or in some extreme views "dead". I don't believe this at all. And I don't believe Desire2Learn should make any change in our direction.
First, we've mostly abandoned the use of the term LMS. We believe the traditional LMS functionality of yesteryear has become table stakes. Putting some courseware online and doing a quiz is no longer enough. A true learning environment, built for the purpose of advancing teaching and learning, dealing with serious issues of scale and student outcomes, supporting multiple modes of learning, addressing accessibility concerns, and generally tapping into the plethora of people and information out there in a meaningful way, is still a hugely important task. Advancements such as these won't just happen on their own. Investments in R&D have to be made, and new methods for improving learning have to be discovered. This doesn't happen through the consolidation of industry. For many of these acquired vendors, market competition, the drive to differentiate, and knowing there were alternatives if their clients weren't happy, is likely what drove their investment in R&D. While all this integration and disruption happens, focus is removed from making advancements. And with less choice for customers, there's less pressure for differentiation which is usually at the heart of innovation. So, while I don't think yesterday's news is by any means the death of the LMS, it does remind me just how important the focus on innovation and customers is; especially in something as important as our education system.
As always, we're interested in understanding your thoughts on this so please send along any of your comments and questions.
CTO & Executive VP
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