Blackboard to sell open-source LMS platform for $32M

Dive Brief:

  • Blackboard announced Tuesday it plans to sell its Open LMS business to the London-based Learning Technologies Group Plc (LTG) for $31.7 million.
  • As part of the deal, Blackboard’s chief learning and innovation officer, Phillip Miller, will lead the Open LMS business at LTG. 
  • The sale will help Blackboard “simplify its business” and move customers to its Blackboard Learn and Ultra learning management system (LMS) offerings, according to a statement from the company.

Dive Insight:

Open LMS is a software-as-a-service platform based on Moodle, an open-source LMS. By offloading the unit, Blackboard is shifting away from the open-source LMS market it once sought to serve.

Meanwhile, for LTG, the acquisition is “a significant step” toward growing its position in the Moodle marketplace, the company said in a statement.

Blackboard will continue to give existing Open LMS clients access to its products that fully integrate with the platform, such as tools to help offer classes remotely and make course content more accessible. LTG, which is focused on educational technologies for the workplace, said it will protect students’ data privacy. 

The move comes as Canvas, an open-source LMS, overtakes Blackboard in its share of the North American market with 35% and 31%, respectively, of student enrollments, according to a 2019 analysis by consulting firm MindWires. D2L’s Brightspace follows at 14%, while Moodle has a 12% share.

In a blog post discussing the change, Miller touted Blackboard’s role in Moodle’s growth by developing its own implementations of the system at scale. However, as EdSurge reported, some observers question whether Blackboard fully supported the open-source option. 

Meanwhile, the ed tech landscape is experiencing more consolidation, ed tech consultant Phil Hill wrote in a blog post this week discussing Blackboard’s decision. “To a large degree,” he wrote, “this is a trend of EdTech hype shifting into a corporate reality. A shift from the primacy of an exciting story to a need for profitability and sustainability.”

Instructure, which owns Canvas, faces the prospect of going private amid pressure from investors. The company recently purchased the digital portfolio company Portfolium to integrate with Canvas. 

Activist investors are also pushing online program manager 2U to consider a sale. It has picked up companies in the last two years to expand its services offerings.

And Wiley bought a technology training provider earlier this year to help it address the growing demand for tech skills training.

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