All About LMSs

Introduction to LMSs

When engaging in this lesson, be sure to do the following:

  • Follow the links that you are directed to in each section
  • View the videos in their entirety
  • Use the questions to prompt your thinking in your Reflection and Participation Journal

What are common LMSs?  Which systems are most often used in the marketplace of higher education, and how have those LMS adoptions trended over time?  In the below graph from the good folks at e-Literate, you’ll notice how different systems have been acquired by other companies over time, what companies have grown in adoptions, which have shrunk, which have remained stable.

Tree icon denoting reflection journalWhat LMSs have you used in the past 10 years?  Just one or several?  How many of these have you heard about?  Reflect on this in your journal.

LMS Market Share 2017 from:

Let’s take a look at some of the bigger companies in the graphic.

Each title is hyperlinked to the company’s website.  Be sure to go there and poke around a bit.  Generate some questions about each company to add to your Reflection Journal.


Blackboard (commonly known as “Blackborg” because it has grown through acquisition and “resistance is futile”) is still the dominant force in the marketplace, though it is losing some clients to Canvas, D2L and others.

There can be a difference between how you experience the LMS and how the LMS company sees itself.  Check out the below video.  The claims made CAN be done in Blackboard, however much of the functionality that supports the types of interaction that they’re talking about doesn’t happen in a way that consumer technology does.  As an example, the blog functionality in Learn 9.1 is very unlike any contemporary blog you’ll see.  Blackboard is attempting to address some of these challenges with Blackboard Ultra.

Video Icon Watch the below video from Blackboard about Blackboard.  Has this been similar to your experiences in the Blackboard environment?

Brightspace by D2L

Brightspace by Desire2Learn has been around for a while, but over the past few years has totally updated its look, feel, and functionality.  Check out the link above to review their website.  Then watch the navigation video below (this is designed for a student.)  What are the main user interface differences that you note?  (Hint:  if you don’t know what UI is, add that to your eLearning glossary!)  Does this seem more or less intuitive than Blackboard?

Video Icon Watch the video below on Brightspace by D2L.


Video IconCanvas has been growing in the LMS marketplace, dominating new adoptions.  Watch the below video on Canvas.

Take a moment and check out Canvas’s “About Us” page.  Notice some stylistic differences from Blackboard and Brightspace?  Be sure to note in your Reflection Journal what specific components are unique to Canvas (for example, are they open source?)  What is emphasized on their site, and how does that diverge from Blackboard and Brightspace?


Video IconAnd now, onto our other sort of “truly open” open source LMSs.  The first, and largest, is Moodle.  Moodle still has the largest market share worldwide.  Watch the below video on Moodle.


Moodle has a great demo site, so you’re going to check it out in action!  Go here: and follow the directions to login as a student.  Once you’re there, click on the name “Barbara Gardner” in the upper right-hand corner, and then on “dashboard.”  From there, pick a class and explore!  

Tree icon denoting reflection journalMake notes in your Reflection Journal about what you see, what you like, what you don’t like!  It’s a great way to check out what the student experience actually looks and feels like.


Sakai Project was originally funded by the Mellon Foundation and founded by four universities – University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT and Stanford.  It was released in March of 2005.  It has been widely use nationally and internationally, and is now supported by The Apereo Foundation following a merger with the Sakai Foundation and Jasig.

Video Icon  It, like Moodle, has an open source community supporting it.  Be sure to understand what open source means!  Check out this brief video on Sakai.


Who are “other?”  There are a bevy of other LMSs that are gaining traction, are in development, or are coming up from K-12 environments.  Let’s look at a few of them.  C


Click on each link below and explore the website for that LMS.  Note in your Reflection Journal what seems to be unique or different about that system.

So what comes next?  Let’s talk about interoperability, and look ahead to the…. future eLearning ecosystem.

What now?  Let’s look at the

Play icon indicating proceed to next pageThe Importance of Interoperability (page 3)…


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