Canvas Instructure and the de-commodification of the LMS

One of the oddest yet most exciting stories of the past year or so is how the LMS, which had sunk to the level of a utility, has suddenly been revived. There’s a common path software takes, where it moves from a feature and performance war cycle slowly into a commodity cycle where the product competes only on price. If you had looked at the market 18 months ago, I think you might have assumed that was where the LMS wars had ended up.

But, as it turns out, the real discussion had hardly begun. The LMS wars had all been on Blackboard’s turf —  as David Wiley has pointed out, they exhibited the classic attributes of “Hat Fail”. Instead of managing the interaction piece of learning — the individual path of students through the course — they conceptualized themselves as content repositories, and became irrelevant as both quality content and quality content publishing approached zero cost. 

That’s why I’m so excited about Canvas. It’s not what Canvas is, but what it represents — a re-conceptualization of a Learning Management System and what it can be. When you look at the analytics mockups above, you realize that we’ve hardly scratched the surface here — there’s a lot of amazing stuff ahead, in the very near future.

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