Education

Moodle completes acquisitions, launching services platform

Dive Brief:

  • Moodle, an open-source learning management system provider, completed an acquisition and merger of three companies, it said Monday. Moodle is using the acquisitions to create a new services company called Moodle US.
  • Moodle US will offer services including custom development, learning design, scalable hosting solutions, and implementation, training and support for Moodle products.
  • The new entity is being led by Jonathan Moore, who co-founded My Learning Consultants, one of the three companies Moodle acquired.

Dive Insight:

Moodle announced in April that it was acquiring and merging the three companies: My Learning Consultants, Moonami Learning Solutions and Elearning Experts. The three were Moodle partner companies, meaning they were certified to provide services to schools using Moodle products.

Clients in every industry need vendors to help them implement open-source software packages, said Daniel Pianko, managing director at Achieve Partners, a private-equity firm focused on the future of learning and earning. Higher education is no different.

The acquisitions set up Moodle to provide services under its own brand to customers like schools and colleges that use its LMS, instead of relying on partners. It potentially sets up a competition between Moodle US and other Moodle service providers like Open LMS, a Moodle-based software-as-a-service platform that Blackboard sold in 2020 to move away from the open-source LMS market.

Moodle officials cast the acquisition as a way to improve service levels for U.S. customers and set the company up to directly contact customers to improve products more quickly. Moore said in a statement he was excited by “opportunities to use our new scale to provide a very high level of quality Moodle services.”

The question of scale and size is key for Moodle. When it announced the three acquisitions, it found its market position eclipsed by competitor Canvas in recent years. 

Canvas could count 32% of U.S. and Canadian higher ed institutions using its LMS as a primary system at the end of 2020, according to an analysis by Phil Hill, partner at ed tech consulting firm MindWires. Blackboard’s market share came in at 23%, and Moodle’s was 22%.

Hill has since updated his LMS market figures after the first half of 2021, but Moodle has not made up any ground. Canvas still leads, now with 34% market share, compared to 21% each for Blackboard and Moodle. From 2019 to 2021, Moodle lost the second-most clients in North America among LMS providers, behind Blackboard, Hill found.

Open-source software has some allure for colleges and universities, said Richard Garrett, chief research officer at research and advisory firm Eduventures. It can be affordable for institutions upfront, and they can customize how it works. 

But the costs of maintaining, updating and servicing an open-source LMS is a major downside, especially because the faculty members who use the systems are typically focused on teaching and not coding. The market has increasingly been dominated by commercial or hybrid offerings that tout easier services and updates.

Adding Moodle-branded service providers won’t necessarily solve that challenge for Moodle, though it might help the provider give institutions more of what they want, Garrett said.

A challenge for Moodle is competing without the scale and resources of a more commercially funded enterprise, Garrett said. “How can they really expect to turn around their market share decline?” he said.

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