Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Will Instructure Become the WordPress/Drupal of the LMS?

Instructure is an LMS (learning management system) that is genuinely Web 2.0--down to its roots.

It's new-ish, but it uses feeds and a Facebook-like landing page. AJAX-like page editing is built in, not grafted on as an afterthought.

And the interface is clean and intuitive.

Now Instructure has funding from Josh Coates, formerly of Mozy.

Should Blackboard, the big player in the higher-ed LMS arena, quake in its boots?

Let's think about it. There are two important things here.

One, Coates is an interesting and significant entrepreneur. Such people make mis-steps, but they're worth watching. And if Coates think this is a good move, that's worth noting.

Two, Instructure is shifting to an open source model. Their product is generationally different from Sakai, which has no meaningful design advantage over Blackboard (and Moodle is arguably weaker). Forthcoming versions of Sakai look to me only cosmetically different.

Hence there will be a genuinely web 2.0 LMS that is Open Source, and a company leveraging that software with powerful backing.

Should Blackboard quake in their boots? Maybe not. But those who admire both choice and the open source movement should send up a small cheer.

WordPress has been very successful in becoming the de facto publishing platform of choice for many bloggers. And open-source Drupal has become the basis for Acquia's services. Acquia tailors Drupal packages for free download, and they also offer hosting and customization services.

Leveraging all that free programming and using that basis to tell services like hosting and customization may or may not be the wave of the future. But it's a smart bet.

Only time will tell if it's the winning bet.

--Edward R. O'Neill