The For-Profit LMS Market

Blackboard historically has been synonymous with learning management technology. While the company in recent years has lost some clients in that market to competitors, it still provides the learning management platform for more than half of nonprofit institutions, according to the latest data from the Campus Computing Project.

But in the growing for-profit market for learning management, Blackboard is not king.

That crown belongs to eCollege, the learning-management provider owned by the media conglomerate Pearson. A peon in the nonprofit world (it owns less than 2 percent market share, according to the Campus Computing Project), eCollege cornered the for-profit market early on by offering a product tailored to meet the unique needs of that type of institution, says Richard Garrett, managing director of the higher ed consulting firm Eduventures.

The online learning platforms offered by eCollege and Blackboard “were evolved with different goals in mind,” says Garrett. The eCollege platform “was built with top-down enterprises in mind,” he says, whereas Blackboard’s product was designed to “enable individual faculty to experiment with online, or to use it at an individual course level as a supplement to the classroom” — more in line with the governance structure of the traditional college, where professors have more autonomy.

At for-profit institutions, decisions about the format and tools of course delivery tend to be made at an administrative level. “There is something to be said about their ability to understand how we operate,” says a top executive at one major for-profit institution that uses eCollege. The executive asked not to be named so he could speak candidly without irking his handlers. “We are not a purely faculty-centric model. Blackboard historically has been more faculty-centric.”

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