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Learning Management Systems in K-12 Part 1 - Content Digitisation Driving Requirement for LMS

The use case for Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in K-12 education is a rapidly evolving debate. Changing requirements for the delivery of digital education and blended learning are set against the backdrop of a fragmented supply-side, with the melding of solutions across multiple sub-categories blurring the line between LMSs and other solutions. The examination of each of these factors shed’s insight on the current direction of the market. In this first blog, we’ll examine some of the factors influencing the increasing adoption of LMS solutions. In a follow-up piece, we’ll discuss the competitive landscape. 

The US market has always been close to the top of the class when it comes to the adoption and innovation of digital education. You read correctly my friend, whatever misgivings you hold about budget restrictions, prohibitive regulations or a less than ambitious faculty I can assure you that US is driving initiatives and conversations in digital education that are just a twinkle in the eye of your contemporaries in many other territories, even the economically advanced one’s. A favourite anecdote in relation to this, is a story from Germany where in 2014 a major AV distributor had to delay a deal to supply 10,000 units of classroom projectors. The deal was delayed as the distributor struggled to source the acetate used to deliver content for these projectors, yes we’re referring to overhead projectors, not the digital ones adorning the ceiling and walls of most US classrooms. In contrast to this, 2014 saw the penetration of interactive display solutions in US classrooms approach 60%, while the penetration of school owned student PC devices surpassed 30% with the Chromebook format making its first major waves in the market. 
One exception to this rule has been the adoption of LMSs in US K-12 education. Here, US penetration falls behind other advanced markets like Canada, the UK and Scandinavia, where regional and central government initiatives have helped spur adoption. In the US, the education focused LMS market has traditionally focused on the higher education sector. With a strong requirement for both blended (the combination of online and classroom learning) and distance learning, intuitions require systems to both manage the delivery of content and monitor student activity. Thus, the penetration of LMSs in US higher education is close to 100%. In the K-12 sector, the driving factors for online course delivery are not as evident. In contrast to the higher education market, the classroom remains the primary place of learning. Homework is typically ad hoc, short-term tasks rather than long-term complex projects, which are more likely to benefit from the administration capabilities of an LMS. 

These factors, alongside others, have traditionally limited the requirement for LMSs in schools. As of the close of 2016, Futuresource estimates 35% of US schools are using a dedicated LMS solution. This excludes the use of course and assessment management tools, the evolution of which is increasingly blurring the line between LMS and other management platforms (a topic we will cover in the follow up to this blog). The K-12 penetration of LMSs has risen recently, with a growing reliance on digital teaching resources in K-12, increasing the infrastructure requirements for online course management and delivery.  

Content digitisation gives teachers and students more freedom in the selection of learning assets, expanding the teacher toolkit beyond the confines of a book cover to an increasingly diverse and interlinked range of resources. The digital transition is creating a demand to acquire and access resources in a more granular fashion. Instead of purchasing a whole text book, why not purchase an individual lesson, video or exercise? In this manner, a single textbook may be replaced by multiple standalone applications.

The barriers and drivers for more granular resource acquisition are numerous and heavily linked to both available school infrastructure and the will of major publishers to transition to new business models. The vast majority of core curriculum textbook sales remain paper-based, with digital copies bundled in only as an addition. The market for supplementary and standardised testing content has transitioned to digital at a greater pace. Digital solutions providing Response to Intervention (RTI), Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) and test prep platforms already operate in well established markets.

These market segments sit alongside the growth in open educational resources, well documented by industry press. To help manage content delivery and measure the utility of a growing number of digital applications, LMSs sit above the expanding ecosystem, ready to serve as a point of unification. Systems have advanced beyond simple information repositories, integrating flows of information from various tools to guide and interpret users learning events, providing a link between the individual and the institution to boost student engagement and retention. 

The 30% student device penetration figure we highlighted above will reach over 50% in 2017. This growth in infrastructure is one of the primary factors driving the digitisation of content and is expected to facilitate further LMS adoption. While this is certainly positive news for providers it is but half the story. As in most expanding markets, competition in the sector is anticipated to accelerate as the adoption of management tools in K-12 rises. The number of LMS solutions targeting K-12 is rising and is accompanied by increasing competition to higher-end solutions from feature light and freemium management tools. This has the potential to create confusion amongst end-users and threaten the average revenue per user for providers. We’ll cover some of the implications of this in our next blog.

Part two will be distributed on Wednesday 26th April 2017.

About the author

Ben Davis

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.