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Learning Management Systems in K-12 Part 2 - Supply Side Perspective

In the first section of this two-part blog we examined the current adoption of LMS’s in US K-12 education, covering the drivers and barriers that impact this.

Key takeaways included:
  1. The penetration of paid-for LMS’s in US higher education is in the region of 100%, while the penetration of paid-for solutions in the K-12 sector is only 35%, as of the close of 2016.
  2. The US market has a lower penetration of LMS’s in K-12 schools than other advanced education markets like Canada, the UK and Nordic territories.
  3. The adoption of LMS solutions in US K-12 education is accelerating, partly driven by the rising penetration of student devices in classrooms (forecast to reach over 50% in 2017) and a growing reliance on E-Learning solutions.


In this 2nd blog, we will examine the competitive situation that frames rising rates of adoption. Futuresource’s latest report on the US K-12 platforms and tools market identifies three provider groups targeting the market.

Holistic Solutions Suppliers

The late 1990’s and first decade of the 21st century saw significant consolidation in the higher education LMS market, with market leader Blackboard making a number of acquisitions. With a consolidated supply side, market providers with a presence in the higher education sector are increasingly turning their attention to emerging opportunities in K-12. Blackboard is an excellent example of this strategy. The company has acquired a substantial presence in the K-12 enterprise communications sector with the purchase of Parent Link and Schoolwires. These providers can now be leveraged to upsell a broader solutions proposition, including the LEARN LMS solution.  

SIS Providers

Growth in instructional technology solutions is blurring the lines between instructional and administrative solutions providers. Leading K-12 SIS (student information System) suppliers PowerSchool and Infinite Campus both offer LMS’s.  PowerSchool offers its LMS solution via its recent acquisition of Haiku Learning and as part of a wider strategy to become a ‘Unified Classroom Supplier’; and Infinite Campus which offers a free to access learning management system via it’s LMS platform. In addition, younger providers like Alma and Motivis Learning have entered the market in recent years seeking to take share by offering combined LMS/SIS solutions.

Freemium Tools

This segment is made up of a broad range of solutions including feature light and free to access solutions from major holistic LMS providers like Instructure and Schoology. The ambition is then to upgrade to the enterprise grade platform. In addition, assignment distribution tools like Google Classroom offer some of the features of an LMS. With over 20 million users worldwide and strong adoption in the US market, (where Chromebooks now account for over 60% of mobile PC device sales to schools) Google holds a substantial presence in the US classrooms. Combined with the broader productivity tools found within its GSuite, the classroom platform can be used in conjunction with other so called ‘Point Tools’ (tools that focus on the provision of a single capability or feature) to replicate the experience of a broader LMS. Think Edmodo for wiki’s and communications, Mastery Connect for Gradebook, Ogment for lesson creation, Bulb for E-Portfolio and Fishtree for adaptive learning, to name a few. The potential combinations for a patchwork LMS are numerous.

In addition, this evolving ecosystem of tools run in parallel with the growing utilisation of course management solutions (CMS). A strong existing market for digital supplementary courseware already exists and major basel textbook publishers are actively increasing the provision of management platforms for digital versions of core textbooks - supplementing what remains a largely paper based trade, with digital solutions bundled as a complimentary addition.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this?  Futuresource sees three key trends impacting the space today and going forwards:


  1. The number of management tools teachers use will continue to increase.
    A teacher may use multiple learning management tools to support individual students, activities or content. Different platforms may be used for the same purpose but to serve different students. Tools are not mutually exclusive.
  2. Freemium solutions and point tools have the potential to displace the use case of enterprise solutions in some scenarios, diluting the value of more robust holistic solutions.
    ARPU’s will come down as the adoption of paid-for solutions rises.
  3. Points of unification will be important as the number of both management platforms and digital content in use grows.
    Growing use of freemium and point tools will in turn drive the requirement for more holistic solutions, used as an umbrella for other tools. In addition, data transfer standards from providers like IMS Global and Clever, which allow interoperability between platforms, will become increasingly important.


For deeper analysis and insight on the LMS market see Futuresource’s latest report on the K-12 Management platform and tools sector, please click here>>

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.