Ask students what they remember from their learning management system (LMS) in college, and they’ll likely recall a clunky interface used to register for classes, download course PDFs and request a transcript. It was somewhere they went by necessity--not by choice. And when they graduated, they were more than happy to leave the LMS behind.
Even Jay Bhatt, CEO of Blackboard--a household name in the LMS market--conceded in a conversation with EdSurge that its LMS needed an overhaul. “Like every good technology and productivity tool, the LMS is changing significantly...The tech tools we have built for higher ed have been targeted at administrators and faculty.”
The LMS needs to play a role in linking the school and the working world, he adds. And “you will see us spend a lot of money and time to prepare for this next evolution.”
Today, he made good on that promise. The biggest LMS company, whose tools are used in 75% of U.S. higher-ed institutions and over half of K-12 districts, acquired Austin, TX-based, MyEdu. Financial terms were not disclosed; MyEdu had raised over $20 million in venture funding. This deal could signal some major changes to the Blackboard product.
Founded in 2009, MyEdu offers college students an online platform where they can manage their coursework and build an academic profile that showcases their coursework, projects, skills and talents in a more organized fashion than, say, a typical paper resume or LinkedIn profile. More than one million students in 800 schools have used it, including half of the undergraduate students in the University of Texas system.
In late 2012, MyEdu rolled out a jobs service to help connect students and major employers including Polaris, Cisco and Macy’s, who have used the service to develop their brand and build relationships with job-hunting students. For students, “one of the things they liked about engaging with employers is that it informs their educational skills and journey. They have a better sense of the skills they need to be successful,” says Frank Lyman, MyEdu’s chief product officer.
With Blackboard's acquisition, MyEdu’s student profile and employer platform will be integrated with the company's LMS. “The value proposition of the two companies is very connected around the need to prepare students more effectively and bridge the education environment with their transition to their career,” says Bhatt.
Bhatt also raves about MyEDU’s UX and product design, which makes tactful use of colors and iconography. “MyEDU has a phenomenal design culture that is very consistent with what we’re building," he says. "Over the next year we will make an aggressive push toward product design.”
A better looking product--and one that could potentially help address the unemployment rate among recent college grads--could be a start in stemming the company’s declining LMS market share. Although Blackboard still has a sizable chunk, a number of upstart providers are nipping away. A recent infographic assembled by e-Literate blogger Phil Hill shows other LMS providers, including Canvas and Desire2Learn, increasing market share at Blackboard's expense.
Bhatt, who took over as CEO after Michael Chasen stepped down in December 2012, says he's ready to take on the challengers--and hints that more acquisitions could be on the way. “Stay tuned: I said a year ago that we would be investing in the core. MyEdu is just the beginning; there is more to come throughout the year.”