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LMS Companies See Boom, Bust, Bigger Boom

When schools shifted to online instruction at the onset of the pandemic, learning management system usage naturally went up. The big beneficiaries on that front were Edmodo and Google Classroom, which saw usage growth in March and April of 53 and 45 percent, respectively, compared to their average monthly downloads between January and September. For sheer numbers, Google Classroom came out on top, with 6.8 million downloads in March and April — seven times greater than the next choice, Instructure Canvas, with 941,000 downloads. Schoology added 549,000 new users in those two months, Edmodo grew by 235,000 and Blackboard by 163,000.

But those gains were nothing compared to what happened in August, when this segment of education technology experienced a "surge." This occurred after LMS adoptions saw a "major drop-off," beginning in April and continuing through June.

In particular, the growth in August lifted Schoology, which saw an increase in downloads of 1,168 percent, and Canvas Student, whose downloads grew by 682 percent. Similarly, Google Classroom, Brightspace Pulse, and Blackboard all saw growth of 200-percent-plus in downloads in August compared to July. According to Sykes, overall LMS downloads were 250 percent higher in August than February.

Those results were cobbled together by Sykes, which consults on improving customer experiences. The company derived its findings from an analysis of data about application downloads done between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15, 2020, pulled from several sources: Appfigures, the Apple App Store and Google Play. Sykes also surveyed 2,500 U.S. adults about K-12 and university classes, both on-campus and online.

The survey found that a slight majority of educators — 51 percent — expect online learning to continue in the United States through spring 2021. A third (32.5 percent) said they weren't sure, and 16 percent said no, it wouldn't continue. A smaller share of respondents — 39 percent — said online classes were "an effective approach" to learning during the pandemic. A solid quarter (26 percent) said they weren't effective, and a third (35 percent) said they didn't know.

Educators' preference for college students during this time is taking a hybrid approach, mentioned by 49 percent of survey respondents. The remainder was fairly split between a preference for 100-percent in-person classes (25 percent) and 100-percent online classes (26 percent).

For high schoolers, the largest share of educators would choose a hybrid approach (47 percent), compared to 30 percent who would pick fully in-person and 23 percent who would go all-online.

As the debate continues regarding on-campus, off-campus or some mix, "LMS apps are still adjusting to this new way of learning," the report stated. Whether distance learning continues having an impact post-pandemic, the authors noted, in many ways, it's up to the LMS companies "to deliver the lesson plan well."

The full results are openly available on the Sykes website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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