Opinion: I’m a new Open Source LMS and all the other ones suck


It’s basically the gist of the press release and ensuing media coverage of “Canvas” by Instructure, a fledgling learning management software company from Utah.  Their base level LMS was announced as the newest open source player to much hoopla yesterday in the major education-focused blogs and news sites:

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I think this is great.  I love testing new software and competition breeds innovation no matter how “old guard” the players in the marketplace might be.  It’s also nice to see (sometimes) the snarky, brash CEO of a new start-up throw down the gauntlet publicly and pick a fight with the biggest players in the industry.

The release of Instructure’s Canvas (which is their open source, unsupported but available for download) does matter for Moodle and other other current LMS players, but not as much as the flurry of news might suggest.

Yes, there is a version of Instructure’s LMS available as open source; but there also is a tiered, hosted SaaS model on which Instructure is built.  Instructure’s greatest strength is that it’s a new player (and has been designed from the ground up in the last 2 years).  Instructure however has cornered only 26 clients (the majority of which were gained through a contract in Utah, which was surrounded by it’s own controversy).

It will be interesting to watch the activity surrounding their open source version and community.  Other issues they’ll need to triage: is it easy to install, will it be available through cPanels, what’s the usage learning curve?  More importantly though its release begs the question: “If you build it they will come” is not necessarily the best way to garner clients and users in the LMS marketplace; so what truly are the tools and features that attract users and is Instructure the only LMS capable of having them?

Have you given it a test drive or are you using it currently?  Share your experience in the comments.

¹There’s another opinion piece at Educhalk.org which I think has some quality insights and thoughts on the Canvas LMS, open source and Moodle’s current and future struggles: http://educhalk.org/blog/2011/02/canvas-lms-goes-open-source-an-appealing-alternative-to-moodle/