Across the campuses of the top Latin American Higher Ed institutions, there is a persistent debate about world university rankings. I know there was one at my alma mater. Global, regional, and national comparisons were met with pride or distrust at the methodology, depending on that year’s standings. And I’m sure there are similar animosities in each country, even more so among those disputing top regional honors.
Now, as a Moodler, I find myself in a similar place about the LMS race, both globally and regionally, with yet another point of resemblance. At the end of the day, universities are only partially rivals. Yes, they fight for quality staff, and sometimes for funding and students, but at the end of the day, private and public institutions alike strive for the betterment of society. I don’t know about other cases around the world, but Latin American universities hold a critical place in the development and betterment of societies. (Even if funding sometimes falls short.)
Key points of the case seem to match when talking about the share and evolution of the Higher Ed LMS in Latin America. The latest and most trustworthy (which might not be saying much) estimate that the LMS market share in Latin American Universities shows Moodle as the uncontested leader, with upwards of 65% of all reporting institutions. In second place, Blackboard, with 20%, wants to be seen as the once and future king. Reality, however, seems far from an arms race.
A recent press release by Blackboard exemplifies many of these points. 20 new partnerships and 35 extended ones reflect Blackboard’s interest in consolidating its Latin American position. But looking into the examples the company lists, there is reason to argue this announcement benefits Moodle as well. Two out of four institutions highlighted chose Moodlerooms, Blackboard’s open source, Moodle-based offering. As a Moodle Partner, 10% of revenue from Moodlerooms will go to fund Moodle Pty Ltd. The new partnerships in question are Universidad Autonóma de Occidente (Colombia) and Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica (Ecuador).
Latin American higher education has plenty of room for growth, including with LMS. While average enrollment in tertiary education in OECD countries is 35 percent, the best countries in the region remain in the low twenties, according to 2016 figures from OECD.Stat. Blackboard, Moodle, and other LMS could all leverage the region to achieve high, sustainable growth for years, provided higher ed coverage stands up to the challenge.
Analyzing a specific case scenario to draw larger conclusions deserves utmost care. Globalization can allow for similar emerging patterns, especially in technology markets. But social and macroeconomic factors present in Latin America may not reproduce as faithfully elsewhere. Once upon a time, promising countries like Venezuela and Brazil (part of the so-called “BRICS”) were examples of stability and conscientious balance between social, corporate, and even environmental development goals. While the strength of institutions is perhaps the best predictor of future growth, my region shows that measuring such a thing can be the real challenge.