Instructure Canvas LMS: Go open source, get serious investment capital

Instructure Canvas LMS: Go open source, get serious investment capital

Summary: Back in February, I wrote about Instructure's risky move open-sourcing their Canvas LMS. The product was great, an easy-to-use, robust LMS with solid social features and a spectacular user interface.

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Back in February, I wrote about Instructure's risky move open-sourcing their Canvas LMS. The product was great, an easy-to-use, robust LMS with solid social features and a spectacular user interface. It was highly scalable and suddenly anybody (or at least anyone with a bit of Ruby on Rails experience) could fire it up on their own server. The question was, would anybody pay for Instructure's hosting and support when they could host the LMS themselves?

The answer turned out to be an overwhelming yes. As Devin Knighton, Instructure PR Director told me, "Instead of the hundreds of leads their sales team was expecting from the announcement, we received thousands." See, Oracle? You can make money from open source!

This much interest, though, obviously meant that Instructure needed to scale their sales and support teams fast. The company will be formally announcing tomorrow that,

Instructure Canvas, the new entrant in the education learning management system market (LMS), has closed $8 million in a Series B round of financing led by OpenView Venture Partners, EPIC Ventures, TomorrowVentures, and Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurveston.

“We’re here for the long haul,” said Josh Coates, CEO of Instructure. “Our mission is to relieve teachers and students in all levels of education of antiquated technology. The investment will be used to scale the company’s operations and to keep up with market demand.”

Aside from Tim Draper, Google's Eric Schmidt is among the big names investing in the company (via his VC firm TomorrowVentures). EPIC ventures wasn't shy in their praise of their new investment either:

"At EPIC, we were searching for a disruptive play to serve the dynamic needs of students in the 21st century,” said Nick Efstratis of EPIC Ventures. “Instructure is that company."

Not bad for a little startup looking to take on the likes of Blackboard, a mission that, according to the Wall Street Journal, Instructure may be ready to take on with this new round of funding:

[Instructure CEO, Josh] Coates, a World War II history buff known for restoring his own tank (technically a Hellcat Tank Destroyer), may need the financial ammunition to survive a long war against segment leader Blackboard. “It’s not the sexiest thing I’ve ever worked on, but I think it’s the most important,” he says.

Blackboard is quite entrenched, but serious competition in the marketplace, backed by serious investment capital, should be enough to jumpstart innovation both at Blackboard and industry wide. Tools for both synchronous and asynchronous online learning are developing quickly and Blackboard will need to rely on more than market share to avoid being pushed out by new companies with far more elegant products (like Instructure) or more open approaches (like Instructure and Moodle). Any way it goes, educational institutions, students, and teachers come out on top.

Topics: Software Development, Banking, Open Source

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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5 comments
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  • RE: Instructure Canvas LMS: Go open source, get serious investment capital

    This does not appear to be near as good as Moodle. Not sure why you did not mention the most popular open source LMS in the world--Moodle. Blackboard is a costly joke.
    hardawayd
    • RE: Instructure Canvas LMS: Go open source, get serious investment capital

      @hardawayd While I agree with you, Moodle itself is poorly developed. Sadly, it has the feel of a prototype (it was developed as part of Martin Douigman's PhD thesis) that went live without redevelopment and now has so many users world-wide the redevelopment that it so badly needs will be too costly an exercise for everyone, so it just won't happen.
      LynetteJB
      • RE: Instructure Canvas LMS: Go open source, get serious investment capital

        @LynetteJB Not sure what or when you are referring with regard to Moodle. It has been around for 10yrs or so now and is under constant development. Have you looked at it lately??? It may not be the best, but is certainly not the worst by a long shot...
        flexing
  • RE: Instructure Canvas LMS: Go open source, get serious investment capital

    @Chris

    Thank you for addressing this issue. Blackboard is having serious functional issues, which have shown up at online Regent University and led to adding Ed2.0 as an adjunction for competent functionality.

    Will you do an evaluative piece comparing Blackboard, Moodle, Instructure Canvas, and Ed2.0? Inclusion or mention of any additional worthy LMSs would also be appreciated.

    Thank you
    Isocrates
  • Canvas is a great LMS

    When you first start using Canvas it appears so clean that you really think that something is missing, it can not be so full featured. But it is there. I can attest. I am teaching 35 students with it right now. The students love it and so do I. I have downloaded, installed, and used moodle and consider it pretty sub par compared to Canvas. There are so many efficiencies built into Canvas, it causes jaw drops from faculty on our campus when you show them.
    kevin.reeve