Gartner Research

Market Guide for K-12 Education Learning Management Systems

Published: 04 April 2022


The LMS market continues to grow due to pandemic impacts and an ensuing shift toward the use of digital technologies worldwide. K-12 education CIOs can use this Market Guide to assess current trends, including ease of use, accessibility and use of data while aligning with organizational needs.


Key Findings
  • Vendors are adding new features, and in a few cases, innovating to differentiate an increasingly mature product. Whether this signals a transformation in the role of learning management systems (LMSs) as we understand them today, is yet to be seen.

  • LMS functionalities often go underutilized, except perhaps in the most tech-savvy quarters, due to inadequate training or a mismatch between needs and various capabilities created.

  • The pandemic-induced digitization of the classroom has put a greater focus on accessibility and age-appropriate user interfaces (UIs) to suit all grades instead of repackaging the same product.

  • Access to K-12 institutional data through cloud-based LMSs can help organizational leaders address the COVID-19-pandemic-related learning loss by providing teachers with insights to address the issue.


K-12 education CIOs looking to innovate the learning environment should:

  • Prioritize ease of use without compromising on the capabilities by demanding a simplified user experience (UX), which hosts all key functions.

  • Place purpose before product by collaborating with chief academic officers, representative faculty members and other stakeholders in the decision-making process. Doing so will ensure alignment with purpose and expectations of end users, including students and teachers.

  • Assess vendors based on their commitment to accessibility, students’ emotional intelligence and age-appropriate learning experience by evaluating the breadth and depth of product differentiation that address different agegroups.

  • Prioritize seamless data integration from the LMS with the student information system (SIS) by opting for solutions that provide intuitive and actionable insights into student performance rather than disjointed data.

Strategic Planning Assumption

By 2025, 75% of all K-12 organizations globally will use an LMS, whether proprietary or lightweight, to manage in-person and remote classroom activities.

Market Definition

K-12 LMSs form the core of the teaching and learning technology ecosystem, with a range of tools and services that support classroom learning. Teachers use the LMS to manage online interactions and collaborations with students.

LMSs are moving beyond a technology platform that only administers learning resources with some functionalities such as:

  • Develop and track assignments and assessments

  • Expanded reporting and analytics capabilities

Due to the pandemic, market boundaries have blurred, with online collaboration tools establishing themselves as the emergency or default learning platform in many school systems worldwide.

The LMS is usually integrated with the SIS. In K-12 education, several vendors have combined the SIS and LMS into one product.

Market Description

Though the LMS market has seen a general growth in the last five years, 2020 marked a significant surgein global adoption, triggered by the pandemic. Regions and institutions that had the ability to implement a digital, remote learning environment quickly did so. In others, it triggered policy discussions and frameworks, and the subsequent adoption of requisite infrastructure through 2021.

There is a growing sense that LMSs, and digital infrastructure in general, will become an intrinsic part of the school environment beyond the crisis, signaling sector growth. This growth is spurred in equal measure by K-12 and higher education sectors, the latter somewhat saturated due to the ubiquitous use of LMS over the last 20 years.

With cloud-based solutions rapidly gaining traction in the K-12 market, products are reaching countries where they didn’t have a presence earlier. How this increased reach impacts education in different regions remains to be seen.

Market Direction

Most education systems around the world have responded to the pandemic either through an immediate response or a phased approach over 2020 and 2021.

The United States alone has seen billions of dollars of investment, financed in large measure by COVID-19 relief funds, to create remote instructional capabilities as many school districts implemented an LMS for the first time. As the digitization of the classroom continues globally, albeit at a varied pace across each geography, the LMS market is likely to see continued growth.

Several proprietary LMS companies have gone public, most recently:

  • D2L (Brightspace)

  • Instructure (Canvas)

  • PowerSchool (Schoology)

We are also seeing market consolidation through key acquisitions, either to enhance the capabilities of the core LMS or as add-on features. Prominent examples include:

  • Certica assessment and analytics solution by Instructure

  • Analytics engine Hoonuit by PowerSchool

Open-source solution Moodle, which dominates the market globally, acquired its three U.S.-based partners:

  • Elearning Experts

  • Moonami

  • My Learning Consultants

These partners merged into a single new services company called Moodle US in 2021. The merger represents an opportunity for clients to access a comprehensive range of services directly from Moodle itself.

With the commitment to digital technology within the classroom, K-12 organizations prize accessibility and a pedagogically aligned user experience (UX) and UI across multiple age groups. This translates into vendors offering key deliverables around the core product itself; different vendors home in on different aspects.

For example:

  • Canada-based Edsby has built dedicated stand-alone modules for social-emotional learning (SEL).

  • Microsoft, which is fast closing the gap between its offering Teams for Education and proprietary LMSs, has used its technology expertise to build artificial intelligence (AI) assisted tools for reading progress for young learners.

As with several other trends, the pandemic crisis has accelerated what otherwise might have been a continuing, gradual adoption of LMSs. K-12 organizations that have invested in hardware, software and internet access options are now pressured to ensure these are harnessed to maximize their potential and expanded for public education beyond the pandemic crisis.

Market Analysis

From 2015 through 2019, new LMS implementations show a downward trend, with a surge in adoption in 2020 including over 1,000 new implementations in North America alone, funded in large measure by emergency relief funds. As the sector resets amid a push for returning to in-person schooling, it remains to be seen where the market will settle. For now, vendors continue to cater to a growing demand as schools and parents recognize the benefit of maintaining and harnessing these new capabilities to prepare for a more digital education system of the future.

K-12 CIOs who are planning to purchase or replace the LMS should make note of the following (see Figure 1), keeping in mind the needs of both power users as well as first-time users.

Figure 1: Key Considerations for LMS Selection

Both 2020 and 2021 saw U.S. districts with over 1,000 students access an average of 1,449 educational technology (edtech) products online each month.While this may be an unprecedented response to a crisis, it represents an increasing familiarity and buy-in for technology in the classroom.

Acquisitions and/or innovation are supplementing the core LMS product, pushing its role in the new classrooms beyond simply an administrative platform for:

  • Organizing

  • Hosting

  • Recording learning

Key principles guiding vendors in product development include:

    However, learning sits at the core of this innovation. Knowledge creation happens irregularly and individually. While pedagogical innovation is required to meet the changing needs of the digital-native student, very often, more does not equal better.

    As the K-12 sector reels under faculty and IT staff hiring and retention challenges (see ), education CIOs must evaluate learning management systems by:

    • Offsetting added features by their ease of use, especially for first-time users

    • Seeking a well-coordinated and communicated rollout plan from service providers that clarifies how the technology will help all stakeholders reach their goals even before discussing the technology itself

    As the pandemic pushed even the youngest learners into virtual classrooms and the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, vendors are addressing the need to empathize with the requirements of this segment. The nature of learning in elementary grades is less formal and more physical-activity-based. Apps like Seesaw, which record student learning through multimedia digital portfolios and real-time collaboration, have been popular with teachers.

    As a result, instead of a monolithic K-12 product designed for and used mainly by middle and senior grades, we are seeing differentiated offerings for K-5 elementary (an underutilized segment) and middle/senior schools (see Table 1).

    The consistent use of an LMS through the grades, complemented by a user-friendly UI, can therefore help improve:

    • Familiarity with the tool for both teachers and students

    • Student engagement

    As K-12 CIOs evaluate their existing deployments or plan on a new LMS in 2022, they should seek stakeholder feedback from elementary grades regarding existing gaps. Then they can work with present or potential vendors to plug these into the roadmap.

    Even though K-12 institutions are rich with data, analytical capabilities are still in nascent stages. However, some areas where LMSs hold potential include:

    • Predictive reporting

    • Tracking intervention

    • Mining of assessment data to identify areas of learning loss

    However, this hinges on the availability of clean and integrated data rather than disjointed informationor an aggregations of clicks, as is sometimes the case.

    In general terms, the K-12 LMS market in North America includes a mix of proprietary solutions, productivity suites and open-source solutions.New implementations in North America were dominated by Canvas and Schoology occupying approximately 40% each of the new implementations in 2021, leaving approximately 20% for other solutions. It remains to be seen if the current trends will impact potential growth in 2022 one way or another outside the North America market.

    Having established themselves as the preferred collaboration tools, productivity suites, such as Microsoft Teams for Education and Google Classroom, have steadily progressed toward incorporating essential administrative requirements inherent within a fully featured, enterprise, K-12 LMS. While these are yet not full-blown LMSs, they have redefined the collaborative experience in the virtual classroom. Not surprisingly, most prominent proprietary LMS vendors have partnered with Google and Microsoft by integrating these tools directly into their LMS, allowing teachers to continue to use their preferred interface.

    Open-source LMSs, such as Moodle, continue to have the largest installed base globally, though it varies widely across countries. While open source, by definition, is free to install and offers customization through a large number of plug-ins and modules, internal IT support is usually required. That makes its optimal use contingent upon the technical web development competence of the teacher.

    Some providers (such as D2L’sBrightspace Emerge) have developed lower-cost solutions with a focus on core functionalities as cost-effective alternatives for:

    • First-time users

    • Adoption in newer markets

    While there may have been challenges around the quality of course work and instruction, school, whether in-person or virtual, has been made available to students in many places over the last two disruptive years. This has been possible due to not only the availability of requisite infrastructure among teachers and students, but also the ability and preparedness of the teachers, many of them first-time users, to use and engage students with technology.

    K-12 education CIOs evaluating LMS service providers should assess:

    • Product features

    • Adequate training by vendors

    • Ongoing support because of significant changes in practice required with a new system adoption

    Representative Vendors

    The vendors listed in this Market Guide do not imply an exhaustive list. This section is intended to provide more understanding of the market and its offerings.

    Market Introduction

    The vendors listed in this Market Guide exemplify the types of vendors in the market and do not represent an exhaustive list (see Note 1). There may be other vendors that should be considered for your organization and use cases.

    Vendors were chosen to represent a variety of solutions available, covering a broad range of geographic coverage areas, and with a mix of product types (proprietary general-purpose LMS, open-source LMS and what Gartner has named “lightweight LMS”). (See Note 2.)

    Market Recommendations

    K-12 education CIOs looking to innovate the learning environment should:

    • Prioritize ease of use without compromising on capabilities. Evaluate vendors on their investment in training and support to ensure requisite skills among faculty and administrators.

    • Place purpose before product by collaborating with chief academic officers, representative faculty members and other stakeholders in the decision making. This will ensure alignment with purpose and expectations of end users like students and teachers.

    • Adopt solutions that provide intuitive and actionable insights into student performance rather than disjointed data, and allow the seamless integration of this data with other systems of record such as SIS.

    • Review the vendor’s commitment to growing needs for accessibility, students’ emotional intelligence and age-appropriate pedagogy by the extent and basis differentiation in its product to address different age groups.

    Gartner Recommended Reading


    Note 1: Representative Vendor Selection

    The following attributes illustrate the providers that Gartner considers to be representative of this market:

    • Has a product in production in 2021

    • Has enterprise-level customers in K-12 education

    • Has a strategy to target education (specifically K-12 education in this Market Guide)

    The vendors profiled in this research were selected to represent the breadth of offerings in the market segments defined as proprietary, open-source or lightweight LMS. Gartner’s objective is to provide a balance of options relevant for institutions of varied size, complexity, type and location.

    Note 2: Gartner’s Initial Market Coverage

    This Market Guide provides Gartner’s initial coverage of the market and focuses on the market definition, rationale for the market and market dynamics.


    Saher Mahmood

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