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By Eli Jameson • May 19, 2016

If [That One Learning Management System] is So Bad, Why Do Schools Keep Buying It?

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On more than one occasion we’ve posted about learning platforms that are too clunky and complicated for schools to see a high adoption rate. I find that I’m frequently talking - or writing - about the “monolithic LMSes” that schools end up with, only to see a plummeting adoption rate shortly after they implement their tech school-wide.

It occurred to me that there’s some logic to work through here. If other platforms are as bad as we say - or as bad as their adoption rates indicate - why do schools buy them? Why are they still in business? It would stand to reason that if a product was that unusable, supply and demand would do it’s thing.

Right? Wrong.

These LMS nightmares happen because of the way technology has traditionally been purchased.

Bad learning platforms - the ones that no one wants to use - are designed to play the game and get the sale. They’re built to satisfy individual buyer needs, layering in feature after feature to procure a huge sale in Omaha, and another sale in Tallahassee.

In a nutshell: when a school with 10,000 students requests an obscure quizzing add-on, there is money to be made. The company adds that feature to land the sale. Now all schools using that LMS will also have that bizarre feature add on, even if they don’t want or need it.

So you, the user, will see your chosen LMS balloon over time. There will be some things added that make your day better, but more often than not, what really happens is that navigation suffers. Things are less intuitive because there are so many options. It slices! It dices! It chops!

At least that’s what happens when you’re saddled with a platform like this-LMS-that-shall-not-be-named.

In schools, technology is generally selected when features are prioritized over matching a platform with a learning culture.

Too many lean on a convoluted matrix of features to evaluate an edtech product. It becomes about adding a checkmark next to everything a tool can do and picking the platform that gets the most checkmarks.

“Most” doesn’t mean “best.”

So that, my friends, is how bad edtech happens to good schools. But there is hope! If we rewrite the procurement playbook, we stand a better chance of matching schools with the learning platforms they need to succeed. 

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