Based on my research Desire2Learn (D2L) does have a decent history with their clients, but their recent issue has led some schools to consider a re-evaluation, notably the University of Colorado at Boulder. Click here to read more on the University of Colorado or here to read more about D2Ls four day hosted outage. Good news is that they do allow institutions to self-host, it is just not the pushed feature. Sadly D2L is going though some court battles that question their ethics. Click here and here to read more. I am not sure if this is an ethical issue or a personnel issue. The thing that sticks out to me is that the person involved in the case Mick De Los Santos, used to be a Bb Collaborate employee. I wonder if he left Bb by choice or because of unethical practices? One thing that has impressed me about D2L was the fact that even though Bb/D2L have been in lawsuits with each other and are in a battle for clients now. D2L did not bad mouth Blackboard at all during a recent demo I attended. Instead they actually, complimented Bb on items and promoted their integration with Bb Collaborate to fill a gap on something their product does not do.
Instructure's (Canvas) claim to fame has been on their simplicity and focus on disruption and faculty discontent. I would expect Canvas to grow more complex every day, their history shows they need to accommodate every new request into the "1.0 version" that they promise prospective clients. Canvas still lacks support for many critical options that their clients (especially faculty) naturally expect in an learning management system (LMS). Just look at the Canvas’ Feature Request page, to get an idea of the scope of missing functionality. I believe you will find that the feature requests are standard fare in most LMS products – and mostly things that Bb Learn already does. If someone really cares about Teaching and Learning and not just imposing their personal interest on others, will see some key items worth noting:
Canvas will eventually close these product gaps over the next few years similar to what Bb has done with their updated Calendar. As Canvas works to close these gaps, they will expose clients to increased stability risks as features are developed and tested. Why go through that if these features are already in Bb Learn? While I cannot predict the future, but I expect Canvas clients simply won’t be able to avoid performance and stability issues as Canvas addresses missing functionality and while trying to figure out how to support the diversity of use cases with a business model that relies entirely on a “one size fits all” model of development. Why do I say "one size fits all"? Because Canvas' "cloud-based" model is designed assuming all institutions operate the same. In the end, faculty won’t care about the platform if they’re missing such basics as a points-based grade book and this is growing more obvious as the Canvas pilots end and they go into full production with a large set of clients. For instance, read about College Park's "true" opinion from professors: UMD published “Professors unhappy with Canvas shift” just this week.
I will be the first to admit that Bb has room for improvement, as we all do. Bb still has work to do specifically in the areas of quality assurance and testing. However, they have improved there quality of support, their pace of innovation, and they seem to have a renewed focus on their clients. What has yet been answered is "Are these changes real or are they just a reaction to loss of business to competitors like D2L and Canvas"? I don't believe that can be answered yet, because their new CEO has not had enough time to prove himself or shape the company. Personally, I think current Bb customers should stay still, be patient, and give them a chance to remind us why Bb is the right choice.