eduMedia Watch – don’t believe the hype

Apologies for thieving this image from Delimiter without permission - I'll take it down if its a problem.

Jonathan Holmes not believing the hype

I have a confession to make. I used to be a Media Watch junkie. Back in the day of Jonathan Holmes, I’d subscribe to the Media Watch podcast and it would be my staple viewing on work flights, enjoying Holmes’ dry wit and the work of the Media Watch team as they critiqued some of the more questionable cases of media coverage in Australia. One of my particular favourites was when they would pick up on media airtime that had started with ‘a new report’ being released that had been used as a basis for many more follow up stories, but with one problem – the original ‘report’ was either unverified in terms of its independence, or it was just completely bunk.

This week, I’ve been playing eduMedia Watch.

How did it all start?

A Texas-based market research company, MarketsAndMarkets, published ‘a new report’ with a press release that headlined…

“LMS market worth US7.83 billion by 2018″

A skim of the press release justifies the US4650 price tag for the report – 195 pages! 113 market data tables! 56 figures! Acronyms such as CAGR, APAC and BFSI! Yep, this report is the real deal folks.

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong or unusual about a company like MarketsAndMarkets doing this. Its their job – and for all I know the report might be the most breathtaking piece of research in the learning space since ever.

But I’ve not seen the report. I don’t know of anyone who has seen the report. I don’t know who commissioned the report. I don’t know if MarketsAndMarkets know squat about the education sector, although their definition of an LMS as falling into one of the subcategories of…

“Content Management, Student Management, Performance Management, Collaboration, Administration”

…which flies in the face of every other definition of an LMS I’ve heard in the last five years does make me wonder just how close they are to the education sector. A quick skim of their website, and I don’t see education listed as an area of their research in the midst of many others – although I do at least see ‘technology’ in there, which is something.

So what happens next?

This is where the eduMedia Watch bit starts, as I put on my soft, Jonathan Holmes-esque voice and cheeky, boyish grin, and share that two notable edtech news sources pick up the information, and run with it.

Firstly, Phil Hill opens a post on new data being available for the Higher Ed LMS market with a reference to the press release, including the statement about a new report that predicted that the…

“…total LMS market … would triple in revenue by 2018.”

Now to Phil’s credit, this wasn’t the main point of the article, and he did (in the fine print a the end of the page) note that the data were from unverified sources, and acknowledged my point (thanks Phil) in the mildly ranty comment I left on the post, but by this stage the cat was already out of the bag.

The next one to follow was the Moodle News website, which does tend to get a lot of airplay in the form of retweets and shares for its stories, for better or worse. Their headline was even bigger than Phil’s:

“LMS Market expected to triple in the next 5 years to $7.8 Billion”

Quick ma, get all our savings from unner the bed, we gotta get us some of them LMS dealies! We’s gonna be rich!

Now the article itself on MoodleNews says essentially nothing more than the press release did, but it re-posts it from the MoodleNews website, which in the past has shared a lot of really good stuff around Moodle, and its word carries with it a reasonable amount of weight in some circles.

Bingo – two independent, widely read news sources have now shared this forecast that the LMS market will triple.

And then came the retweets, the Yammer posts, the email shares – I sat and watched it after the initial post and felt myself getting angry. Not angry at MarketsAndMarkets – this is exactly what they want to happen, its their job. Not even angry at Phil or MoodleNews – perhaps they could have been more up front about the unknown nature of the report, but that’s their choice on how they behave as journalists and how they shape a story.

No readers, I was angry at you.

Angry at the folks who grabbed the links and retweeted them without once pausing to think ‘gee, a market sector that many have argued is dying now supposedly tripling in revenue is a pretty big statement to make, maybe I should have a bit of a deeper read before I send it on to everyone I know’. Angry that so many of us will automatically take something as gospel because someone said it on the internet, even if it is said on something as prestigious as e-literate or as widely read as MoodleNews. Angry that for a community like education where we are trained to question, challenge and scrutinise, we accepted the statements made as truth, rather than as what George Kroner suggested in his reply to my comment, which I completely agree with by the way, that ‘reports’ like this (and other high profile data sources we might come across) are

“…a good conversation-starter.”

Absolutely. A conversation starter, but no more than that until there is at least some shreds of evidence that the paywalled, marketing company created report contains data that actually do hold water in relation to the LMS market (rather than the much broader learning technologies market).

Until then, its like Flavor Flav told us all back in ’88 – don’t believe the hype.

Addendum: Since the publishing of my original blog post, Inside Higher Ed have now quoted both the MarketsAndMarkets data, as well as quoted Phil, in a recent blog post. Assuming now that three independent sources have quoted the source, as well as each other, then the figures absolutely must be true… ;)