Well, a lot has been happening in the past three months, from SaaS driven to talent management to course authoring to name changes and everything in between.  Without further adieu,

Talent Management/Performance Management (TM/PM)

Three months ago, only a few systems had either integrated for no additional charge or for additional fees, a talent management/performance management feature set. Ahh, how things have changed.

There is a growing list of vendors, including small/mid size that are adding talent management components that match the Big Dog systems.  A couple of vendors have added HRIS modules. It is interesting to note, that many of the vendors are targeting the SMB space, especially the small size (less than 500 employees) market.

New features in this space include workforce management, compensation/payroll and benefits as part of their modules.  They are integrated into the systems (with turn on/off – for the most part they are turned off – unless you buy it).  

The challenge though is that there are customers who have no desire and zero interest to use or have a TM in their system. Even if it is integrated at no additional charge, there are customers who will never use it.

This happens even in the large size (plus 50K users) companies.  What do you do? Well, you either add it to your system or not. What is nice is there are still a significant number of vendors who have not added it.

Prediction

Continued increase in the number of vendors, regardless of size or target customer size (i.e small biz, smb, etc.) to add a talent management/performance mgt components in their system.

Expect to see an increase in systems adding compensation, other workforce mgt features and benefits to their products. I am projecting that by the end of 2012, you will see HRIS features come into play, but more so as an additional cost module.

Why more features on the side of HR?

They see an opportunity in the SMB space where customers may not want to purchase an ERP for HR or a full blown HRIS and then purchase or have a LMS. These customers would rather have an all encompassing solution. The downside is that some of the vendors will reduce down their L/D components and focus more on the TM side of things.

SaaS

In the past several months, especially in the past two months, a huge explosion in systems going SaaS based only. This is great, from my perspective, because I always believed that “in the cloud” was the way to go. What is of note, is that this is not new in terms of systems being offered “in the cloud”. This was happening back when e-learning began, with quite a few systems in the cloud by 2002.

Yet, nothing compared to what it is today (as in today!).

Systems that are only available as hosted on your own servers are starting to significantly decline. Sure, there are plenty of vendors who offer it as an option, but more and more are going only SaaS.

For consumers who are worried about these systems being hacked, I have yet to hear of a SaaS LMS being hacked. Doesn’t mean it is not possible, because anything can be hacked, but it hasn’t happened yet.

They have always been quite secure, which reminds me, more systems are emphasizing in their marketing materials, that their SaaS platforms are secure, with some even stating the level of security, i.e. 256 bit AES.

Equally of interest, are the increase in open source systems that offer for a fee, hosting on their own servers, rather than on yours.

Prediction

Huge explosion in SaaS based only systems. I expect to see over 80% of the market go SaaS by the end of 2012. Now some of these systems will offer hosted on your own servers – if you demand it – but their goal is to have it “in the cloud”.  What about Extended Enterprise or academia/education? Doesn’t matter. They are both growing in leaps and bounds for SaaS.

Mobile

As previously noted, there is a continued increase in vendors who are supporting mobile learning, whether it is by having a stand alone mobile learning platform or integrating it into their system at no additional charge.

The disturbing trend though, is the continued focus on smartphones as the primary device, rather than tablets.

Considering that the total number of tablets shipped in the 3rd quarter was 16.7 million units, of which the iPad/iPad shipped 11.12 million (according to Apple).

When you factor in the number of vendors entering the market, some of which are offering multiple tablet sizes, the number of tabs shipped are only to get bigger.

Here is the thing, some vendors still haven’t figured out – nobody wants to take a course or go into your system on a smartphone. The screen is too small, compared to a tablet. The reason m-learning is gaining steam are tablets, not smartphones.

Prediction

You can expect to see a continued increase, thankfully, in the number of vendors who will target tablets. That said, many will hedge their bets by supporting smartphones. What I am seeing is an increase in learning system vendors exploring online/offline synch with the iPad/iPad2 (and yes, Android OS).

While there are vendors who offer online/offline synch with their LMSs, they are doing it via a universal app, which is geared towards the screen size of smartphone, rather than a tablet.  In some cases it is merely opening up the browser window, after you click on the app – which is self defeating the purpose of an app.

I should note that there is one vendor who has their entire mobile platform on a USB jump drive. It is quite clever, but  if you have an iPad/iPad2 this platform won’t work, unless you purchase the camera connector for the iPad/iPad2 (which has a USB connection) it won’t work.

Extended Enterprise

Still expanding, but not at a strong level. While this is great for the vendors who are in or entering the space (less competitors), it is still worrisome.

This has “hot” written all over it, but what is happening, is some vendors are turning more towards TM, then EE or in a few systems, include TM, just to be safe.

The downer on the latter is they are cutting short the feature sets that are possible in an EE, such as multiple domains – standalone, rather than shared on one portal, with sub-portals or having incentive points.

Prediction

What’s not to love about the EE market? I still believe this will be a winner in 2012, and that more vendors will jump into this space.

Open Source Systems

I will admit, and have in the past, that I’m not a fan of Moodle. It is the king kong of open source systems targeting the educational/academia market, but it doesn’t have to be, because it is still lacks real oomph in UI and its overall presence looks often like shareware – unless you do hardcore customization on it – and yes, I have seen this and it looks fantastic, but again..heavy customization is needed – who has time for that?

Well, say no more. Here is my list of the top three open source systems in the education/academia market. They are in no particular order.

  • InstructureCanvas CV – Wow. Lots of very nice features, great UI, can compete against – say I say it? Blackboard.  They offer a SaaS version, but that is fee based. CV is a freebie. 
  • MetacoonMetacoon 2.0 - 80% of their solution is free, and what rocks about that is that these are some awesome modules. How amazing? Offers a vast array of modules,  metastudy is the LMS with over 70 tools, other modules: project mgt, knowledge mgt, assessment mgt, career mgt including event mgt features, course authoring tool, job exchange, alumni module, authoring tool – basic is free, the advanced version is fee based, sharing mgt – which is free – ONYX, called edu-share. 

The alumni and career mgt modules might be fee based, hard to tell, but the rest is free.  I love this!  Oh, they offer SaaS for a fee, but you can host it on your own servers for free.  You can use their system in the corp, association and non-profit space to, but its sweet spot is education/academia.

  • A tie between Edu 2.o and Schoology (whose basic version is free to education/academia) – The tie is because the super robust is their prem version, but nevertheless the basic version has the standard feature sets – including analytics, create assignments and events, assessment tool, email and SMS, filters. Schoology is SaaS based, another nice benefit
  • Edu 2.0 – follows the same approach that Schoology offers. They have a freebie version which has an appropriate number of feature sets, then they have paid versions for individual and organization. The freebie does not offer SCORM nor monitoring, but has social learning, assessment tool inc. rubrics and test bank, create lesson plans, gradebook, classroom mgt, to do list, calendar and more

Corporate Side

Tune into my Podcast that debuts later this week – 28th or 29th – I will post the date and link. This will be a weekly podcast and topics change every week. You will be able to download the podcast from iTunes or go to my podcast site and listen. Supports Flash and HTML5.

Other News

If you haven’t heard yet

  • OpenText purchased Operitel, they have two platforms, one is social media, the other is a LMS
  • Skillsoft acquires Element K
  • Lumesse acquires Edvantage group
  • Callidus Software acquired Rapid Intake, a great content authoring solution. Rapid Intake will stay as is – name, feature wise, etc. These guys are always leaders in the authoring tool space, and their mLearning studio rocks – IMO.
  • Learn.com is now called Taleo
  • Plateau is now called SuccessFactors
  • GeoLearning’s Maestro product is now called SumTotal Maestro

LMS Demo Shop

I will be launching the first week of December via this blog, a one stop shop for LMS Demos.

  • Vendors can post a demo of their LMS, up to five minutes in length
  • Blog readers and anyone surfing the net basically can take a look at the product demo – without having to register first or anything like that
  • Next to the demo, is the Vendor’s name, web link and they can have an e-mail connect to a general info box or directly to a salesperson
  • Vendors cannot include a PPT or sales pitch in their demo, it has to be 100% pure product
  • Glad to report that a few vendors have already signed up to be on it, it is great for vendors and for readers/potential customers
  • There is no quid pro quo or pay for play angle here – just demos – demos and more demos!!

If you are a vendor and are interested in being on this special section of my blog, contact me

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