Initially I was going to provide a list of all my award winners including web conferencing, stand alone mobile learning, etc., but after much consideration, decided this week to focus only on the LMS sector.

Before announcing the winners, I have seen a trend regarding mobile learning, that can easily mislead folks.

Mobile Learning

Two years ago there were some folks who believed that mobile learning where tools, etc. that you could not access via a LMS nor were available on a desktop or SaaS based solution. It was an interesting concept, but as we continue to move forward, I believe can no longer apply.

What has been applying is the term mobile learning and how it it pitched to consumers in the e-learning sector, especially with LMS/LCMS/Learning platform vendors.

Here are the spins

  • Our system offers or has the capability for mobile learning (some use variance of the system offers)
  • A few systems pitch that they have full mobile learning capability, especially with the iPad including the angle that you can see it full screen rather than the standard universal look – which shows up similar to the smartphone look – i.e. small

Reality

Mobile learning is not just seeing the LMS (or LCMS or platform) via a mobile browser. The fact people are pitching this as mobile learning is just plain wrong. As noted in an earlier blog posting, that would be saying your car has air conditioning because you can roll down the windows as you drive.

Yes, it does have a/c, but it is not in the dashboard of the vehicle, nor in any real sense – what people often perceive as a/c.

Under this mobile learning misrepresentation, I can tell you that nearly every system out there – can make this argument – because if you can open up Safari and go to the vendor’s web site and then into your SaaS based LMS – then guess what? It shows up in your browser.

Even some of the folks who have an app in the Apple store or Android store, follows a similar pattern.

Click on the app and your default browser opens and off you go.

As I often say to folks, what is the point of having an app, if all it does is open up my browser. I can do the same thing, without using your app.

On behalf of a blog reader, I had the opportunity to listen in on a webinar for the Taleo Learn Business Edition. The reader asked the individuals presenting the webinar, if they had mobile learning.  Their response? Yes.

When the reader asked for specifics, they stated you can view it in a mobile browser.

Three essential features

  • Standalone mobile platform – it has its own reporting, analytical information, etc. – I would even be willing to accept a platform that can either be standalone or integrated into your LMS
  • Standalone app – i.e self-contained with online/offline synch – honestly any e-learning solution, especially content authoring tools should have one of these, but for the LMS space it makes equal sense. Yes, I know the apps are not cheap and they take time, but having a self-contained native app, especially for the iPad/iPad2 is smart. Again, I would be happy if the minimum is having an Android standalone app for tablets, rather then one which is universal – best seen on a smartphone
  • HTML5 output/publish – if you have a built in course authoring tool

If at a minimum you can implement at least one of these features (and yes, there are content authoring tool and LMS vendors who have it/working on it now), that works for me.  At this point, you can pitch that you offer mobile learning – and it would be an accurate statement.

 Award winners for 2011

Award Categories

  • Open Source Commercial
  • Academia/Higher Ed Open Source System of the Year
  • K-12 Commercial System of the Year
  • Extended Enterprise Commercial System of the Year
  • Talent Management System of the Year
  • Commercial System of the Year

The 2011 Open Source Commercial System of the Year goes to 

Docebo – Community Edition

What I love about this system includes the following:

  • Constantly updated – a huge factor with open source systems
  • SCORM 2004/1.2 support
  • Over 25 languages supported – I know some fee based systems that support not even ten
  • Works with all browsers and OSs – inc. Windows 64 bit and Mac OS
  • Works with Articulate – i.e. you can upload courses from the authoring tool
  • Content authoring tool, built in assessment tool
  • Course subscription/catalog which can be viewed by group, job role, etc.
  • Nice set of admin features
  • Accepts APIs and Mashups
  • Accepts Google apps – first 1o users are free

Open Source Education System of the Year

metacoon – Please note you may see the site in German. If you do, use a translate such as Google Translate to change it to your native language. To see the modules, select “products”.

Ideal for higher education and academia, it packs a whallop.  The two free modules you can download and use as you see fit are:

  • metaStudy – LMS, with over 70 features
  • metaAuthoring – Onyx is the course authoring tool that comes with the solution

The product offers a nice set of modules, but alas, only the two above are free.  The challenge with open source freebie education solutions is the ever increasing “free” systems available for teachers/students, which compete against the open source solutions (which can be free or fee based).   A future blog will look at the free systems, which technically are not open source.

Commercial Systems

Education System of the Year

itslearning

When I saw how you could customize the front end for K-6, I feel in love.

From a feature standpoint the product is slick. Here are just a few:

  • SMS messaging
  • AICC/SCORM/IMS
  • SIS integration
  • SSL
  • Gradebook
  • App library
  • Plagiarism control – test mode browser, plus lots of test options
  • Cloud e-mail
  • Individual learning plans
  • Audio/Video conferencing
  • Course archive
  • Course authoring tool
  • Assessment tool, inc. surveys/polls
  • Some social learning functions
  • ePortfolios
  • Tasks
  • Projects
  • Collaborative writing

I must say it is one of the most robust systems I have seen in awhile and for those of you, who want the parent dashboard – it has it as well.

Extended Enterprise System of the Year

Absorb LMS

A tough choice this year, between two systems – BlueVolt and 2010′s winner Absorb LMS. 

However, I had an issue with BlueVolt’s training catalog-classes-resources, which I found some redundancy that was not needed.

The product though has come a long way, and with some clever additions, it was just by a narrow margin, I selected Absorb LMS.

The product continues its dominance in the EE market and has for the past two years been heavily focused on the EE space. Yet, I do have some concerns, one of which is whether it can continue to add features and functionality to match or surpass what its competitors are using in their products.

That said, it is the product to beat.

Its lack of mobile learning (as I define it) and lack of social learning, hurt it – but in looking at the entire space, nobody seemed overly hardcore in pushing this aspect.

CertPoint was a consideration as well, and they do offer mobile learning with some social learning.

However, I found the UI, especially on the admin side, not strong enough to surpass BlueVolt or Absorb. 

It is solid product nevertheless, and if you want a strong Point of Sale solution, I would recommend taking a look at their Tango product – which is the best m-learning product for the iPad I have seen. Tango is a different product line from CertPoint – fyi.

Talent Management System of the Year

Taleo Talent Management

This area (an upcoming blog post) is dynamically changing. At one time only the Big Dogs were in the space, but now more and more small to mid size vendors are entering it as well. For some of these vendors their approach wouldn’t be the route I would go – despite the potential for strong revenue – because there are still large masses of folks who want a system that does not offer a TM component (even if it is turned off).

Despite my difference of opinion with a Taleo sales manager who told me that people want more than just a LMS – i.e. more than a standalone per se, and people are seeking, what I surmise he meant – talent management offerings (which I seriously disagree on), his product – the Taleo Talent Management system wins my award.

The user interface on the front end is nice, the best I’ve seen in the TM space, and features are beyond solid.

I found the admin side, which equally was solid a tad overwhelming a times, but overall doable.

Key wins for me was the easiness of the career component, succession planning and to a degree the compensation part. Overall, the TM space has a way to go – especially for UI and super ease of use.

I do wish to clarify on one aspect – if I was looking to purchase a LMS, this would not be my product of choice. It would however be for talent management, which is increasingly becoming a separate entity.

2011 Commercial System of the Year

SumTotal Learning Maestro

Before you scream, “WHAT?”, let me explain.

This is the former GeoLearning Maestro solution, which is now listed as SumTotal Learning Maestro.  Thankfully, at least IMO, ST has barely touched it – and left it to the former folks at Geo to take the reigns.

I admit, I wasn’t expecting much when checking out the system, but came away very impressed. They have built upon previous versions of Maestro to take this one to another level.

Personally, I found the product better suited for the mid size crowd, rather than large size. What I believe hurts the system – is cost. I found it a tad high for small business, thus I do not see it as a SMB product.

Features I enjoyed included

  • Continued use and expansion of widgets – the product comes with a nice chunk, but you can also add your own widgets or those on directories on the net
  • Ease of Use – simple UI that from an admin side – you can put as much as you want out there or as little. I like that. Nowadays some vendors are tossing lots of junk into the end user dashboard, which becomes beyond overwhelming to the end user
  • Admin side was the same – but what really intrigued me, and which I liked, was the use of wizards.  This is a time saver in my book. 
  • Social Learning features were a disappointment, unless you purchased a SL pack they offered (can’t recall the name). Even then, it didn’t wow me

However, as I have noted in the past, I am seeing a trend of stagnation with social learning. 

Bottom Line

With over 422 vendors it is always a difficult task to select ones I see as beyond outstanding. Honestly, there were more this year, then in 2010, that easily could be in place of ST Maestro. I wish I could have selected them all – but in an upcoming blog article, will try to do my best.

One vendor who really intrigued me was eCampus, a LMS vendor from Australia.  I have them on my watch list for 2012, and I hope they change their name – after all they are targeting businesses not education.

In an upcoming blog, I will be writing a listing  of the top 50 vendors to watch for in 2012.

Speaking of which, I believe 2012 is going to be an exciting year.

I’m actually quite stoked about it.

I hope you are too.

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