At one time BlueVolt was just a spark, a system among many other systems in the market. Those days are gone forever. BlueVolt is an electrically charged LMS, that harnesses key elements to make it formidable extended enterprise competitor to Absorb.

Overall

Good

  • Ease of use – Front end and Admin side
  • $BlueBucks – (more in a sec)
  • Multi-Tenet capabilities – it is after all ideal for an extended enterprise system
  • Reporting – strong with the added bonus of ad-hoc
  • File repository – another reason to boot LCMSs once and for all, this feature includes version updates and some analytics
  • Accepts APIs – a must for anyone in today’s world
  • Ability to offer ads for products or ads to specific sections for folks to visit – for each child (sub-portal) –  yes – every child can be skinned to look a different way then the parent
  • Admin side – simple to find sections, easy drill down
  • Ability to have video with audio  on the main screen, whereas end users enter – after logging in
  • Can list “feature” courses
  • Certificate tweaking capable – rather then just a standard one size fits all certificate
  • Ability to e-mail a group of people or an individual within the product – ideal for classroom, webinars or even admin to send specific notifications without having to sent it to everyone. Can you use it for sending notices for courses – absolutely
  • Auto – enrollment links

Average

  • Assessment tool/survey
  • Event calendar/event features
  • E-mail notifications and reminders
  • Course Catalog
  • Works with any 3rd party authoring tool as long as its SCORM compliant

Poor

  • Funky nomenclature for some of the terms  – like Grade Book – perfect education, not really for corporate inc. association space
  • Under Categories – resources can appear, but you can also have resources under the title “resources” – seems redundant

Additional Specs

Mobile Learning – yes you can view it on tablets and smartphones.

Social Learning – No

Built in Content Authoring Tool – No. IMO, not a big deal. Many people today prefer 3rd party authoring tools and in fact, I recommend that route rather then using a vendor’s built in authoring tool.

Compliance Standards: SCORM 2004, SCORM 1.2, SCORM, AICC

Offers e-commerce module: Yes

It’s all in the Details

Upon entering the BlueVolt system, the end user will see the home screen. The screen will be skinned with your firm’s colors – including the header and footer. You will always see this header on each screen (as noted: it will be skinned to your colors)

Header

  • Home – your home upon entering the system
  • Course Catalog – View by Courses or Categories
  • $BlueBucks – an incentive program whereas the end user can achieve BBs for completion of a course, and when they accumulated enough $BlueBucks they can turn them in for a gift card (at more than 100 locations incl. Amazon, Nike, etc.)
  • Contact – Contact Technical support
  • Help – Help section

Footer – appears on each screen/page of the system

  • $BlueBucks – total amount accumulated by the end user
  • My Courses – click and it goes directly to your list of courses you are taking, including any resources, video files, webinars, etc. – it fits all under “My Courses” with Categories as a secondary section
  • My Account
  • My Training

Under My Account

The default is “Transcript” which shows the following

  • Year to Date Course Hours Completed
  • Total hours completed
  • Online Courses – under which includes the course name – please note that if you are having your learners view an online video or view a material online – it will appear under the online courses, since some people identify anything online even reading an ebook that has been assigned to them as an “online course”
  • Length of the course
  • Status of the course – On Schedule, Enrolled, Completed
  • Enrolled in the course – if yes, it date appears when they enrolled
  • Completed the course – if yes, the date appears
  • Expected completion – (if applicable) – for companies who require a course to be completed by “x” date

Transcript tab also includes the ability to add a course to the transcript (I assume this can be turned off by the admin, if you do not wish your end users this capability) and the capability to print.

Other tabs within the “My Account”

  • Profile – name, email address, address, phone (again, administrator can turn on or off these components) and Image which enables you to upload an image (if applicable)
  • Billing – account summary and history (admin can turn this on or off)
  • $BlueBucks – Account summary, also enables you to redeem your $BlueBucks
  • Refer a Friend – I surmise that for most firms, this will be turned off

Please note, that you do not have to use $BlueBucks as part of your system. It is completely optional. Thus if you decide not to offer it, you would turn off the tab in the “My Account” section as well as in the header/footer.

While it offers some customizations, in general it typically lists

  • Featured Items-  this can be WBT, seminars – online or offline (ILT), resources, videos, etc. – interesting to note, that for “events” color codes are used – orangewith the text “in-person”, blue with the text “online”.
  • Enrolled – Courses, webinars, seminars, etc. that the end user is enrolled in – either via themselves or assigned to them

Under Featured or Enrolled the following information is present

  • Course/Resource/Event Title
  • Brief Description
  • And if applicable – estimated total number of hours to complete the course/materials/etc.

Finding out the progress is a tad funky, because you can some customization involved – which while that may seem like a great idea – the customization does not enable a progress bar or some type of graphical interface.

In the trial, I saw the following:

  • Not enrolled – blank
  • Enrolled – Green text that says “enrolled”
  • Completed – No longer visible under the Enrolled courses, but now appears in an archive of sort -

In another Blue Volt university used by Phillips, the following was seen under “Enrolled”

  • a green like icon with the words “On Scheduled”

Ideally for me, it would be great to have a graphical interface identifying “not enrolled”, “enrolled” and “completed”. Thus, not enrolled would be blank on the progress bar, but with the words “not enrolled”, enrolled would be yellow in bar, with “enrolled” in the text and completed would be “green” with completed. If the course was overdue, the bar would change to red.

This format is common when people create effective user guides or QRCs for training, even a navigation guide for online courses. Anyway, its just a thought.

Hey Course! Hey Category

While this system is extremely effective, I found the whole “course” and “category” think strange.  I clearly understand “courses” and what falls under that, but “category” can appear as well, and under it could be courses, resources, etc. – In a way it seems repetitive.

Category can be beneficial with the subjects available, then people click on the subject/topic and drills down to the course. 

Categories can also be beneficial using the same hierarchy for say resources – either by subject area or type and then drill down from that.

While it is true that categories contains everything and thus a search can be done with a click  here or there, the same can occur in courses – as the above example illustrates.

Under course is a PPT 2010 QRC, yet under the categories section, you see “downloadable reference”. Guess what? The QRC is visible in there too.

It should be noted that a “search” function is available on the screen – so searching by keywords is available to the end user as well as by pin code.

Enrolling in a Course

Super simple. Click on the course title and it takes you to the following screen

The learner can view the “outline” of the course, by clicking “outline”.  If you are using the $BlueBucks feature, the number of BBs is listed too.

Once you click enroll, the following screen appears

$BlueBucks

By now you have to be asking yourself, “What in the heck are $BlueBucks and how do they work?”. While you can read up on it via their web site – which I found a tad confusing myself, here are the essentials:

  • 1 point equals $1
  • The client sets the $BlueBucks amount on the course
  • The client sets their own budget, so they can assign as many or as few $BlueBucks as they want per course
  • The learner receives the BBs upon completion of the course – the only drawback I have personally with the approach – because with true WBT – the whole point is to zing in and out as often as you want and as many times as you want without having to complete the course
  • You do not have to charge your learners in order for them to acquire BBs – thus, it is not a requirement that you set a “fee” for a course, rather you can offer the courses for free – and the learner upon the completion of said course – land the BBs associated with that course
  • If you decide to purchase the CEU courses that Blue Volt offers and thus offer them to your end users – you can get BBs too – this is totally optional and IMO for most businesses this would not apply – so if you don’t offer CEUs – don’t worry – you can still offer BBs

As with any incentive or reward program, the learner receives something “hence the incentive”. While there are a few vendors who offer the incentive angle, it is up to the customer to pay for the incentive or in many cases it is the usual “company mug” or “free courses” angle.

As early noted, while you could do this – I’ve found that most people want something tangible and specifically something more than the company t-shirt or mug. 

People love gift cards – and with over 100 vendors to select from – already put in play through BlueVolt – you simply select which gift cards and whalla – of you go.  Of course, you have to have a budget for the gift cards.

According to BlueVolt, companies – clients who use BBs have seen a significant uptick in the number of learners completing courses versus not offering BBs.

Administration

While I could equally spend a few thousand words with all the capabilities and features of the administration side, here is the initial dashboard you will see upon entering the admin side.

You can then pull down and see more specifics by course or by group

When you select a course the screen will change and include the following:

  • Graphical interface showing enrollments and completions in the last 12 months color coded 
  • Highlights: identifying view numerals – number of enrollments, completions and if applicable $BlueBucks awarded
  • Quick Reports – Course enrollment report (Excel download), individual user results (Transcript), view course rollup (Grade Book), aggregated quiz and survey results
  • Actions: enroll students, edit courses, manage schedules, choose another dashboard, e-mail this dashboard (which you can schedule), email students about this course

When you select a group, the screen looks a tad different from the course screen. While the graphical interface is still visible – with enrollments and completions for the past 12 months, the highlights are different.

They are listed by the group, with the top being “enrollments”, “completions”, “course hours” and “$bluebucks awarded”. Reports and actions equally change.

Under the reports section – Course enrollment report (Excel download), individual user results (Transcript), view course rollup (Grade Book) – are the same, but User $BlueBucks, training track progress and completed course hours are now visible.

Under the actions area – edit groups, add or remove groups, edit roles, create users in group, create user, choose another dashboard, e-mail dashboard.

The header on top of the administration screen always presents the following categories going to L to R

  • Reports – contains very useful reports beyond what is listed under the “snapshot” of the dashboards – reports are broken out by users, courses and $BlueBucks. Under each sub-category contain the essential reports you need.  As earlier noted, Blue Volt enables you to create ad-hoc reports.
  • Training – sections are  content and student management. Content includes: categories, course families, shared courses, course schedules, training tracks, course e-mailer and auto enrollment links

Student management – course enrollment, manual pass, allow retakes, approve activity, enrolled requests, track offline courses (for example: in-person), grade essay

  • Users – “users” and sub category options, “groups” and sub-category options, “administrators” and sub-category options
  • Settings
  • Help
  • Logout 

Bottom Line

While their core audiences are manufacturers, services, distributors and associations, this system can easily be recommended to any business or organization.

Overall this system is a powerful ride on the extended enterprise LMS highway.

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