For the past month, I have been conducting a survey on learning platforms and specifically learning management systems.

The data shows that what many vendors assume end users want is far from accurate.

Too many vendors are focusing on talent/performance management as the next feature/component in their systems.

While this makes sense from a revenue standpoint, there is a huge base of people who do not want any TM/PM functionality.

Equally they are focusing on compliance components assuming that this is a huge upswing for an extensive list of companies.

Yet, as you will see from this survey, what you assume isn’t always the case.

Survey

Lasted for one month. Provided a strong cluster sample, representing folks across the globe, not just the U.S. Respondents were from all size of companies, education, higher education, associations, non profits and other. On the total number of employees, over 44% were from businesses 500 or less.

36% were from 501 to 5,000 employees (16.6% from the 501-1,000), and 11% were from companies over 50,000 employees.

Experience

A tad over 36% stated they had seven or more years experience, with one to three years of experience coming in second at 30.5%.

Do you have a LMS/LCMS/Learning Platform

69% said yes

One important data point here – the term “LCMS” is on its deathbed. Back in the early 2000′s, LMSs often had content mgt features built within their system, but called themselves learning management systems.

By the mid to late 2000′s, the split returned with LCMS and LMS (and yes, there were vendors who called themselves LCMSs for as long as e-learning – online learning – has existed).

Today, however more and more learning management systems are bringing into content management features, inc. file repositories.

Types of Training (respondents could select as many as they wanted)

As noted earlier in this post, the whole “compliance” driven features is striking the market at a fervor pace. While it is true that regulatory feature sets are useful – it totally depends on who are your target markets/vertical niches.

  • Product – 54.2%
  • Personal and Professional Development – 51.4%
  • Technical and IT – 45.7%
  • Compliance – 42.8%
  • Leadership Development/Performance Management – 40%
  • Sales – 25.7%
  • Microsoft Office – 20%
  • Other – 2%

What Does it Mean?

Product training reigns supreme. Not a real surprise here, when you consider that for many organizations, especially in certain industries, knowing the product inside and out, would be highly advisable. As for personal and professional development, it truly amazes me how many vendors in the e-learning space as a whole, forget this type of training.

A few years back, I offered Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish to our workforce. The courses were 100% online, SCORM compliant, with video, audio – including recording your voice and comparing to the speaker.

Guess what? It turned out to be one of most popular courses we offered.

On another front, the number one reason people leave their company is lack of personal and professional development (according to research collected from various orgs. on this topic). Wouldn’t it then make sense to offer this form of training online?

Something to Consider

I always recommend going to the 3rd party content provider for my 3rd party courses – i.e. soft skills, MS Office, etc. rather then going through the LMS vendor. I have found I can land a better price then using the quick way via the LMS vendor.

The vendor is taking a percentile of the sales of the courses, so it makes sense to go direct and cut out the middleman. You would be surprised at the number of content aggregators who privately do not have an issue with this approach. So, why do they offer the LMS vendors their content to be sold directly into the system?

Another distribution and revenue channel. Rosetta Stone, as mentioned above, offers online courses to be used in a LMS, but you have to contact them directly. Never assume that just because the LMS vendor doesn’t offer xyz content, that it isn’t available.

Best Yet

The content vendor will deal directly with your LMS vendor to ensure that the courses work in the system. You do not have to be an intermediary and waste your precious time with acting as a go between. Always make sure that after the courses are uploaded and tested – to test them yourself. Never sign off and pay, until you validate.

What Features would be nice to have in a LMS? (select all that are applicable)

  • Advanced analytics for administrators – 65.7%
  • e-book publishing and development – 60%
  • Podcasting – creating your own – 57.1%
  • Audio/video/image editing – 51.4%
  • Ability to use Skype – 48.5%
  • Ability to send SMS (text messages) – 48.5%
  • SEO (Search engine optimization features) – 40%
  • Dropbox, box.net or similar – 37.1%
  • Salesforce.com or customer mgt system integration – 17.1%
  • Other – 14.2%
  • Synch with accounting software ala Quicken, etc. – 5.7%

What does it mean?

For the second time around, consumers are speaking loud and clear that they want audio/video/image editing. Consumers made the same request regarding content authoring tools several months back, and at last count, I only saw three authoring tool vendors offering this feature.

Consumers also made the same request on the learning platform side too. Again, I’ve seen less then five systems enable this feature. It really makes zero sense on why this isn’t a feature in a system, when as a whole the consumer marketplace is going online to use these types of tools.

E-book development and publishing again is being requested by consumers as it was months ago – and again, it is being ignored. Just yesterday, a product called Inkling Habitat launched a collaborative cloud based publishing platform (its actually in early adopter stage). Genius. This follows the Apple angle on iBook publishing and Amazon as well.

As of right now, I only know of a few vendors who offer e-book development and publishing within their system.

Biggest Surprise

Advanced analytics for administrators. Actually it makes total sense. As more and more people are gaining experience working with LMSs, they are seeking another level for analyzing information.

We often focus on the end user side first and foremost for functionality and forget the administration side. Consumers are saying – no more.

The problem is that the majority of systems believe that ad-hoc reporting solves the advanced analytical data angle. It doesn’t. Definitely, ad-hoc is a must feature, but generating data and either reviewing within the system is no longer the only acceptable option.

BTW, one vendor told me, “they can export it into another database or program for deeper analysis” (congrats, this is the worst idea ever.. people want automation, not manual).

Let’s not forget that at the end of the day, ease of use stands above everything else. I have seen too many systems that have failed this test. It’s an absolute disgrace and one that is simple to fix.

What Features are essential for your LMS/LCMS/Learning Platform? (Select all that are applicable. Regardless if you have a system or not)

To me this is a very important question because it goes beyond, “what is nice” to what is “necessary”.

  • Mobile Learning – 68.5%
  • Peer Review, Chat, Collaborative Learning – 68.5%
  • Social Learning – 57.1%
  • Administration, wizards, stock images, templates – 57.1%
  • ILT/Classroom mgt – 48.5%
  • Talent/Performance mgt – 37.1%
  • Skype – 20%
  • E-commerce – 14.2%
  • Other 8.5%

What does it mean?

Mobile learning rules. A recent forecast by BI intelligence projects a growth rate of 50% compounded each year for tablets/e-readers. The forecast also projects that tablets (inc. e-readers) will outsell PCs by 2015, with an estimated 500 million units a year.

Mobile learning though is becoming somewhat of a spin for the industry. Very few LMSs offer online/offline synch with a native app – heck, online/offline synch in general, but pitch that they offer mobile learning.

What they really mean is that you can view the LMS and courses via your mobile web browser.

Too me, that is not truly mobile learning.

While it has been reported that the next version of the iPad will have 4G, lets not forget that 4G data is not free. Yes, you get the card or however it is built-in, but you still need a service to use it – and 4G costs are high, especially when it comes to data plans. This is one of the big reasons why more tablets are being purchased with WI-Fi then with the 3G or 4G.

Hence the value of an online/offline synch with a native app is so important.

As you can see, social learning is no longer the must have feature in a system. I blame this totally on the industry as a whole – who focused too much on the same features as everyone else – forgetting the over 25 different types of social media available, or even creating a mashup of social types.

This doesn’t mean social learning is falling off the cliff, but it does mean that something has to give – and give for the better.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise


Hmm..talent and performance management as necessities – because everyone wants it – as a few vendors told me in the past month? Guess not.

Blended Learning

ILT/Classroom mgt – again, you would think this is obvious, but I’m still seeing vendors struggling with this, especially with calendars and event management as a whole. One big reason for the upswing, more folks coming in from ILT, with an ILT background. They are being pushed – either by force, demand or realization, that e-learning is the future.

Yet, they can’t give up on their ILT approach or classroom offerings (even though webinars are equal if not better then many ILT and WBT is far superior to anything ILT).

Bottom Line

Perhaps the LMS industry will finally take notice.

E-Learning customers want features that align to their experience in e-learning as a whole and in the consumer marketplace.

They are tired of some LMS vendors who act as though they are the Borg and the customer must assimilate.

They are saying “resistance is no longer futile”.

Rather it will evoke change.

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