This past week I attended an Arena Football league game and came to realize there is a reason I never have been to one – I never heard of anybody nor did i enjoy the blasting of a semi like cannon after they scored a touchdown (which happens a lot).

The game is a myriad of fast action, no defense and some confusing rules. The best part of the whole game was halftime, where some pee wee football kids played a quick game.

Actually it scored some of the loudest cheers and best of all no cannon fire.

One of the things people love about halftime is the ability to run to the food areas among other places. They crave food, beverage and the enjoyment of doing nothing.

Sit back, grab a beverage, a quick snack and enjoy the LMS Trends Halftime.

I say SaaS, you say Potato (PO-TAT-TOE)

SaaS is where its at. Let me be clear on that, people want SaaS systems.  Now you can explain the difference between what is actually your SaaS system from the IT perspective and how it is different than what other people call a SaaS system, but here is thing.

No one cares. All they care about is whether the system is in “the cloud”.

SaaS or “in the cloud” to the consumer means that is it hosted on your servers or wherever you host your LMS and they can access it via the internet regardless of where they are located as long as they have an internet connection.

If you offer the SaaS option and the consumer hosts it on their own server, fine. I understand that some government entities and financial and a few others who are worried about security and blah, blah want it on their own servers. Yet, there are some major cons with this approach.

Here are just a couple:

  • Pricing is typically higher to have you (consumer/company) on your own servers than “in the cloud”
  • The Perpetual license isn’t that awesome, IMO, because unless you actually own the system yourself, rather than leasing it (which is what everyone does under the term “buying” it), than I see no point, especially in 2012.  Systems have come a long way from the days of yesteryear
  • Security is quite strong for SaaS systems. In 13 years of doing this, I have never heard of a hosted system (which was occurring in the early days) being hacked. Web sites yes. LMSs? No.
  • Some systems now clearly state their security level, AES 256 bit for example, so if you are that concerned ask them.
  • If your system on your own servers goes down or has bandwidth issues, you are in some minor doo doo, especially when your end users come complaining to the person in charge of training.  I have seen systems on consumers’ servers have bandwidth problems especially if they do not have load backing.
  • When you need a fix, then the LMS vendor must work with you either remote to solve it or if it is big nasty fix, go on site.   In a SaaS system they can do right from their location or wherever it is hosted in the cloud. Typically it is a faster fix than on your own servers.
  • Updates – they have to download them to you and you have to load them. Unless your IT staff is standing by, time can be a challenge

SaaS and LMS vendors

Based on my research, 92% of LMSs in my directory of 455 systems, have SaaS systems. Twenty or so offer both options, but they are included in the SaaS numbers because they offer the SaaS. The rest host on your own servers. 

Even one time open source systems are starting to offer hosting for an additional cost.  The exceptions are there of course: Moodle and a few others, but people are moving more and more into the cloud.

I now pronounce you Authoring Tool and LMS, you may now integrate/interface

I’m still a believer that it is wise to use a 3rd party authoring tool rather than use an authoring tool built into a LMS. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with doing so, and there are some nice advantages to it – mainly one stop shop, but if you are a LMS vendor who does not have an authoring tool built-in, it will not cause your demise.

However, from the authoring tool vendor integrating into a LMS, it makes smart business sense on both sides of plate (LMS too) – especially if an end user can still use any 3rd party authoring tool AND with the authoring tool integrating into the LMS, you can output courses in HTML5, which IMO is HUGE.

I’m seeing a greater number of LMS vendors either interfacing (often the first step, prior to integrating) with an authoring tool vendor (has to be SaaS) or in the works of doing so (according to quite a few vendors I’ve talked to).

From a LMS vendor perspective there are a lot of pluses

  • You do not have to build an authoring tool from scratch
  • You can work out a revenue partnership – money for all – who doesn’t love that?
  • A new distribution channel – again, on both sides – LMS & Authoring tool
  • Most authoring tools in LMSs cannot output to HTML5 nor have robust feature sets – however there are more and more authoring tool vendors who can output courses into HTML5 and have some sweet feature sets
  • The authoring tool – if they are already outputting to HTML5 and working on off/on synch clearly is cutting edge – again, who doesn’t want that – of course it has to work without issues on a tablet or smartphone (which so far is a mixed bag)
  • Savings of cost – ties into not building from scratch
  • Ability to use 3rd party authoring tool vendors is always a major plus – which most vendors do anyway – so adding this beyond ur new BFF is a no lose proposition
  • The end user may already being using ABC authoring tool vendor so having them use it within your system eliminates some problems other vendors will face

Unlimited End Users and Zeppelins – What do they have in common?

If this was a utopian world everyone (including myself) would want unlimited users for one set fee rather than paying per bucket of users.  While there are some vendors who still offer this capability, many who tried have given up and returned to the seat packages.

Back in the late 1910′s, twenties and the mid- thirties, many people saw the future of travel via the mighty Zeppelins. Then this small problem happened with this airship called the Hindenburg and over night the future in Zepps went to Zip (from a travel perspective).

For vendors who offer unlimited, I am sure it is doing well for you and is a big positive for you. It is a way to counter free open source  systems.   Yet it just isn’t catching on with anyone else and considering this has always been a lemming industry – that should say something.

Unless your system is built on an open source platform (which exists for top two LMS vendors who offer it ) than the cost do go that route doesn’t make sense unless you have unlimited cash flow.

Can I have a custom domain to go?

There is an uptick in the number of vendors who are offering custom domains for customers. These are the domains who do not use yourname.abclearninglmsvendorname.com.

What makes this interesting are the two routes vendors are going.

  • Include it at no additional charge
  • Charging a one time fee

I like including it an no additional charge. I mean there are dozens of ways to integrate the cost into something else, so why deal with the headache of explaining why they should pay extra for it, when you can toss it in as a benefit.

The 3Cs – Compliance, Certificates and CEUs

Certificates has always been a feature that most vendors have offered in the past few years. But in the past 6 months more and more vendors are going that route with special bonuses such as

  • Select various templates – beyond uploading your own
  • Auto sending certificate to end user
  • Tying it in with certification – especially with performance mgt/talent mgt features – as if unless you offer PM/TM it won’t exist – guess what for most vendors it does

CEUs

As more people jump into the certification angle, the ability to track CEUs is becoming more apparent.

Yes there were plenty of vendors who did this in the past, but CEUs including monitoring your continued need for accreditation (for whatever) is on the rise. At one time you only saw it with vendors whose systems targeted specific verticals. Not anymore.

There are several verticals that people acquire CEUs and similar to maintain their certification which most people are aware of – i.e. industries. But how many people are aware of various associations who require them OR specific job roles? 

Compliance

Vendors offering compliance has been around for many years, but again it is on the rise – especially with the magical word “regulatory”.

The funny thing is that for vendors who offer “regulatory”, the number who do not interface in some form with specific regulatory agencies is staggering.  The anti-argument for it – is that their customers do not want this feature and/or the accessing for auditing is worrisome from privacy concerns.

Whatever.   A bonus is the number of vendors who are not going to the digital signature route for compliance, audit tracking, etc.  If your country, state or province accepts digital signatures for legality purposes, than why not seek that in a system?

Especially one you are using for its regulatory/compliance and work audits?

Two more Trends

You can view them via my E-Learning 24/7 newsletter, which is 100% free and comes out monthly. The newsletter always includes two trends, one hot market, what is happening now and marketing buzz word.  It also includes social sharing with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Pinterest.

Bottom Line

These are just some really hot LMS trends through July, which is typically one of the hottest months of the year for most of the world. 

Of course, there are LMS features in pipe including multiple editions, selling courses similar to an e-learning marketplace and viewing on tablets and other mobile devices.

And yes, there are systems who are offering some features no one else is doing – THANK YOU.

However, there continues to be a gerbil in the wheel mentality.

The same mentality we see when watching a halftime show featuring a band or someone shooting a basketball with a chance to win 1 million dollars if they can toss it from the other side of the court, blindfolded and people screaming in their ears (that would be awesome, actually).

Halftime has become synonymous with gimmicks and all other shlock that is readily available for your eyes to see.

The LMS market is the same way.

Seeing is believing.

And I believe we are seeing something wonderful.

E-Learning 24/7