Over the course of the past few months, I’m seeing something. Okay, not something but SOMETHING.  It just isn’t going away. Not that I expected it to do so, mind you, because I recognized late 2011 that it would be big. I re-affirmed it in my forecasts for 2012.

Yet, something has changed. Not the products – they are still the same, but rather the “anti-” that they preach is nothing more than a previous incarnation of the past, sans the message.

It’s time for the real message.

Next Gen Lite Learning Management Systems

I’ll be frank, what is the best way to pitch your solution without saying you are like other systems?  Declare yourself the “anti”. 

If I am not really looking for a learning management system but want some basic things, I’d consider that route.

But make no mistake about it, they are learning management systems, albeit the next generation of lite LMSs. 

Specifics:

Take a deep dive of these systems and you are starting to see similarities.

  • Some base analytics – who took the course, completed the course, maybe progress
  • Grouping – the newer tier of these products are offering the ability to place x end users into groups – basic not robust
  • E-mail notification – auto notify end users when they sign up for a course, when they are assigned to a course and now my favorite – sending the end user a direct link to take the course – no need to go actually into the system
  • Reports – just a few
  • The analytics often are just a couple of histogram charts, but simple
  • Built in authoring tool – very very common. I should note that you cannot use any 3rd party vendor authoring tool to upload courses into these systems. However you can upload PowerPoint, Word and similar.
  • Just as in any product nowadays, add video, audio, media files
  • Assessment tool – basic but doable for most folks
  • Select colors from a palette or themes, add logo
  • Customize e-mails, maybe even include the ability to send via SMS (new)
  • Learner profiles
  • Ability to sell your own courses – starting to see more and more in this next gen space
  • Upload users from a file
  • Cannot upload off the shelf content from a 3rd party vendor – say Rosetta Stone or Skillsoft or in some cases e-learning marketplaces
  • Newbie trend – custom URL domain – irony: it is a trend that is being seen across the entire LMS space, with more and more vendors offering it at no charge
  • Low cost – again there are plenty of LMS vendors out there whose pricing is comparable and in some cases lower

Okay, so explain to me how this is not a learning management system? Here’s a secret: there are more learning management systems that do not shove the entire kitchen sink into their product, than those who do.

There are more learning management systems who offer robust features without breaking the bank in any economy than those who charge over 60K for 500 users.

There are more learning management systems who offer that – BUT you can use any 3rd party authoring tool. You can also upload off the shelf content.

Who are they?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the players in this next gen of lite learning management systems who may pitch themselves as not a learning management system.

  • Mindflash – the leaders of the entire bunch. For the longest time they called themselves a training management system.  Now they are “easy online training”
  • ProProfs - “create online training and courses easily”
  • Coursepark - “learning networks” you need to scroll down to learn more
  • Digitalchalk - count the number of times training is mention

Who pitches themselves as a LMS – rightfully so, but hmm seems to offer more in alignment with the above

  • Coggno – has open ID which is a big win and some social learning
  • Zenler Online - you can only use their authoring tool – that said, I do like the system

Not sure who they are

  • Articulate Online - leaders of the pack. Some people will say to me, “oh we picked AO because it is a LMS”, others will say, “we picked them because they are not a LMS”.  I would argue that initially they were an online authoring system, but have moved slightly into the new genre.
  • Knoodle - I wish these guys would make up their mind on what they are in terms of their system. At one time they pitched lite LMS, now its social learning platform. My take? Online presentation system. But hey, I can live with learning management system – since who said a LMS had to use only courses as its push out product?

Bottom Line

Take any marketing class and you will hear it’s all about the message. 

Get the message right and they will come.  Get the message wrong and hear only crickets.

For learning management systems they are in “buy mode”.

So why hurt your brand with a different message?

Because it won’t last forever.

Then what will you do?

Change it?

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