Hello from sunny Los Angeles.

Back again to bring this first in a series of rankings for the top ten learning management systems for 2013. As many of you will around know, these rankings are just the first in of series. That said, just as a reminder:

Here is how these new rankings will work throughout 2013:

  • Debut this month, update in July, final top 25 in Dec.
  • Vendors can move up, down or out of the rankings – after all it is on-going
  • First ranking are the top ten, July rankings are top 25, final rankings are the top 25
  • Listings can always be found on a new page called “rankings” which will appear in one month – thus eliminating the need to do a search (if applicable)
  • Rankings are based on my directories which are updated monthly; I also keep a separate directory which will contain more vendors than listed within the visible directories – reason being it offers clients (those who hire me – buyers to have an added bonus, of course it contains much more info); that said the monthly directories provide key info and in future updates have new columns added
  • There is never a quid pro quo, pay for play or whatever with my rankings. I’m not a lead gen for the vendors listed – rather the goal is to provide you with vendors that meet numerous criteria including UI, features, support/service, mobile, feedback from current and past clients and future game plans
  • 100% independent. No spin. You want that – there are plenty of places out there that offer it. You will never find it here.

Okay now that is covered, let’s jump right into the action.

#10 Interactyx – Topyx

Where have you been my friend? Back from the dead, I surmise. Actually not really, but they have rebounded to overhaul the user interface – and I am told continuing to do so. Still listed as a social learning management system, they have made some new strides that really work for me.

Pluses

  • Big win still with the communities tied to not only groups but also specific courses. They were the first ones to do this, and still a big plus in my book
  • Unlimited users – a rarity in today’s market
  • More collaborative features
  • Support of the iPad, thus mobile learning. It actually has gotten better.
  • Overall a huge improvement

Minuses

  • Charging to remove their name of the system. Why? I mean besides making additional money, I would never want to have their name on the platform. As a former training director I had enough problems with users buzzing me about whatever, but having the name of the vendor too would not be good.
  • E-commerce fee per year. A big peeve of mine in general. E-Commerce with many vendors is included nowadays. If you want to charge, charge once.

#9 Absorb LMS

Remember back in my authoring tool list, I mentioned one well known LMS vendor who dropped significantly in my rankings? Well, here they are.

The system is still very strong and they have updated their UI. Ideal for folks who want a multi-tenant system or also known as an extended enterprise. So, why the drop?

Pluses

  • HTML5 interface – big win for tablets in general, especially the iOS devices
  • New UI – always a good thing. Their original UI was always smooth so it only gets better
  • Mercury Module – specifically the banners component, although new stories is interesting – it already exists in quite a few systems, same thing with contests and polls

Minuses

  • Paying extra for the “Mercury Module” – features: Contests, quick polls, news stories, banners/videos (called banners) so that you can advertise or promote new courses, events on the home page
  • Changing SmartLab, a LMS, to the newly entitled Mercury Module, which is an add-on within the Absorb LMS.  SmartLab,  which was pitched as more robust system – stronger customization for the front, a few new features and while it was initially built for one client, they started to move clients from the Absorb LMS to SmartLab and even recommended to some current clients (who had just bought Absorb) to consider upgrading at a later point to SmartLab.
  • A little late to the game for some features that others already had in play

I still see it as a strong system, especially for extended enterprise, but I have some minor concerns (based on feedback from some current clients) that causes me to place the system at #9.

#8 Docebo

A very inexpensive system that continues to pack some nice features. What are those?

Pluses

  • Tin Can compliment – but no native app and no online/offline synch
  • Available in 30 languages
  • Personalization capability for each end user – including selecting their own language, which may be different from another end user in the same system
  • Choose quickly between a simple streamlined version and their advanced – IMO, I would use their advanced
  • Courses includes – simply click and whalla in the system – via their marketplace
  • Interface with Salesforce.com (but you need to already have SF)
  • Easy to use interface
  • Built-in help desk
  • Integrates with WordPress
  • Comes with App store

Minuses

  • Marketplace now included courses you can buy from other content providers – how is this different from some vendors of today who can add content from 3rd party vendors, when you call them? It isn’t.

#7 eLogic Learning

A very nice system that continues to get better. Pricing is solid and support is fantastic (everyone should be like this).

Pluses

  • New video component (coming soon!)
  • Competencies
  • Integrates with Office 365 via API
  • Very good for extended enterprise systems and even standalone systems i.e. without going multi-tenant
  • Tin Can API with online/offline synchronization – AWESOME!
  • Mobile works on all devices including the Kindle (Amazon)
  • Certificates can look differently from one to the next
  • Easy to use

Minuses

  • I still believe there is room to grow with the UI, especially Admin side

#6 IMC-AG Clix

At the end of 2012, was #4, now it is #6. Listen this is a very good system, but it has stumbled a bit – especially on the mobile side (more on that sec).

Pluses

  • M-Learning offers online/offline synchronization
  • Schedule integration with Microsoft Outlook
  • Audit trails
  • Integrates with Office 365 with API
  • Robust features
  • Strong for multi-tenant (extended enterprise) and even if you just want a system with no extended enterprise
  • Lots of languages to choose from

Minuses

  • What is taking so long with that new UI?
  • Charges extra to use their mobile features – per user per year, plus per year for the mobile component – what the heck is going on here? This to me is a huge minus which has caused them to drop

Pricing is mid-tier.

#5 BizLibrary – Company College

One of the first vendors to include the video boxes on the home page, rather than just the text for course title, etc. The UI is still very good and support is very good too.

Pluses

  • Next to video blocks – users can preview and leave comments, ratings
  • On the home page the product is able to recommend courses based on what courses have been started and completed – per user
  • Lists latest and newest videos (which are courses), most popular, highest rated or by course duration
  • Peer recognition
  • Users can share and send courses to fellow users (LOVE it)

Minuses

  • While the UI is vastly improved, on the admin side it needs a slight touch – but don’t get wrong the product is doable and nice
  • No Tin Can and thus no online/offline synch

Pricing is extremely inexpensive.

#4 Instructure – Canvas

Great educational learning management system. The best one on the market. These guys cream the competition and offers enough to please virtually anyone looking for an educational LMS.

Pluses

  • Open API
  • Facebook and SMS (text) notifications
  • Very ease to use
  • Can leave text, audio and video feedback
  • Parents can enroll as well, while I get the value of it – if my Mom enrolled when I was a kid – I would not be hip on that – can we say “Big Brother”? (K-12)
  • State standards (K-12)
  • Mobile – including on the iPad, including their grade book, which they call SpeedGrader
  • Platforms for higher education and K-12

Minuses

  • No online/offline synchronization which is bizarre since education is going the way of tablets – including iPad rather than purchasing laptops and desktops
  • Cannot interface with digital textbooks – which I see as a continuing growing market. I mean the only way they can do it is via API, which isn’t something I would do

Pricing is very affordable.

#3 Competentum- ShareKnowledge

The best SharePoint LMS on the market. Yes, there is a still market for SharePoint systems and I recommend finding a system already built on it, rather than doing it yourself (which many people do).

Pluses

  • Easy to use interface – which often does not happen with SharePoint LMSs
  • Social learning
  • Comes with an authoring tool
  • Mobile – support iPad
  • Works with SharePoint 2007 and 2010
  • Works with many 3rd party authoring tools including Articulate, Captivate
  • SCORM (in case you were wondering)
  • Integration tool included
  • Branding and skinning

Minuses

  • No SaaS solution, but this is not unusual in the SharePoint market – I hope that changes
  • Authoring tool is fairly poor

Pricing is affordable.

#2 Panopto

A video learning platform hits the rankings. Video learning platform – you might be asking what in the heck is that? Well, it is a new sub-genre of e-learning, whereas it is made of two components. A recorder which can record videos, demos not only on the desktop/laptop, but also with a mobile device such as the iPhone and iPad. (on a side note: next week’s blog covers the video learning platform market, including six vendors who stand out).

The other component – a video content management system.

Pluses

  • Can record live events and stream them or place them on the platform for future viewing
  • Can zero in with a mobile device in recording, even with a DV camera – so it is not just a wide shot when recording – which is awesome function for product demonstrations, heck even when showing someone how to do whatever..
  • Take notes during live presentations
  • Built in video transcript under the video, with a keyword search (example: Type in “dog” and the transcript goes to the text each time “dog” is presented, then you click the text and guess what happens next?
  • Goes to the time code in the video presentation (already recorded and posted on your platform) where the person is talking. No more having to watch the entire video
  • Can capture PowerPoint presentations and match them to the person talking
  • Can upload using Camtasia and other similar screen recording and capturing
  • Video editing
  • Podcast viewing
  • Video library access broken down by videos, so let’s say a group of people can only see “sales training”, well the other videos are blocked from viewing and the sales training is only available
  • Awesome feature set
  • M-Learning – can view on tablets, including iPad
  • Similar to TEDS in that the videos appear on the home page and people can click and watch

Minuses

  • Cannot skin on the SaaS version and even if you host it on your own servers you have to do it via CSS code (this is not uncommon in the VLP market, but it still is a minus in book)
  • Has a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, simple
  • While the UI is solid can be vastly improved

Pricing is based on two factors: Unison the platform and Focus – the recorders.

For Focus it is the number of recorders you purchase (think per machine. So if you have three people accessing the same machine and using the recording, you pay for only one license. If people are recording on different machines, then the fee is per machine, which in this case would be five licenses and on the other product Unison.

If you are using Camtasia or similar products and have no need for a recorder device NOR one for live streaming, you do not need the recorder. However you will need the Unison product (whose pricing is separate). 

That said pricing is affordable. Other fee is hours to use – which the base is 6,000 users at the cost of $3,000 USD. Unlimited people can access the system and use it. The whole thing – recorders and hours are yearly.

Disclosure: I am using the Panopto platform for my newest compliment to my blog – eVoluton by E-Learning 24/7, which will launch April 15, 2013 – and I believe will change the way you receive insight, product reviews (some will still be on the blog), etc. on the net.

That said, even if they weren’t providing the platform for me, I still will love the product. Anyone who read my post on a previous conference show from 2011 will have noticed comments on Panopto.

I personally believe the VLP market as a whole will be big. If I am looking to get into the e-learning market, I would go this route.

#1 ExpertusOne

Still the best LMS on the market. Perfect for those looking for a multi-tenant system (extended enterprise) and even just a system in general. Feature wise this product is fantastic.

I could go on with a lot of the capabilities for this product, but I won’t. Rather I will list just a few:

  • Mobile support including online/offline synchronization and native app
  • Best multi-lingual interface I have ever seen – everything changes to the whatever language you want – including the admin side
  • E-commerce and SSL included at no charge
  • FDA validation
  • Workflow engine
  • Lists the most popular training courses, highly rated training courses, new training courses, most active users on the home page (you can turn that off if you want)
  • Social learning
  • Native video player

Minuses

None I can really think of – that is why it is #1.

Pricing is mid tier.

Why isn’t:

SuccessFactors – I really liked this system in my previous rankings, but with a few new items I am hearing in relation to SAP, it drops it out of the top ten.

Specifically:

  • Seems heavily focused on the Performance mgt. angle, as well as a HCM (Human Capital Mgt) platform. Actually IMO I believe it is more of a HCM that offers learning as a module, than a LMS first and foremost. 

SumTotal: Expensive system and what you are buying is name IMO. Personally, this is a human capital management system which has a learning component.

Saba: See SumTotal. Strong in social, but also a HCM and as previously noted: They also told me they saw their system as a performance management product, which is fine. Yeah you can use it as a LMS, but why?

Cornerstone on Demand: Again, buying a name. This is really a HCM and yes it has a LMS, but they continue to have issues with their UI. An extremely poor UI IMO. For all that money they have, you think they would invest it into a better UI. Admin side is quite robust – but as a reader noted to me: it is overwhelming – too much. A similar point I mentioned in my review.

E-Learning 24/7