Let me ask you a question. What do these four items have in common?

  • Miami Vice
  • MTV
  • Huey Lewis and the News – Now available at your local fair
  • Parachute Pants

All hyped up in the eighties. But let’s not forget that we had less cable channels than we do today – and at the time only MTV was it.

Parachute Pants were not universal – as in I don’t recall anyone over 25 wearing them (heck I was in HS and then college in the late 80’s and I never owed a pair). 

Huey Lewis should have been banned from the get go – and only made it huge because of the massive overkill from MTV.

And Miami Vice – network television ruled, people were wearing items such as neon and people thought everyone from Miami was dressing as Crockett and Tubbs.  Oh, and some people actually thought they were great actors (NOT!).

Hype Value is High

Trends have a way of turning the hype machine into overload and leading consumers on a wild goose chase to nowhere. Some are deserving of their hype. Others are not because reality isn’t matching the hype.

Here are a four trends making the rounds where hype is not hitting reality.

Gamification points

Gamification is on super fire, but  one item missing in this new trend, is the lack of what to do with all those points.  Because right now within the LMSs – you can do zero (look no points!). 

They could incorporate a product such as incomm digital solutions, formally Gifttango as Blue Volt started to do 3.5 years ago.

Or they could create something totally new  – such as a built in store, where learners could purchase items or select items with all those points (the clients would actually buy the items ahead of time – and then place them into the “store”).

Because as noted above, the only thing you can do right now – is brag about how many points you have accrued and see your name on a leaderboard.

Mobile with Tablets — Your friend shouldn’t be the browser

Yeah it is rocking, but the hype would have you believe that everyone is going with native apps and on/offline synchronization.  The real reality is that this isn’t the case.  For most vendors it is going through the web browser.

A couple of vendors pitch on/offline players which can only be used with a laptop.  Oh, do they mention that up front with their marketing on their site?  Nope.

That said, there are more vendors than in the past month or so, who are working on a native app with on/off synch.  But it comes with some caveats:

  • Some are touting it by stating it is on their roadmap. When I worked at a tech company, the roadmap pitch was an easy way of saying “yeah it is in the works” but that could be whenever and not necessarily immediate.
  • Tin Can API (also called the Experience API) – First pick the name and stick with it. Either one or the other – let’s not confuse folks any more than the industry has to.  Just because a vendor is adding or has the Tin Can API does not mean they have or going to have a native app nor have on/off synch.  So yes, the hype trend is Tin Can API, but the hype negative is the presumption of on/off synch with Tin Can.
  • Browser based with mobile learning – what adds the stink value to this – is that the vendor could have a native app, but when you click it – surprise – it opens up your web browser and so you are going through the net.  In other words, you could do the same thing without the native app. 
  • Being seen more in iTunes than Google Play.  When vendors tout the Android app – wouldn’t it make more sense to say the app is in Google Play? I mean they often associate the iOS with iTunes.  It has become synonymous. So, why aren’t they doing the same thing with Android? Lastly, why am I not seeing vendors with m-learning apps mention Microsoft’s Surface tablet – last I looked it has apps.  Irony? I see more with Blackberry – I want names on people still using BB. Seriously, give me the names – because they must still own a VCR and 8 track tapes.

Video and video courses – You say Video, I say ambiguous 

Remember when I mentioned above about using terms that actually mean what they are supposed to mean?

Well, video is in the misleading category.  When I think of video, I think of people recording something with their video cameras, smartphones, tablets and other electronic means.  I don’t think screen capturing and recording software.

Yet the reality is the latter and not the former. 

The only real video production based courses are those created by vendors including those in other e-learning spaces beyond just the LMS space or custom development shops who have the money to invest in those types of shoots (either for a client i.e. current customer or to sell via a course marketplace).

 If you were to take a look at the number of customers who have an in-house video team and video production lab, it is highly likely that they would be very big companies who have in the past created videos – as in the VHS or on DVD kind. 

A customer – and this can include associations or educational institutions might fall also into this category, but it is not universal to everyone. Yet, the term video is a universal term.

Video is hot – especially video courses – but let’s put the reality where it actually fits. 

Video streaming by the way is gaining some steam – but again, reality is settling in. Video takes up a lot of bandwidth and video streaming – not only do you need the bandwidth but you also need the speed to stream the video.

Speaking of which, the bad hype tied to this – is that some vendors are mentioning or even including and listing as such – the amount of storage the customer receives with the LMS.

Storage 1, You the Customer O – You say Storage – I say Ripoff

What some vendors are doing to offset those costs – is to push them onto the customer. Either via the infamous “we give you 10GB, 20GB, etc. of storage” (then anything above that you pay, and I’m sorry but even $10 for 10GB is too much) OR they might offer a faster speed for an extra cost OR they hide the cost in the system.

What people tend to forget is that the storage angle includes all your content and not just the video side. So, if you have a lot of video that 10GB is going to go much faster than say if all you had were courses with the usual fare of video links, small embed video files, audio files, image files, documents and content in general.

It used to be that vendors as a whole would never state how much storage you are getting with your SaaS based system.

Now it seems that storage is becoming a commodity.  What hits my alienation button is you are dropping a few thousand at the minimum on a LMS, and for most folks it is at least 20K to 50K for a system.  So, why should you also have to pay either for the storage, or the stream speed or any cost hidden or otherwise for the storage capacity?

I’m sorry, but if I just paid 100K for your LMS, give me unlimited storage. Because here is the thing – I know that the “seat” cost that you are pitching is totally arbitrary. That is why, it is always amazing how you can go from $45 a seat to $10 or less a seat in less than a few hours.

Bottom Line

I’m all for hype. Gamification is hype and whether you like it or not, it is being utilized for its value (again you can easily argue the opposite).  But as with Gamification – the hype is somewhat misleading.  If you are going to do gamification, then it must have these four components:

  • Leaderboard with learners’ faces on it
  • Leaderboard on the home page – or main page learners are going to
  • Badges – I’m not a big fan of these babies, but many customers are and so are many learners
  • Points – A requirement, otherwise your gamification is about as useful as that Kajagoogoo tape cassette from the eighties

Yet, many vendors are not seeing it. Many are missing at least two components (thankfully points is universal).

So is the hype really meeting reality?

I’ll leave that up to you.

But to me, I’m still on the fence.

As Public Enemy once said, “Don’t Believe the Hype”.

And for once, I agree.

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