While the Melon LMS has some clever ideas, these get lost in interfaces that create more confusion then watching another Charlie Sheen meltdown.

Front End

After logging into the Melon LMS you are presented with an interface.

On the navigation bar, which has some cool little icons:

  • Trainings – the actual home page
  • Settings – Modify user settings, including changing the language, changing password, & help guide
  • Administration (which unless you have access, you will not be able to view)

Left side of the main screen

  • Search function: Find trainings by name or Training ID, you can search by “active” or “expired”
  • Operations: Export to Microsoft Excel (97-2003), help

Center – main screen

By default, opens up all the views

  • Required Trainings – For courses required, by due data/time
  • Optional Trainings – Courses without a time requirement, or might find of benefit to the end user, can also be where the course catalog is placed
  • Completed Trainings- Courses that are 100% finished

Under each “trainings”, you will see the  title, followed by ID (which is listed as training ID)

You will also see a screen shot of the course with additional tab like items, you can click to see more screens (if applicable).

Required Trainings, Optional Trainings, Completed Trainings

The system requires “training IDs”, which is a nice feature, but if my small business is 50 users, I may not have training IDs.

As for the course title, when you click it, it closes the viewing  window of the course(s) and provides data. I would rather have it provide me a description. The other data shows the number of courses under that category, say “Optional trainings”, completion and start date.

Front End: 3/10 – Left side navigation listing of Operations is confusing and the main central screen seems to be missing a few features.

The lack of seeing the description, when you clicked on the course title, didn’t help.  But, the ability to see visually chapters or pages of the course was nice and the “launch” button within it was nice too.

Administration Side

Two words. Confusing. Overload.

Back end is non-user friendly with too many choices, that while sounds good in theory, in this case it creates sensory overload that at one point, I said to myself, “you have to be kidding me”.

I can see some of the issues in larger systems, whose track records on the back end of confusion aligns with this, but not from a Lite LMS whose goals are different.

Main header – navigation

Again, very nice icons, clever, that identify specifically where you need to go

Home Administration Page

Curriculum is the home page

Left side:

Search Function where you can find quickly the information. If you enter “a” it will pull up every training (course) that has an “a” in it as the title

  • Find
  • Training ID – search by ID number assigned to the training (course)
  • Status: Pending, Active, Expired
  • Required – Yes, No
  • Start date
  • End date

Nice search functionality, especially when you have a lot of courses and need to find active ones with a date range.

Operations

  • Export to Excel
  • Assign User(s) to training
  • Assign Group(s) to training
  • Create new training(s)
  • Reset training, quizzes
  • Help

Kudos for Melon having the “help” visible and not hidden where the end user can’t find it and gets frustrated.

While I found the assign user(s) and group(s) to training a simple process, the issue arose, when you have users who are on multiple pages.

Assign users to training

  1. Select the trainings.  If you click “assign users to training” a pop-up window appears notifying you to select the training(s) first
  2. Click “Assign users to training” – pop-up window appears
  3. Select users – you will see “end user name” “team director” and e-mail address
  4. Click on the box next to the user’s name (on the page it lists 25 users, so you can select up to 25 at one time),  Choose “Assign” “UnAssign” or “Cancel”
  5. Click “Assign” button
  6. End users are assigned to the training, and pop-up window closes

The default screen shows only 20 users, so if you are not paying attention, after you select “Assign”, you will have to repeat the steps #1-5. However, when you pull down the 20, you can select 50,100 or all users.

After assigning the users to the training, no confirmation screen appears, so there is no way of knowing immediately that it has been completed. It would be nice to see some type of verification.

Assign Group(s) to Training

Follows the first two steps, but instead of selecting “Assign User(s) to Training”, you select “Assign Group(s) to Training”

Pop-up window appears

  • Find – enter in a search and click “Search”
  • Select one of the groups already on the page. If there are sub-groups, pull down option appears and you pull down to see the other groups
  • Click the group(s)
  • Choose “Assign” “Un-Assign” “cancel”

Create New Training

  • Search – Same functions as above, but not sure why it is even listed, since this window is to “Create New Training”, and the “Search box” is the same as the one in the “curriculum” page, which is the appropriate area to be posted
  • Training – Create a training title, training ID (both required), Description is optional, owner, training is either required or not, enforce course sequencing (Yes/N0) – which means that the course must follow a linear process, thus the end user cannot bounce around to different sections if they so choose

If the training ID already exists in the system, when you select “Save” it will warn you that it is, and you will need to enter another ID. IDs must be numbers and cannot be text code

  • Assigned Courses – Cannot view, until the training has been created
  • Assigned Users – Cannot view, until the training has been created, select schedule – choose the schedule

After you click Assign and assuming you selected a “schedule”, a pop-up window appears to add the users. However, this time there is no option to pull down to view all the users in the system.

So, if you have more than one page of users, you need to select them, go to then next page and so on. However, it will recall all those users you have selected on the previous page.

At any point, you can click on a user’s name and it will go to the User tab, where you can view the end users information.

One of the biggest issues in the system, as it relates to “too many choices” occurs in the Permission option, which defines the level of access for the user.

Super Administrator

  • Access to all menus in the system
  • Access to all functions in the user section, group section – including creating sub-groups
  • Can send emails to all users

Local Administrator

  • Similar functions to above, however limited in some areas

Author - only authors have access to the course window

  • Creates, edits and deletes courses
  • Identifies approximate time to complete the course, assigns courses to training(s),
  • Indicates passing grades, can change the language of the course,
  • Use the course authoring tool, which is only available if you purchase it as a standalone or in their Learning Suite.  It does not automatically come with the LMS
  • Adds, creates, deletes an image as course label

Trainer

  • Creates, Edits and Deletes training
  • Selects courses that can be selected in certain training
  • Selects users or groups that will pass in trainings

Manager

  • Access to the reporting function concerning training, users, usage, courses,  groups
  • Only the Manager has access to the Report function

Trainee

  • Access to the trainees module, can change password
  • See the courses in certain trainings, open a training
  • Create a report

Now, why would the “managers” be the only ones who can access the report function? Wouldn’t it make sense to have the Super Administrators be the only ones and then have the ability to send reports to the managers?

There is overlap and some redundancy in the permissions. Why would a “trainee” create a report? And why enable them to do so?

Worse, there can be a lot of people who have access to the administration side of your system at some level. Why would you want to have all these hands in there, who can make an error and then you have no idea until it is too late?

How about a Super Administrator, Local if you so choose to (but in this system, why?) and authors.

A LMS  should be simple, including set permissions. Why some systems feel the necessity of going “managers” or “department heads” access to certain features, makes no sense.

What I have found is that majority of them just want certain reports and nothing else. If they have unlimited time to be in the system, whether it is in the Administration side or a special section for them, perhaps they need more do to at work.

And I have yet to see any “manager” who has that unlimited time.  What you could do is create an automatic report system, where the administrator identifies what reports the “manager” needs – based on discussions and then once a week the report is sent to the person via e-mail, as an .XLS or .PDF.  Simple, time saver.

If you as the super administrator wants to be able to create courses, and have access to the report function, you have to select those additional permissions to do so.

Reports

While there are some nice components – for example “usage” and number of times in the “course” – especially if the person is only focusing on one area (with a non-linear course), listing “SCO” makes no sense.

Unless the person is an instructional designer, developer or has a background in it, most people have no idea on what is a “SCO”.  So for them, this would be useless information.

However, having the usage, number of times and adding “where in the courses they went to” – now that is a cool feature that should be listed. For example, if Susan is having difficulty with a certain product or learning a skill, you can see if they are going to those areas in the course, how often and how long. Same thing with sales training.

Rating: 5/10

Pricing

Based on a maximum number of users (learners) + per server hosting and maintenance cost. Additional services are offered at a standard flat fee of $35 per person hour. Offers hosted and no-hosted options.  Example pricing for hosted:

1 year costs

  • 500 users = $18,000
  • 10,000 users = $62,000
  • 25,000 users = $118,000
  • 100,000 users = $224,000

Mobile Learning

No

Social Learning

No

Product: Melon LMS

Bottom Line

The Melon LMS tries to be many things but falls short. With an overload on the back-end, they seem to have forgotten who is their administrator audience, and what are their needs.

It should be easy to use and straight forward.

Sadly, it isn’t.