I have been following Mindflash since it started as a beta. The product continues to add new features that overall are surprisingly solid.  However, they continue to incorporate some instructor led training components, which is a disservice to an otherwise nice product.

Good

  • Ability to add YouTube videos to course(s)
  • Certification templates
  • E-mail specific slides to subject matter experts for review
  • Timelines separated for PDF/docs and materials, with the ability to move to different insert areas
  • Quick uploading and viewing of slides and files
  • Extensive acceptance of video formats including .mov, .mp4
  • Preview option allowing to view via non-linear (i.e. you can view slides without a linear particular order)
  • Easy to use
  • Selling course option
  • Lots of options

Average

  • Quiz formats (M/C: single or multiple answer, sequencing, true/false, labeling, pics, etc.)
  • Reports – very basic, but this is more a content authoring tool hybrid – which is becoming more prominent in the industry, so the minimal report is equally being seen
  • E-Mail notifications and reminders
  • Preview window
  • Inserting other materials, docs, vids into the course
  • Skinning options – continues to give you only three choices, and you can add your own logo
  • Works in Chrome, Firefox, IE 9 (did not test Safari)

Poor

  • Terms “trainer” and “trainee” – these are instructor led terms, not e-learning
  • Requirement for the “trainer” to have their e-mail address before course is launched – why? Again, it screams instructor led
  • Inability to have course be non-linear when live; it stays linear (another typical ILT feature), hint: WBT’s power is non-linear
  • Cannot move slides in the arrange mode – i.e. once you upload the PPT with the slide order, you cannot move say slide #9 to spot #4, rather you have to do this in PPT and then re-upload

Dashboard

After logging into Mindflash.com the program goes to the default dashboard, which for some reason is the “selling” tab and not the “training tab”.

It is simple to switch, just by clicking the “training” tab, but to me it seems to make more sense having the default be the “training” tab.

  Once you switch over to the “training” tab, you are presented with the following:

  • Drafts – where you can create a new course, view a sample course and if you already have built a course but not yet launched it
  • Active – courses that are live
  • Archived – courses that are not live, but you can re-activate them at a latter point
  • Folder – after creating a new folder, you would place it in here – the folder option enables you to place course in here along with “trainee” you have invited. You can click the optional “enforce” course sequencing, which ensures that the courses you have placed into the folder will be completed sequentially

On the right side of the screen, you can

  • Choose colors of your course screen (they give you three options, but I wish they offered more or a color picker)
  • Add your logo
  • Identify the number of “trainees”
  • Show activity – which would include course/folder created, by whom and date; date course was activated, date of when trainees were added

Creating a Course – Part I

This is really a very nice and easy to use feature with the Mindflash product. To create a course you click the “create a course” window and you are off and running.

This will open a new screen where you can start to create a course. The screen also provides you with the following choices (which you can choose/add as many as you want, depending on the option)

  • Create the title of the course, along with a description
  • Enter the name of the trainer and their email address (required)
  • Status – “preview” or “activate”
  • Create a new quiz
  • Add handout(s)
  • Create a certificate (three templates are available)
  • E-mail notification options – the default is off, but a quick click and then turn on. The options are “notification that the course has been assigned to the “trainee”, reminder (if the course has not yet been started) and completion of the course (with test score or pass/fail)
  • Add/Manage “trainees”
  • Additional course options

The additional course options

  • Allow the “trainee” to re-take the course (default is off)
  • Allow the “trainee” to contact the trainer (this is the default)
  • Course deadline – none, start by, complete by (default is none)
  • Receive email of “trainee” activity, options are: instantly (default), off, daily, weekly

Creating a Course – Part II

If you are ready to create the course, simply click “edit your course”. This will take you to a new screen, which enables you to enter in your course name, and work on the course.

I found that there is a lag in terms of time for the “file” to be converted. I tested this twice, once at night and once in midday. Both times, it was slow, even though they were PPTs containing 16, 14 slides respectively.

For the night upload, the lag time was two to three minutes. While this may not seem like a long time, compared to the speed at which Mindflash goes through the access and screen steps, it drags.

For the midday upload it took several minutes.

After you upload your file, you are ready to begin. The main slide window, shows the slides or whatever you chose via mid thumbnail windows, along with the word “insert” in between each slide/whatever.

To insert a quiz, document, pdf or video you click “insert”, find the file on your computer and upload it. I found it to be quick and easy to do.

Adding a YouTube video (a very cool feature) is very easy as well. Locate the YouTube video of choice and simply enter the YouTube hyperlink into the YouTube box in the course creation area. Then click “done”. It is that simple.

What I liked about the YouTube and inserting other files is that in the timeline, they appear as separate timelines, under your course and into/outro timelines.

This is a very nice feature, because it eliminates the “what is” and “where is” concern people often have with multiple variables. It is also nice, because it aligns to what many people see when they are editing videos in their video software.

 Now, here is the fun part. If you want to move the video, YouTube, doc, pdf or quiz to another section in the course, it is really easy to do. You simply drag the item, which is visible on the separate timeline to anywhere in the course that you want to drop it. You view where you want to go, by looking at the mid size thumbnails (which are quite visible and do not require you to use any zoom functionality).

Preview

When you are ready to preview your course, simply click “Preview” and it will open a new “Preview” window.

I have always been a huge fan of separate “preview” windows and Mindflash doesn’t disappoint.

Within Preview you have a few options

  • View it with non-linear navigation, which means you can jump to any slide and continue or go back, so you can go right into slide 9, then jump to slide 3, then slide 15, etc. – i.e. a typical non-linear course
  • View it in linear – i.e. you start at slide 1, then go to slide 2 and so on. You can go back to any slide that was previous to the slide you are currently viewing, but if you were on slide 3, you could not jump to slide 12
  • Any docs, pdfs, quizzes and videos, including the YouTube video will work in preview

More Preview Window Options

  • Send someone via e-mail the preview
  • Ask a question – this will send whatever you are looking at and your question to someone else at your company or wherever – it does not mean you send a question to Mindflash, I tested this option and found that it worked as advertised
  • Expand the preview window to full screen or close it

Course Launch – Are you ready?

When you are ready to activate the course, click “activate”. A pop-up will appear with some brief information, including letting you know that the course is live, invites have been sent and a few other items.

The pie graph is for that course and provides the following information

  • Not started
  • In course
  • Completed
  • Failed

It shows up using colors to represent each area.

Reports

When you are ready to view the report, click “report”.

The report provides you with the following information as related directly to that course.

  • Number of trainees
  • Average score
  • Whether you wish to include archived trainees or not
  • Trainee name, status (e-mail icon (I assume it means invite sent out, but not yet started course), circle icon with dashes (in-progress), completed (score)
  • Last activity of that person
  • Bar graph showing invited, in-progress and completed

The downer of the reports is that I can see it only by course, rather than as a whole. While I understand the by course option, some people – including myself, enjoy seeing an entire list by course, and other data. This can be achieved but it requires you to export the data into a spreadsheet, course by course, and honestly who wants to do that?

With the reports as noted, you can export the data or save it as a .pdf file.

 Pricing

Mindflash has a variable pricing structure, which depends on the number of trainees and a couple of options (which you receive for the paid versions).

The system comes with a 30 day trial and does not require you to enter a credit card. A huge Kudos to Mindflash on this approach.

I’m a big time fan of vendors who post their pricing on their site.

Trust me, people are going to see what your competitors are doing, so the argument that we don’t want to tell you because of competition is lame, especially when there is never a problem listing your pricing on a RFP.

One Other Note

One item that I found very cool with Mindflash is the ability to share the course via Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and e-mail. While it would be nice to see other social media channels available, having it available for the big three is very slick. Hopefully others will follow suit, especially with Linkedin, which is highly used by professionals – i.e. your target audience.

Bottom Line

I have always been a fan of Mindflash as a whole, but readily admit to not recommending it because of their insistence of using instructor led terms for an online learning environment.

Mindflash has told me in the past, that they do not offer non-linear and thus a TOC (table of contents) in the active courses because people are not asking for it. However, I have always felt that to be a poor excuse.

In the ILT world, it would be expected to find people who are unfamiliar with WBT, its terminology and its premise, so as the vendor you should know this information. I’m not saying that Mindflash doesn’t, on the contrary, I know they do, especially when you consider the non-linear navigation option they offer in the preview window.

Why this isn’t an option when the course is live, is incomprehensible.

That said, if you look at the solution from its “training management” perspective, and that perspective is infusing a greater  instructor led training approach with some online components, then yes, it fulfills what it sets out to do.

Personally, I’m disheartened at that approach, because e-learning should be distinguishable from its instructor led cousin.

The problem with Mindflash.com, it’s not.