I’m on my way to get a car that enables me to launch a robust social learning system.  Of course, my biggest challenge is to find something that can really meet my needs now and then in the years to come, especially in today’s economy.  I get to the lot, avoid the salespeople who come out of nowhere to chase me down and spot a shiny ultra hip vehicle. What is it? I say to myself. It looks like nothing I have seen before on the streets.  I go in for a closer inspection…

Vehicle

OmniSocial is a social learning platform, with learning management capabilities and with the ability to select individual apps in the system and only use those you select to install onto your web site or learning portal.  OmniSocial can be a standalone, or be integrated with your LMS.  Confusing, right?

It was a confusing challenge for me, because it offers so much capabilities and strengths, so I define it as a true social learning management system  (standalone) that offers extra power for a customer to select specific apps and use them in the customer’s portal or web site or in some fashion with their own learning management system.

With this power, deciding on what you want to do and how you want to use it, is endless.  Because it offers the capability to start out using it either as the robust social learning product and ignore the LMS part (inc. the content authoring) OR  use it as a LMS with the social learning functionality OR pick a piece here or there and then as you grow and expand, you can choose to turn it into your social learning solution or as the social learning management product.   What is really nice, is it comes with everything you need and then YOU have the real power to control, not the other way around.  I like that.

Car Key

For myself, I really enjoyed the social learning platform and select apps capabilities, more so then using it as a LMS.  Don’t get me wrong, the LMS provides enough features and abilities, including the most common features, that if you want a LMS, it will work.  But the real WOWSA is in the social learning component.

Under the Hood

One of the biggest problems I always saw in the products was the back end, i.e. what the administrator sees and has to use.  With some products it could be downright nasty.  Thankfully, this is not the case with OmniSocial.

OmniSocial’s admin side is made up of seven categories, which are on the left side on the screen, nicely laid out and easy to view and read as a panel.  When selecting one of the feature sets, it opens up to show more options, right underneath it.  Thus on the right side (really the main part of the screen) you have a beautiful view to see specifics as you select.

Categories

  • Sites and Zones
  • Applications
  • Content management
  • User management
  • Advanced settings
  • Analytics
  • Dashboards

Sites and Zones – Sub categories (listed as Manage Sites and Zones)

  • Layout
  • Graphics
  • Permission

Layout

Within the layout category, the administrator is offered a series of tabs, – Themes, Menu, Header and Footer, Home Page, Fonts, Colors, Style sheets, Scripts

What I like about this series of tabs, is that if you have someone who has a high tech skill set and wants to add their own or select Cascading Style Sheets, they can under the Style sheets tab.  Same thing with scripts.  But, if you have no interest or do not have the tech skill set, no worries, there is more than enough with the other tab selections.  Thus, anyone from zero to high level of tech skills has a nice robust choice offerings and again, as you grow, greater power.

The colors option and fonts options are really nice.  Many of us hear the constant complaint from end users and sometimes are senior executives, that why doesn’t this offer ZY color and you need a bigger font to see it.  Say so long to those complaints.  OmniSocial gives you a enormous swath of colors (inc. their HEX codes), which you simply view the color and click select. It even comes with secondary colors.  On the font side, you pick the font size – 7, 8, 10, etc.

The Header and Footer is equally slick. You can choose to add advertisements (there is an icon for that), images, text, mail, role select and HTML.  Excluding the HTML option, everything else follows a WYSIWYG manner, so if you do not know HTML, no worries.  Thus, someone who has no or limited tech skill sets can hit the ground running.

Applications

There are 30 apps that come with the system and more than 40 widgets.  Plus for the majority of them, there are sub-categories, giving you greater control and flexibility. Another huge win.  After all, how many of us, select “blog” and then are given only a few choices and if you want to do something else, you can’t.  For example, when you select “blog”, the tabs that appear are Info, Options, Blog Comments, Categories, Page Layout and Integrate this App.   If you select blog comments, you have options (many of which you just click to activate) – to enable guest postings, setup if you so choose – moderation (with three choices from that) and comment configuration. What to limit the number of comments on the blog? What about offering an image from the commenter? Link?  No problem.

The apps, too many to list here but a small sampling:

  • Blogs, wikis and discussions
  • Social profiles, comments & ratings, polls
  • Video management and file sharing
  • Event management
  • To do lists, surveys & assessments
  • Lending library, eCommerce
  • Courses (for the LMS)
  • Mobile

As mentioned earlier, you can select a specific app or apps and then integrate them into your web site or portal. Simply select the app, pick your options and then click the tab, “Integrate App”, copy the HTML code and paste it into your web site or portal.  If you want to create a widget, you follow the same mechanism.   Once the text code is in your site you are ready to rock and roll, and all analytical data reports back to OmniSocial for your viewing pleasure or disgust.

Content Management

  • Manage all content inc. content server
  • Set up moderation, create filters (i.e. a filter to eliminate offensive or unacceptable language)
  • Mass enrollment options

User Management

  • Manage all your user and instructor accounts
  • Specify account settings, inc. accessing transcript details

Reporting and analytics, unique features include

  • Content topics and trending (which is really a super feature)
  • Engagement, influence and trends (glad to see someone see the enormous value of offering this, esp. in a social learning, with excellent social media apps/widgets)
  • User reputation

Engine

  • Cloud deployment
  • Branding – i.e. you can add your own skin (logo, colors, for example)
  • Accepts APIs and Widgets – not only ones you build yourself, but also ones that you can locate on the web (say in an api directory or a widget directory)
  • Support for 20 languages
  • Mobile apps – Can use in Blackberry, Iphone (unsure about the Droid)
  • Facebook integration – enables users to publish content from OmniSocial right into Facebook – Clever!
  • OmniSocial can be used with an ERP, HRIS, CRM, and your own LMS;  again, you can choose just certain apps/widgets with each of these systems, rather than the full blown OmniSocial system

Tires, Windows and Other Essentials

  • Customer support is included in the package – i.e. no extra charge
  • Training: up to five, 2 hour webinars and access to online courses via their customer community
  • 24×7, 365 days a year support via phone, e-mail and web based ticketing system.  Twitter based support available M-F 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • All apps/widgets are included in the system – no extra charge
  • Includes an integrated chat solution – ILinc (see below).

Options

  • Software simulation tool (Firefly) and Mzinga Publisher are extra, i.e. there is an additional cost – it is not automatically included in the OmniSocial product.  It would be nice if Mzinga listed these two offerings with the wording of “additional or add-on cost” on their web site. Sadly, they don’t.
  • ILinc – which yes, comes with their solution (integrated in fact), but if you want to use it, you have to purchase an additional license.  You can do this either through ILinc directly or through Mzinga.  This approach BTW, is very common in the industry and frankly should be eradicated. A web conferencing solution is integrated, i.e. comes with the system, but if you want to use it – you pay a separate fee.  The vendor pitches it as a “partnership”, which really means, “a split revenue opp”, for them and the web conferencing vendor.

I hate it.  If I am buying your system and it comes with a web conf. component in it, then why do I have to pay an extra fee to use it?  Either give it to me free, create your own and include it free, or at least give me numerous options – i.e. multiple vendors to select from, and include it for free.  What vendors fail to tell you, unless you press them, is you can actually use an API (open source) solution and integrate it yourself.  But really, who wants to deal with that?

Test Drive

Nope.  Mzinga does not offer any type of free trial with their system.  Again, very common in this industry and again, something that should be smashed with a bat.  When I go to a car dealership and check out the car, I can test drive it.  If I go to purchase a HDTV, I can turn it on, play around with it, watch it, leave and come back the next day and do it again.  So, why can’t I do it when it comes to a LMS/LCMS system?  Makes no sense.

Sticker Price

  • Monthly subscription fee.  Subscription fee varies based on whether you are choosing to deploy an internal/private site or external/public site, the monthly subscription fee applied would be based on a user model or page view model.
  • One time setup fee

Always negotiate your pricing with any vendor and never accept the street price they initially quote you.  If you are looking at signing a 3 year deal, demand a discount. The standard in the industry is 15%.  Please read my article on LMS contracts, which covers everything you need to do when signing a contract with any LMS or frankly any e-learning vendor.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a family sedan, a sports car, luxury ride, economy ride or your first vehicle, Mzinga OmniSocial will deliver for you. Its ease of use, flexibility and its supreme horsepower will get you will need to go – via your web site, your learning portal, LMS or as a standalone.  Plus its ability to be used by any type of driver – from no technical skill sets and knowledge to someone who has a high level of tech skill sets, is a wonderful capability.

If you are in the market, then visit Mzinga OmniSocial, because it is the Super Software Learning Platform.

Vendor: Mzinga


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