Latest Trends in E-Learning

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Twice a year I will be providing some trends that I am seeing in the e-learning market.


This one trend really is an irritation to me, because the term “training” is showing up rather than “learning”, which is the standard term as it relates to online learning (see it already?).

We call online learning, e-learning, not e-training, but some vendors will have you believe that “training” is the appropriate term, rather than learning.

It can be seen in systems that dub themselves “training management” systems, HCMs that state “training” as a component, authoring tools that describe their product geared towards “training lessons or courses”, etc.

I know this one word is creating a stir among the instructor led crew and some educators, but in education we use the term “learning”, not “training” when we are teaching students.

Custom Development and LMS vendors

Custom Course Shops

In the early 2000s, there were plenty of custom development shops and costs ranged from 1K to 100K and more, but the custom development shops were not as plentiful as today.

Reasons that the custom development market has exploded at a massive rate, just in the past year.

  • Economy – with folks losing their jobs or unable to find work (due to layoffs, lack of hiring, among other things), more people are jumping into the instructional design, e-learning development and course creation. For the most part, it is one person, but I have seen groups of folks joining together to build content/courses
  • Money – Depending on what you are offering, there are $$$ to be made. However, there is a flip side to this – with sites like, odesk and elance, there are swaths of people willing to create on the cheap, thus pricing to build great courses are dropping, and occasionally quality follows suit (not all the time, mind you)
  • LMS vendors – read below

LMS vendors build in-house or outsource

Back in the early years you were more likely to see vendors build their own courses, with a nice size staff and someone who had an instructional design background leading the charge.

Then cost cutting appeared. When you think about it, why have people in-house to build your own courses, when you can outsource the course building to either an individual, boutique or larger size course development shop (that has the experience, etc. – since this is all they do).

Many vendors followed this approach, and the number of vendors who built in-house became a rarity (as a whole).

The Trend

LMS vendors are re-surfacing to offer in-house custom course development, as part of their offerings. While some never dropped to outsourcing, there is an increase in custom content/course development.

  • There were/are vendors who entered the LMS market – this is to say, they first were a custom course development shop (primary product)
  • As noted as “are”, some vendors still have a large client base, which is great, but will spin their marketing that these people are clients, without specifying of what -potential customers of their LMS, have no idea. Thus they give the illusion that all these clients are LMS clients, when the larger numbers tend to be as a result of custom content development – even still today
  • There were/are vendors who first and foremost have the LMS (primary), prior to adding a custom course development line – which is the trend we are talking about

What do you mean?

  • To generate additional revenue, LMS vendors are adding custom course development (equally pitched as content development) as another offering
  • This new pipeline enables customers/clients of the vendors to have their LMS vendor as a one-stop shop, rather than going elsewhere or having themselves build the courses

Talent Management

Still a huge trend, and as previously noted in other posts, smaller size vendors are jumping into the arena.

With any trend, an upswing leads to newer approaches since competition always exists.

Latest to Appear

  • Again, as previously listed, many large size vendors are turning into more a Human Capital Management system then a solo TM, heck even a LMS
  • PeopleMatter – a talent management vendor focused only on the service industry, offers a streamlined and unremarkable LMS, is within the “Learn” component of their TM platform. PeopleMatter equally provides a mobile platform for their TM system
  • Saba People Cloud – a social enterprise platform. It includes PQ – People Quotient, where end users can rank themselves, among other things. PQ is not something new in the space, and has camps who like it and dislike it.
  • Talent management systems are appearing in education (K-12) – I expect this to see an upswing as well – as a separate sub-genre in the education marketplace, including academia

Quick hits, you can read about them in my E-Learning 24/7 Linkedin Group

  • Game Based Learning – templates, mini games, etc. – you can read more on it in my Linkedin Group
  • Image Libraries – not just the eLearning Brothers catalogs, but vendors offering their own images, graphics, etc.
  • E-Signatures – electronic signatures

A couple more

  • Online education (K-12) – One report states that as of March, total revenue is 1.5B to 2B USD. Are lovers of ILT paying attention yet? I just saw an article today, that basically says online education isn’t that great. I’ve seen similar regarding virtual schools (which is the same thing as online education). Its total hogwash, IMO.
  • Mobile Learning with LMS vendors – slow adoption rates. Nearly non-existent with native apps, self-contained with online/offline synch.

Bottom Line

These are just some of the trends in the marketplace.

Are there more? You bet.

The market continues to evolve, with advancements and enhancements abound. Some trends are appearing in emerging markets, some are emerging markets and some are components and feature sets, not listed above.

I always say, you can swim or drown, especially in the highly competitive e-learning market.

It’s time for many vendors to take it to heart.

E-Learning 24/7


  1. Craig –

    Agree completely about the “learning” vs. “training” issue. “Learning” to me is a development process which enables growth, both to the learner and to the organization. When I was in high school, McDonald’s “trained” me to make french fries from whole potatoes (yes, I’m dating myself), but there wasn’t much learning involved after that. In my mind, one trains to learn a step-by-step process (potatoes into fries), and learns to enable him/her to build upon that basis of knowledge.

    Put another way, “I train to do, I learn to think.”

    Always good to read your blog!


  2. Hi Craig. I found you on Linked In and really appreciate your site. I attended the Saba Summit last week in Miami, FL and they have some interesting solutions coming out Q2. In terms of an LMS system, our company is going with Saba LMS from Taleo. I have found Taleo to be cumbersome and Saba appears to resolve some of our big-ticket issues. What are your thoughts on these two systems? Thanks.

    1. Molly,

      It depends on what you are planning to use the systems for – i.e. as a pure LMS or as a Talent Mgt system or a Human Capital management system.

      Taleo was a good call. I like their business edition talent mgt system, but due to their acquisition by Oracle, I’m leery on recommending the product UNLESS you want a HCM. This is based on the comments by Oracle, that they plan to incorporate the component – learning in with their Fusion solution. Plus, the former products I was never impressed with.

      Saba – If you selected the system as a HCM, then it is solid. If you purchased it as a LMS, but plan to use the talent management features – then it will be fine. As a pure LMS, there are ones better out there. I say this because i found the product to be somewhat un-user friendly, their Saba Social, which is now i think called Saba People Cloud – definitely has some cool stuff, but it equally faces the same issues that Saba seems to be known for – you can read about Social on my blog.

      I know that in the past Saba had issues with the latest version of Captivate, and it took them awhile to fix it – they did, which is great, compared to another vendor who shall remain nameless.

      Saba IMO – is an overhyped solution, that is not cheap. Some people just absolutely love it, others like myself – do not. Saba sees themselves as a talent mgt solution, and is clearly zinging into the HCM space. If these are things you want, then you will be okay.

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