A Look Back at E-Learning in 2012

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I love the end of the year. It enables you to look back and see the triumphs, the disappointments, the good and the bad. Many people look back and are amazed. Others look back and say “What if I did that” or “What if…”.  It is always a half full/half empty experience.

Thankfully, rather than just one person looking back and seeing what happened, we can all do so. 

I like that because it tells a story. The question though is will it be a happy or sad one?


On Fire

The year kicked off with lots of potential, lots of excitement in the air and lots of customers gearing up to purchase new systems, despite global economic woes.

Mobile Learning

  • LMSs – Finally vendors took notice. Sadly though many still are in the dark on true mobile learning – i.e. not accessing their platform via a mobile web browser
  • Authoring Tools – With only a small sample of vendors that are SaaS based, pickings are slim. Sure there were exceptions on the desktop side – most notably Articulate Storyline, but overall until desktop vendors see the advantages of SaaS, especially with real time collaboration and peer review, tablets will be slow going
  • Web Conferencing – You would think that all these services would have a native app for tablets. You would think that they would maximize the power of the iPad 2 and iPad 3? You would be wrong. Frankly a few deserve coal in their stockings.

Market as a whole

Despite overall consumer demand (not just within e-learning) for tablets, and numbers showing that tablets are outselling notebooks, e-learning vendors as whole are sitting back and waiting. Those who aren’t are either offering native apps with online/offline synch or performing the shell game via the mobile web browser and calling it mobile learning.

The number of vendors who went mobile with tablets at the start of the year was extremely small compared to where it stands at the end of 2012.  A win in my book.

Online/Offline Synch

I am quite amazed at the number of vendors who really have zero idea on what the terminology of online/offline synchronization. I still get the yeah we do that, only to find out upon further discussion, that they don’t have it.  In the simplest terms:

  • Joe EndUser (and yes, I know it is two words, but that is his last name), who is currently online is accessing the system or tool via his mobile device (preferably a tablet). He leaves the office or the coffee shop or his house and loses his internet connection. The courses are still on his device. He decides to bounce around the course and complete a few sections or goes linear and completes the entire course.

The next day or whenever he has a connection to the Internet, his data gets pushed out from the device and pulled into the platform or tool.

Synchronization has now been completed. All that data and information is now within the system and nothing is lost.

Here is a list of LMS vendors who offer online/offline synchronization via a mobile device, although there are a few who offer this but only via a laptop/desktop)

  • AJ Square – but it is a separate module you have to purchase
  • CertPoint VLS Portals – but only to a laptop or CD Rom – so not a mobile device
  • Edubrite
  • eLogic Learning
  • Expertus One
  • exact learning
  • G-Cube
  • IMC-Clix
  • Learn Dash – a LMS on WordPress – but you must add TinCan API on your own
  • All the Open source systems – again you must add TinCan API on your own
  • Litmos – but only assessments
  • Latitude Learning – only if you have the open source solution and you must add TinCan API on your own
  • OnPoint Digital – M-Learning platform
  • Pelesys – but the m-learning platform – available only for aviation industry
  • Saba
  • Steag
  • Sum Total Systems
  • Sum Total Maestro
  • Syberworks
  • TestTrack
  • Upside Learning
  • WBT Systems
  • WordLearn
  • VTraining Room

Cognetys offers it too but it is via their authoring tool partner, dominKnow Claro.

Authoring Tools

  • Templates
  • Avatars, Image characters, backgrounds that are business or work oriented
  • Audio editing – still no match to Audacity, a free program
  • Collaborative/Peer Review – but only one vendor enables the ability to work on the same course in real time with multiple authors – they just have to be in separate pages
  • Notes/Notepad/Note taking
  • Leaving comments with date/time stamps, making corrections, editing
  • Increase in number of vendors

Social Learning

Grinch[1]Overall, it wins the Grinch award for continued stagnation. Enough already with FB like pages.

Create your own news board, beyond just some RSS feeds? What about adding Goolge+1, video hangouts, or perhaps coming up with something on your own without replicating what is out there?

Thankfully, there were some concepts that were fresh and worked.

  • Communities tied to courses rather than the entire platform. However those that followed this approach provided groups – with group chat, file repositories, discussion boards, forums, blogs, wikis and so on.
  • Standalone platforms that were designed for their system but could be used either as a pure social learning standalone or via an API part of your own LMS. Best example? Ensemba by Media Defined.
  • APIs of various social sites with Linkedin growing at a quick pace. Standards are Facebook and Twitter


A really nice upswing with more and more vendors having APIs readily available for end users (without the end user having to go find it). Favorites included:

  • Skype
  • Dropbox
  • Yammer
  • Salesforce
  • Paypal


  • Office 365
  • Google – including Google Maps, Google Charts, Google Docs, etc.
  • Mailchimp – e-mail marketing
  • Google Calendar

Once Cold, now gaining steam

  • Widgets
  • Courses included in LMSs without you paying extra for them
  • Selling courses online via your Next Gen Lite LMS, e-learning marketplace or even your LMS
  • Video platforms, including video streaming – but still only a handful offering video editing
  • Built in SEO (search engine optimization), e-mail marketing, marketing tools, CRMs (customer relationship mgt – used for sales)
  • iCal – enabling integration of Outlook, Gmail and other internet e-mail providers tied to calendars within the LMS, thus webinars, seminars, etc. auto show up in their preferred e-mail calendar

My Forecasts for 2012

In looking back, six out of seven turned out to be on the mark. 

The ones that came to fruition were:

  • Talent management – continued growth, rapid at that. 
  • Social learning – forecast was that it would remain flat. It did.
  • M-Learning – expecting it to be hot, and it hasn’t disappointed. Sure you could argue that not everyone has gone online/offline synch. Considering that the number was zero at the start of 2012. I would say that there definitely was a boost.

 As for m-learning in general related to tablets, there are a lot of systems offering it, even if it is via the mobile web browser. Numbers at the start of 2012 were dismal.  

  • SaaS systems – i.e. LMSs – Roughly 95% are SaaS based at the end of 2012, with a percentile offering both options but pushing more for SaaS only.
  • Online Authoring systems – the forecast stated that there would be a huge upswing and continued growth. Again, the numbers show this to be true.

The vast majority of these OASs are now next gen lite LMSs, but there are those who list themselves as collaborative learning environments, and an authoring system that is pure SaaS.  

One sort of did

  • My forecast on Kinect identified that it would be quite slow out of the gate in 2012, but that there would be some growth by the end of the year with some vendors. The forecast stating growth in K-12 did.
  • Kinect vendors in the consumer space did show up, they just didn’t cross over to the e-learning side, with the exception of two. 

One dud

  • Augmented Reality. Everything indicated that this was going to show up in 2012, and it did in the consumer marketplace, but not really on the e-learning side. Sure there were some exceptions with people doing their own thing, but from an e-learning vendor standpoint, just did not happen. 

While I did stipulate that I saw Kinect technology more so than AR in e-learning, the truth be told, vendors stayed away. 

Bottom Line

Overall the e-learning market continued to show gains and benefits across the board.  This really could be seen at the ASTD International show which has always been known as a true ILT (instructor led training) angle, with materials.  

This year the show by my estimation was 60% pure instructor led/classroom based products and 40% e-learning. Some of the ILT vendors were providing components and offerings that were pure online. 

Based on conversations I had with vendors across the space, everyone told me that the broke sales numbers. Not just in comparison to the past couple of years, but all time (for those who were more than three years old). 

To me, this is the real story. 

And who doesn’t like happy endings?

Please note: There will not be a blog next week. The next blog will be on January 3, 2013 and will cover Learning Record Stores. 

E-Learning 24/7


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