LMS 201

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I’m still stunned at the amount of misinformation that is continuing to fester on the Internet and on sites such as Linkedin.  People have serious questions, real questions and in return they get all types of responses, many of which are just not true.

Sometimes the responses are innocuous, sometimes it is confusing and sometimes you wonder if the person responding themselves are providing knowledge that sounds accurate, but in reality they themselves don’t know (but afraid to admit it as so).

It reminds me of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman when discussing what San Diego actually means.

Ron: ” I’ll be honest, I don’t think anyone knows what it means anymore. Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago.”
Veronica: “Doesn’t it mean Saint Diego?”
Ron: “No. No.”
Veronica: “No, that’s what it means.”
Ron: “Agree to disagree.”

A little bit of this..A little bit of that


“I need the ability to group users to see x only courses and not other courses.” “I want the ability to assign documents and materials to my users.” “I need a calendar.” “I need e-mail notifications and auto-reminders.” “I need the ability to generate reports within the system.”

Th0se features are common in today’s learning management systems. As previously noted, these features fit into my 90/10 rule, which means that 90% of the features exist in all LMSs (excluding say the next gen lite systems), so it comes down to the 10% differential.

What would be some examples of these 10%?

  • Track CEUs
  • Video streaming
  • Built in authoring tool
  • Multi-tenant (extended enterprise) (multi-portals)
  • E-commerce
  • Social learning
  • TinCan API
  • Change labels, headers, text
  • Widgets
  • Integrate with 3rd party accounting tools
  • Multilingual at no cost – as in the system comes with x number of languages which you get at no additional fee

“I need an inexpensive LMS, what do you recommend?”

With this question invariably you will receive a lot of responses from vendors touting their own product (not all of them do, mind you).

Others (group members) will provide you their own opinion (after all, that is what you are seeking), but again, take it with what it is – an opinion. Nothing wrong with that mind you, but it should be just part of your exploration.

Today there are so many inexpensive systems out there (and of course it is how you define “inexpensive”), you will have more than enough to choose from.  However, you should watch out for the gotchas.

Topyx for example, charges you extra to remove their name from your LMS.  Some other gotchas (and common mind you)

  • Charging you a setup fee (extremely common)
  • Charging for each additional language (1st language is always free)
  • If you have an extended enterprise platform – charging you extra for each skin, and in some cases each portal (with this angle – the first portal is free, after that a fee)
  • Charging you to add your own APIs
  • Charging you for a higher tier of support/training
  • Charging you for e-commerce
  • Charging you a yearly base fee
  • Charging you for SSO (Single Sign-On)
  • If you are using e-commerce – charging you to have Verisign (if available)
  • Charging you for a custom domain (thankfully the vendors who are offering domains are slowly pulling away from charging)

Pay up front and get a discount

I’ve never been a big fan of that. The discount isn’t that awesome and if you have serious issues, you have paid upfront, so leverage can become a factor. Also if you decide to leave, getting a refund is not an easy process. 

Internet Independent Directories and some other stuff

On the Internet you will find these amazing “independent” directories, but be careful before you think, “hey this is truly independent” –

  • Capterra – here is how it works:

a. Any vendors can be posted into it free of charge

b.  If a vendor wants to participate in Capterra’s premium program they can. They can choose either pay per click or pay per lead. 

To find out who is paying premium look to those who have extensive information – typically listed higher.

  • Some other organizations have directories which consist of only members. So if you are not a member you are not in the directory.
  • There are a few directories that are truly independent – i.e. they do not accept funds of any such – these include Don McIntosh and Jane Hart (it should be noted that there are plenty out there – I’m just naming two)
  • My LMS directory which you can find on the top of each page under “directories” – is 100% independent
  • eLearning Atlas is a tad confusing. While they state that it is 100% independent and that no one pays to be ranked higher, I still do not understand how some vendors are (and it is not due to A-Z or some other typical algorithm).  They have told me that it just comes out that way, but in that case, why not place the vendor in the appropriate order (A to Z or Z to A – name, product name, etc.).  It should be noted that in return for vendors to be listed, they have to agree to provide some information to Rustici Software – who is behind the whole thing – and this information is not the stuff you see online.

Another funky thing with eLearning Atlas is the cross-checking to verify that the vendors listed are those whose systems are available to everyone (for example, LMS) and are not resellers of another vendor or a consultant shop creating custom systems. This is why you see the LMS list which has more than 600 vendors.  I don’t fault eLA for that, but I wonder if they truly verify everything or have the vendors enter the information.



Recently I saw a posting on Linkedin seeking an e-learning portal that could push out courses at a high speed.  While I rarely post responses on other groups, I did so – because I see this question a lot. 

Speed is often not an issue from the vendor side of the house. Reason being is that many vendors use what I call server farms – such as Rackspace, and as such speed and load balance is quite good. 

The speed factor is usually on the end user side – a result of various factors. Here are the most common:

  • End user is accessing off-site (out of the workplace – extremely common, even in retail – some of these places have slow speeds) – as a result whichever provider they are using can be fast in one area of town and slow in another. Some internet providers have reputations of slow speed in some cities.
  • What time of the day they access – Some speeds tend to drop if you access at 6-8 p.m. in some areas. This is because it is often a high traffic time – as in other people in the area hitting the net.
  • Speed you purchased with your provider. While there are people in some areas who have 100Mbps speed, most people do not.  Regardless of the type of device – i.e. DSL, Cable, etc. – if you have bought 4MBps (megabytes per second), you should expect an average speed of 2-3MBps. If you paid for a higher priced MBps, then expect a small decrease in speed.  Another thing is that those speeds are not download speeds.
  • Using a Wi-Fi router. If you live in a place that has a lot of walls and you are in say one room and the router is in another, expect a slower speed.  In some cases you may find the speed is awesome in x number of rooms and than in another it constantly crashes.
  • Browsers – I sometimes run into Chrome going at a slower speed than Opera even though my speed is quite fast.  Some people find IE as a slug monster.
  • Size of file/course – if the course is a massive video course, expect speeds to drop

Bottom Line

I know I only scratched the surface, but hopefully with this article and the should help.  There is a lot of information to digest with learning management systems and there will continue to be as these systems and the technology itself evolves.

So don’t be afraid to seek out answers, but realize that sometimes people just don’t know.

It isn’t because they haven’t figured it out, rather it is because they are learning.

Which we all are.

E-Learning 24/7


  1. Hi, Craig:
    These are good points, but as with lots of generalizations, some can be misleading. For instance, Percolate LMS (Michaels & Associates’ LMS offering) is one of the generation lite LMS’ that are offered in Capterra and other places. We do not pay a fee to get listed in that database. We do in other data bases. Secondly, you state that lots of vendors jump on LInkedIn (I certainly do) and tout their databases. You state that the audience might as well put their email addresses and phone numbers out there to be contacted non-stop. Although we love it when people are interested in Percolate (after all, we did write it to sell it), we really dislike being lumped into the category of badly behaved software sales reps. We do not contact non-stop. In fact, mostly we wait to be contacted, except for software release updates and newsletters that we craft in the effort to be useful to our industry. Finally, about your point regarding the “add on services,” I actually couldn’t agree more, except that with Percolate, what you see is what you get.

    My point is, the broad brush of generalization runs the risk unnecessarily casting aspersions on those of us who are putting our very best out there, and working with people directly, and honestly. We get drown out by the behaviors you did describe, but that situation is exacerbated by lumping us in with those who do what you say they do.

    1. Thank you. A couple of additional notes:

      a. Yes it is true that any vendor can be included into Capterra’s system at no charge, but for lead gen – which is the power behind the product – it is fee based via pay per click or pay per lead. A clarification has been made to the blog.

      b. I did not say every vendor follows the whole “you should our product” angle, rather there are plenty of who do. I have had quite a few folks tell me that they NEVER select vendors who post responses to their “I am seeking a system that does a,b,c.”. That said, I’m quite sure plenty of folks do – the whole point is to recognize from an end user standpoint – that by posting such statements be prepared.

      Lastly, the point of the article is to provide additional insight and yes it does come with generalizations – which all of us do every day. The goal is to say – hey some vendors do this..or some vendors do that..or XYZ database that you view online is built this way.. I mean I love business.com to check out products, but I know that those who have more information, details, etc. paid for such a service. I surmise that many net buyers do not.

  2. Insightful. I think there should be less focus on lms and more on contents because even the coursers.org and co and not really delivering contents in the manner many of their target audience will want them.

  3. Hi, Craig:
    Thanks for your clarification. You are right, we all generalize. I’ll also admit that it takes a lot of restraint and real work to look at things from the end user standpoint. And there are so many new entrants into an LMS search that the whole field is confusing. I suspect there will be some consolidation at several levels this year. Thank you for your blog, and for responding to my post. You do a great service, and I do appreciate it.

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