After nearly a month of traveling to four countries and spending only five days at home, I’m back.

And with that, comes my post assessment of Online Educa Berlin 2013.  That’s right, I was there for this amazing event (speaking at two sessions).

I have to say right up front, the folks over at ASTD could learn a few things by seeing how they do things at OEB.  But, who am I to complain? (har, har).

Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights and lowlights at OEB 13.

Highlights

  • A lot of attendees – and from a lot of countries too – which is great
  • Booths from various countries including Uganda, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia (quite extensive, I might add), France
  • A variety of seminars for attendees – most of all, there was something for everyone
  • Well-organized (ahem ASTD), including lunch (you know I had to mention the food angle)

Lowlights

  • Honestly, the only one was the way it was the lack of a geolocation mobile app – then again, no trade show seems to have figured out that people would want to have an app that does it – because we all know that those tiny maps they hand out are more than sufficient.

It’s the Big Three

At this year’s show, there was a repeated message that came across loud and clear. Okay, three messages:

  • Personalized learning for each learner
  • Video – video courses, Video Learning Platforms, HD video presenter devices – reminded me of a video suitcase – basically – Video was all the rage
  • One stop shop – this was not only on various learning platforms, but also with solutions such as course libraries – i.e. course marketplace sites and some e-learning tools. Ironically, did not see this with the VLPs (Video learning platforms)

What I did not see a lot of was Gamification. Sure, there were some places that listed it, but overall it was not as extensive as you might think, especially since it is exploding on corporate and yes, even education – which is OEB’s primary audience.

Another not so readily hot was mobile. Yeah, it was stated when you talked to folks, and listed in literature, etc. – but there was hardly a mention of Tin Can or on/off synch (nearly zero).  The whole funkiness of this is that in higher education and education, there is rapid growth with tablets in the classrooms.

But, amazingly, there was hardly a scratch on the tablet scene, rather it seemed mentioned more with smartphones.  And when it was mentioned, with the exception of one vendor, was “text messaging” a component.  

Again, the spin on this whole SMS item is that many college students and HS students prefer texting over e-mail.  Thus, if you are going to have one important mobile feature it should be tied to text (SMS) – especially with notifications, etc.

As for the SPOCS (the newest entry to the whole OER (Open educational resources) world) – I saw no mention of it.  MOOCs were low as well.  But I did hear mention of OER via attendees and a couple of vendors.

Products that Intrigued

Pebble Pad .  I liked that it worked on mobile and it had a lot of useful features, but the admin side – ATLAS was outdated.  They state it it more than an ePortfolio and I definitely agree on that – but my only question is whether or not students would take the time to complete all the information that was needed to really make it shine. 

Mediasite by Sonic Foundry.  The VLP (they call it video content mgt.) was quite strong and really had a lot of pop. I liked the “desktop” application more so than the event streaming case thing that reminded me of a big DVR (digital video recorder).

Part of issue with the case thing was how big it was. I wondered whether someone would want to hoof that around at various events. On the other hand, if you are always going to be chilling in one auditorium, then I could see how the size and weight of the item wouldn’t be of that great concern.

Another minor issue I had was with the pricing. It seemed a tad high for the room capture device and equally so for the desktop ver. especially with so low number of concurrent learners.

That said, I did like the desktop ver. of the product, since an added bonus was the integration with any LMS and the analytics that were available within the solution itself (not the LMS).

One of the wackiest products (and I say that in a good way) was Lecturio. (please note the site is in German, so use Google Translate) It is content/course aggregator, whereas you can pay per month for a course (various subjects). 

You might be thinking – big deal, but it also provided star ratings, reviews from actual users, and all the courses were viewable by mobile. A nice plus.

The Bogeyman Returns

The most troubling item I repeatedly heard was the data migration bogeyman fear factor rearing its ugly head once again. 

The data migration myth has been used in the past by some LMS vendors as a way to keep their clients – who are seeking to depart – from leaving. Here is how this scam works (and I say this in all sincerity)

  • LMS vendor tells client that if they move their data over to another LMS, parts of it may be lost
  • The data migration time will be long and cost prohibitive – to the client
  • It is easier to stay with the current LMS provider, after all who wants to have their migrated data lost or missing when you switch systems

Let me be quite clear on this – this scam is just what I said – a scam.  Here then are the facts.

Sure you could have data migration issues, but the ones I often hear are due to the previous LMS vendor who is supposed to help in moving over the data.  As a result, there are now many LMS vendors who handle the data migration themselves – i.e. communicating with the former one – and getting it done.

Secondarily, data migration problems might arise due to the client and not as a result of their new LMS vendor.  However, any vendor who pulls the data migration fear factor as a reason for you not to leave – is cheating you out of a better platform. 

Because no LMS vendor who values service and integrity would pull that trash out of the can and unto you.

As for the cost, I mean if you have 200,000 records that yeah it would be costly, but if you have 5,000 records not really. It comes down to the vendor.

Basically, I am saying this – any LMS vendor who uses the bogeyman data migration pitch to keep you from leaving their system is using fear to keep you at bay.  I know I wouldn’t want to stay with them, because who knows what else they might be lying about. 

Bottom Line

Online Educa Berlin definitely lived up to its hype. It was well-organized, provided a strong listing of European vendors and in my opinion offered real value for the attendees.

If you are in education, especially higher education, this is a show you should attend, regardless where in the world you are located.

Is it better than EDUCAUSE?

I think yes, because it opens your eyes to many vendors you would never know about.

And that is a beauty of it.

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