ASTDTK14 zoomed into Vegas last week with about 60 vendors (est.) and lots of humans including myself (I have also been called other things – but the last time I looked I was human).

While I did not attend the sessions, the feedback I overheard was strong – i.e. in terms of the sessions and their value.  As in the case with any session laced event, some people found that speaker X went off task or speaker C was horrific.  But overall, feedback was a plus.

On the expo side, and I know ASTD Events are going to disagree with me (err, they already have via Linkedin), I wasn’t overly impressed on the number of vendors’ booths.  This is VEGAS and as you know – What ever happens in VEGAS stays in VEGAS, including your cash!

Oh, where was I – right – the number of booths.  To me, there were better numbers this year booth wise versus last year in San Jose – at least from my viewpoint – but the makeup of the booths at this year’s show was disappointing.

Specifics

  • I can honestly count on my two hands the number of LMS vendors that were present – If you can’t get land a chunk of these folks to attend a “pure” e-learning show, something is wrong here – especially when it is VEGAS the fun capital of EARTH or nearby Mars
  • Authoring tools vendors – pickings were slim, Adobe was present, so was Allen Interactions  (Zebra Zapps), but no Articulate? These guys are everywhere.  Go Animate though also attended.
  • Mobile specific tools or m-learning spin tools – were not as extensive as I was expecting.
  • Video e-learning tools or video of some kind – Minimal, but one did spark my interest – more in my “Show Product” topic
  • Conferencing vendors – Were there any? I can’t remember..next..
  • Same ol Same ol – It seems that Capella University and their brethren always appear at ASTD shows – I surmise they get a lot of folks (I recall one of the for profit universities telling me) – but still…
  • A couple of gaming specific tools – Again, not as many as I have seen at other shows  – I’m sensing a pattern here – mobile, video, gaming…but we have plenty of “Universities” present!
  • Skills e-learning tools – Present and accounted for – Sir!
  • Atomic Training – I specifically mention them, because I honestly felt bad. There was one fellow there and every time I walked by or was chatting with vendors in their area (AT’s), he was just sitting on his stool awaiting customers.  I wanted to walk over and give him a $5 gift card to McDonalds, I felt so bad.  I hope you did well good sir, I sincerely mean that.
  • And others – I remember a few names, but not enough to yell, “BINGO”

Snake Eyes

The usual irritants that I find at every trade show did not disappoint at ASTDTK14

  • Wi-Fi for booth vendors was horrible. It may have broke all past records, since I walked into many booths who were using their mobile phones (3G/4G) for higher net connectivity than the $600 (don’t know if that is per day/or one time fee) for Wi-Fi – which more than a vendors were mad they had to pay for such poor service
  • Booths never showing their product – Seriously, how hard is this to get done? Take your paper and toss it – no one reads that – SHOW ME- SHOW Me – heck, one vendor who had a Show Me like product, didn’t show it – he told me about it — good thing our audience are not L&D or training folks – oh, wait..
  • Coffee upon your arrival for day one of the Expo – when you walked in, but not day two.  I just don’t get it.  As for the continental breakfast maybe it was there.. I never saw it – although the other trade show at Caesar’s had a nice spread.. I know I walked in and got some.

Spin the Wheel

As with any show, you get to hear a lot of things going on behind the scenes and so..

The Tin Can Fiasco

I like Tin Can. I think it can do wonders, but what I don’t like is the industry being held hostage while some people can’t make up their freaking mind on what to call it.

Yes, it is an API, specifically xAPI.  But unless your well versed in what is an API (Application Program Interface), how it works and the coding stuff – the value of calling it an xAPI to the general public (i.e. the people who will buy the system or authoring tool or whatever) is ZERO. 

We don’t go around and say, “Hey Linkedin is using the Twitter API or the Facebook API in my system is the best”.  No, we say Twitter is in Linkedin OR Facebook in my LMS is the best”.

However, that understanding seems to be missing in this whole nightmare.  If you are unaware or confused (don’t worry, you are not alone), the term Tin Can (which was marketed from the get go) is actually

  • Experience API
  • xAPI
  • And soon could be called IEEE standard

I remember hearing a while back that allegedly some folks at ADL were not happy that the term Tin Can was used and they (ADL) were exploring having IEEE as the umbrella term.

Now in Vegas, apparently there was this IEEE group which may or may not be associated with ADL (One of the gentleman who was involved in ADL, split to go with IEEE), discussing if IEEE should be the standard.  Which would then I assume replace Tin Can, xAPI and Experience API.

Got that?

I have no idea on the outcome of the discussion (I’m working to find out), but why is this even happening?  Excluding the possibility of bruised egos – what is the benefit of replacing the name Tin Can (Easy to remember, great for marketing purposes) with something else that isn’t?

Product Additions

Here is a quick list of some items being added to your favorite products in the next year and beyond

  • Go! Animate – Adding two more themes in 2014, adding the capability to do “Team Collaboration” when creating a presentation (I don’t know the correct term they use) – but you can have multiple people working on the soon to be animation – in different locations. However, they cannot be on the same slide at the same time.  HTML5 is coming in 2015.
  • Knowledge Guru – Gaming like product is coming out with more themes
  • eLearning Brothers – Added more templates – including new skins for Storyline, more cutout people images positions and ebook templates with some very cool capabilities

Penny Slots

I was surprised that various folks told me that their was a lack of decision makers at this year’s show.  It totally caught me off guard, because the show in the past, has been one known for having a lot of decision makers.

I heard it from vendors and as noted I heard it from colleagues very well-versed in the e-learning trade show circuit.

Last year, I tossed it aside because the show was in San Jose, CA, not known for being the hotbed of entertainment in the western let alone eastern hemisphere.

As in every trade show, there are vendors whose products really caught my eye – good and bad.

There were a few bad ones — the guy who walked away from me while showing his product, so he could talk to his friends behind me about their dinner plans and then came back as though nothing had happened. Awesome. At least he did his job, I remembered his product.

Lucky 7’s err 2’s

At the end of the two days (for the expo) two product stood out:

Shift iQ and Rehearsal VRP.

Shift iQ

One of the trends I’ve seen in the past year are vendors pitching skill development – often tied to the holy grail of training terms – “adaptive learning”.  Shift iQ doesn’t pitch the adaptive learning premise and I thank them for that; rather their solution is all about skills tied to competencies and the ability to assess and validate the competency.

I do not see it as a TM/PM offering, because a TM/PM has other components such as leadership development, 360 feedback, etc. beyond just competencies and skills.

Key features include:

  • Knowledge and skill based assessments
  • Personalized skills development work spaces – inc. skills development paths (they call them pipelines)
  • Communities and knowledge base
  • CE capability
  • View/Audit employee training records, SOP’s and COP’s
  • Ability to take online courses and register online for seminars, webinars, etc.
  • SCORM compliant

The system has a lot of potential and I would place it into the LMS/learning platform space but geared 100% towards competencies and skills.  So you have a very niche oriented LMS.

Rehearsal VRP

From the folks who bring you Understand University (LMS specifically for medical device and pharma reps), comes this sweet and potentially awesome video role playing scenarios solution (it should be obvious, but you will need a web cam).

The product is more than just a video recorder device, rather it is a narrow focused video learning platform.  Not only do you create the video micro-courses (learning chunks), you can track performance and award achievement badges.

Key features include:

  • Extremely easy to use – simple and fast – even for non techies
  • Add info on the side of the video, such as the scenario, questions
  • Add or remove users in groups
  • Assessments, provide feedback too
  • Performance graph
  • Gamification
  • Ability to add your own logo
  • Supports iOS devices (hello mobile)

The big elephant in the room negative

  • Layout colors are limited – as in the front is a parquet in design and the admin side is grey 

And no you cannot change that.  The vendor told me that in Feb. you will be able to select layout colors and not be stuck with parquet and grey.  

YOU ARE A WINNER

Rehearsal VRP.  A lot of possibilities and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. 

Bottom Line

In the end, every attendee was a winner at this year’s ASTDTK14.

Overall, the sessions were very strong and even though the expo floor did not have as many vendors as I would hope, according to ASTD, 50% of the exhibitors already renewed. 

I’m glad for them. I really am. 

But

For someone who has attended every ASTDTK show (except the first one), I was always a believer that ASTDTK was the best show for any e-learning product (inc. LMSs, authoring tools, web conferencing, video, mobile, gamification, skills, and so on..) to exhibit at.

Now I don’t.

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