Hi all!  I’m reporting live from the greatest city in the world, Los Angeles.  I know, I know your jealous.  Anyway, as many of you are probably aware the biggest training conference in North America, takes place May 4-7th, albeit most humans start off on May 5th.  For the expo, which is the focus on this article, it kicks in gear on May 5th.

Whew.

The challenge with attending a show of this size (again, expo speaking) is knowing whom to see and check out and whom to zing by and say, “What, no swag?”.  Seriously though, a lot of people ask me what vendors to see or what vendors I look at, etc. when I attend these shows.

Your Guide to #ASTD2014

A couple of notes before I present my guide to ASTD exhibitors

  • I will be going to every expo booth at ASTD2014, and jotting down notes.  If I find the product interesting, I ask for more info, see a demo, ask for a separate meeting, etc.
  • I will be using Twitter throughout the day  (@diegoinstudio), with live tweets using the ASTD hashtag #ASTD2014
  • Tweets will be tied to anything – a product that I find interesting that is new or strikes me on the super wow scale, a product or products that I find missed the mark or are underwhelming,  feedback from folks wallking the floor and from vendors
  • Linkedin E-Learning 24/7 group briefings – once a night – short and right to the point – think highlights of the day’s expo event (5th and 6th)
  • On the 12th of May, I will be writing my post review of ASTD2014 which will be more extensive than the daily Linkedin briefings, including my product of ASTD2014
  • The vendors that I list below in my guide, are across the board.
  • To save time, I have them linked directly to where they are with the ASTD online guide.  This will allow you to save them on your schedule.  Hopefully this will be fine with ASTD, but if this “bullet” changes to the vendor’s site, you will know why.
  • This guide is 100% independent.  No one is paying me NOR would I ever accept payment, to be listed below.  I am not a pay for play guy. Never have been, never will.

Lastly – this guide is in no way or in any form or in any manner associated with ASTD, ASTD affiliates, ASTD chapters or anything else to do with ASTD.  In other words, it is my own thoughts and opinions and I will leave it at that.

Vendors to Visit Guide – My Top Picks and some you may wish to check out. 

If the vendor is not listed it could mean

  • ILT focused solution
  • Sells books, publications, materials
  • Online university or offering tied to an online university
  • Consulting services and alike
  • While I will be checking it out at the show, I cannot recommend or not recommend at this time (nothing personal to those vendors). I have either seen the product before at a previous show or by seeing a demo in the past six months OR I have never seen the product – there are a lot of e-learning products out in the marketplace.   Some vendors will make their debut at  ASTD.
  • Vendor has underwhelmed me in the past
  • A mixed bag – not bad, not good…just breathing

Time to hit the Road to Learning – Where is my Car?

LMS Vendors

  • Administrate –  In my top 50 for my State of the LMS Industry 2014 report and will appear in my Top 50 LMS Report, available for purchase, 1st week of June.  It is a LMS and a CRM with a touch of business intelligence.  But has a lot to offer.
  • Docebo – Top 10 state of the LMS Industry 2014, will be in my Top 10 for the same report.  Very slick UI, a lot of very nice feature sets, there is a lot to like in this system.  It’s definitely going somewhere.
  • eLogic Learning –  Ditto as above – i.e. Top 50, actually Top 10 and same in June report.  One of the areas I think hurts eLogic is people check out the site, see the generic look and say, “Oh, it looks like that?”, to which I say big mistake. 

This system has a lot of features, constantly updates their system – a big plus in my book – has amazing support and is going to have a new set of components by the end of the year, that are so forward thinking that I’m giddy as a school boy.  Okay, not that giddy.

  • Totara –  Totara is in both reports as a Top 25 vendor.  The product is built on Moodle, and yes you can download the open source and customize it yourself, but why?  The system has a lot of features, nice UI and solid components. 

The mobile is nice, but nothing to show about and the big plus or minus (depending on your take), is how Totara runs their business.  They have their business partners, handle all sales and service for their clients. For me, I use the business partner in Washington as my POC (point of contact) when I have clients that use Totara.

  • Litmos by Callidus Cloud –  They were once “the” new system to go to, but that was in the past.  Recently they have re-awakened and as such, they have a wealth of new features coming down the pipe in 2014.  Is this a system for everyone? No.

But then again, there never will be one system for everyone, because each one has that magical 10% differential.  Anyway, the pricing is very good – i.e. inexpensive based on 500 users – and still a top 25 system.

  • Meridian –  Another Top 25 LMS vendor.  My biggest frustration with them in the past is turnaround response time.  That said, a solid system. Could they improve, you bet – but so could a lot and I mean a lot of systems. Please note, that when you zing into the page, they have it setup for their video to do “autorun”.

Vendors to Gaze Upon in the LMS World  (Hit or Miss Category – Go, not go.. up to you – I have two here because if not, people will think I am anti- Big Dog vendor.  I’m not, just for the record)

  • SumTotal   Another Top 30 LMS vendor and when I have been able to see the product, I continue to see improvements.  As you read, “when I have been able”, is exactly that. 

For whatever reason, it is always a challenge to see the full system as in a one on one demo.  I have a better chance of shooting a toy rocket into outer space and having it land on the moon, then having a full one on one demo with SumTotal.  Which no doubt, will now be mad at me, since  I just wrote this.  Next!

  • Learning Stone –  These folks really intrigue me, so they are on my immediate zing and check out list.  While I am annoyed at the constant level of spam err news they send me,  the product itself, I think, has potential.  What that potential is – is a good question – I’ll let you know when I am at ASTD.
  • Cornerstone OnDemand –  Another vendor in both Top 50 reports.  The areas that they have launched the new UI look nice, but the other areas that still have the dated UI, well don’t.  

To me, they are like the Bermuda Triangle.  You know there are some concerns, yet you take your boat out on a stormy day and head off to Bermuda to see what happens.  Oh, look a “Vortex!”

  • Inquisiq R3 –  A very inexpensive system, which has just updated their entire UI.  Really solid feature set.  Looking forward to seeing that new UI.
  • Lectora –  You may say to yourself, “Why are they under the LMS” section – because well, they do offer two systems, albeit LMS Express is the better of the two.  I have listed some past concerns with Lectora as it relates to their extensive product line which is both a good and a bad idea, but I’m not here to say anymore.  Okay, I am. 

I am not saying that their LMS is in my Top 50, because they are not.  What I am saying though, is if you are looking or considering CourseMill, then look at LMS Express.  And if you are interested in an alternative to “Mindflash”, then I recommend looking at LMS Express.

They also have an “autorun” with their ASTD link, which led me to ask myself, “Why am I hearing the Edward Scissorhands song”.

Vroom, Vroom.. Authoring Tool Vendors to Race to (Actually, no running on the expo floors)

  • dominKnow Claro – Continues to be an outstanding authoring tool, SaaS may I add.  I love that they constantly have updates which are updates as in new features and not fixes, and that the people behind the product are instructional designers and e-learning developers.  Which means, they have been there – just as you are – down the trenches, fighting the mud and muck of bad course design.  Whether you are a newbie or strong in ID, a good product to check out.
  • Articulate   I don’t know the guy’s name, but he does an awesome presentation every time.  You will recognize him by the number of humans around him while he is showing and pitching the product. 

You can tell quickly that not only does he know his stuff, but he explains it so anyone can understand it.  Articulate should be giving him a lot of raises.  Anyway, Storyline is an elite solution, Studio needs some fixing.   Check them out for Storyline.

  • eLearning Brothers – Not sure why ASTD lists them under “authoring systems”, because they are not an authoring system.  They sell template packs, character packs, and so on. 

You know those characters you see in Studio, Storyline, Claro and many other vendors?  eLearning Brothers.  Templates – where the character points different places – eLearning Brothers.  Basically, they cover it all – games, assessments, etc. –  it is like your favorite boardwalk with arcade games.  Worth a visit.  They always have show specials – if you are into that kind of thing.

To avoid the toll road, turn here

  • Gamelearn – An outstanding e-learning game simulation product.  It is a game that you would want to play because of the graphics.  Look it is no “super hot” look, but across the board in the e-learning industry it hits the high note. 

I played one of the games for a bit and had fun.  The only downer is that each game is like 20+ hours straight, so while you can stop and come back and continue on, you cannot have just a 10 minute or 1 hour game.  Hope that changes. Oh, another one of those darn “autoruns” on the link.

  • Mindsetter –  This looks intriguing enough to say, I am going over here to take a deep gaze.  It is for those folks who are either live or die with ILT or plan a “blended” approach using ILT and WBT.  I think it has possibilities, but I am just hoping it is not another Cameo (never totally “Wow-d” by the product).
  • Wordrake –  Only relevant if your writing needs an improvement or you want it to look more sharp.  For me it makes sense, especially since it works with Office 2013 and 64 bit systems.  Curious to see how it competes with Grammerly.

 Bottom Line

According to the ASTD 2014 Exhibitor list thing, there are 414 booths.  As with such a large show, knowing what is a “must-see” versus just see, saves time and reduces headaches.

But let’s face it, once you get there and your eyeballs zing out of your head, any plan you devised ahead of time,  goes right into the trash, with all that garbage they shove into your free expo bag.

Hence this guide. 

As noted earlier, I will be posting live tweets with #ASTD2014 as I walk the expo floor.  And if I see any cool vendors to check out, you can expect a “tweet’ heading your way.  Or check it out nightly on my E-Learning 24/7 Linkedin group

The point being – there is someone out there on the floor. 

Walking among the masses, who going to tell it like it is – good product, check em out. Indifferent but has something neat – here it is.  Ignore and don’t waste your time, well probably not going to see a tweet on them. 

But you will know.

And knowing is what makes a good show

A great show.

E-Learning 24/7