I’m here.  In Berlin, that is, preparing for the Online Educa Berlin Conference, kicking off on Wednesday.

Sessions galore. Countries showing off their latest e-learning (often under the words – distance learning , which should be booted as a term), and vendors showing their products, making their pitches and eating their food in their booth.

Attendees from all over globe will be here as well.  And yes, I’ll be there to – checking out some sessions, mingling among the attendees and chatting it up with the vendors.

What the vendors though, won’t be aware of (okay, if they read the blog they wil), is that I will have provided you – the reader and maybe attendee –  who are the top LMSs in higher education, education K-6, education 6-12 for 2015.

Wait. Wait. There’s more.  I’ll provide you with my criteria and my new scoring system – for those at home who want to play – or just use it as another reason to despise me.  Don’t worry folks, I have no problem sleeping at night. Okay, with the dogs snoring, I have challenges.

Let’s get this Party started.  Rev up those engines..

Please be aware that the criteria section is pretty extensive.  I did this, rather than just give high 50,000 foot level, since people would contact me and say this is it? Why isn’t A or B in this?  Well, after you read this area, you will know why.

LMS Report Criteria

For the 2015 report, I decided to utilize a new process for selecting the best of the best, in other words, the top 50 platforms in the world.

  • The report is based on my internal directory count of 640 LMSs, learning platforms, learning systems or whatever else they pitch themselves as, vendors around the globe.

Secondly, areas were identified by which a point total would be assigned based on them achieving all those points in that specific section (varied by each section – using my LMS RFP template – newest version, not yet posted, but will be included in the report for anyone to use).

Sections included Learning Environment, Social, Mobile, Gamification, Classroom Management, Notifications, Event Management, Security, Administration, e-commerce, training and support.

Additional Areas

  • User Interface – Modern, Crisp, easy to use for learners, navigation, Administration side – easy to use, modern design, form and functionality – example, if you offer drag n drop, you scored an additional point
  • Feature sets beyond the standards – What I call the magical 10%. Do something really amazing – land an additional two points for each one – as long as it makes sense.  Thus, if you offer personalization for each learner (turned on/off by the administrator) – two points.
  • Mobile –  On/Off synch, self-contained native app for iOS, Android and any others, ability to do things in the app, take courses, assessments, special instructor area, manager area (if applicable).  If the client’s mobile app is skinned – extra points.
  • Gamification beyond the basics – Have a badge library?  What about game templates? Include a badge builder in the system?  Maybe a reward store – Point City. Oh, is your gamification postioned in a unique way – extra points.  In other words, make it stand out and fun is WAY better than it just sitting there with the basics and boredom.  Example: gamification tied to social – is a WAY better than it tied just to a course.
  • Integrations i.e. APIs – Included at no charge? Do you provide a list either as apps or identifying them – i.e. MailChimp, Nimble and so on?  Also applies to Salesforce.com BUT
  • If you offer salesforce.com, do you have learning as a tab or something like that in Salesforce.com or any other external CRM, thus the learner does not have to leave the product to go into the LMS?
  • Support – Free or Fee or both?  If free includes the basics, if fee does cost reflect benefits?  BTW, assigning a project manager to a client, should be free.
  •  I mean who do you think is overseeing the implementation –  your 3rd cousin twice removed?  Or maybe it is your own sales rep, because they have nothing better to do.
  • Sorry, but nothing peeves me more than charging a client to have a PM. And if you do, you lost points.  One vendor’s fee based services includes support for learners – so that is acceptable – and a benefit for those who want it, since support is typically only for administrators (and it makes complete sense).
  • What is your support process, how are issues assigned, what is your follow up process, once a day, once every other day?  How do you notify the administrator of the system – by phone, e-mail, Skype or multiple?  Do you offer the client an option of the best way or preferred way to contact them?
  • Training – What does the client get for free? When does it go fee based and again, benefits and value to being fee based.
  • Pricing models –  Do you have a separate pricing model for B2B/B2C compared to internal training?  If you do, you land some serious points.  Do you offer non-profits, government a special discount?
  • If your system is B2B/B2C -what is your e-commerce score (identified by features + robustness + unique). Example: if you have a Shopify app or an app for other e-commerce store sites, congrats you landed some additional points.  Do you offer additional components such as built in e-mail marketing, SEO, etc.? Multi-Tenant and if yes, can the client have their own server and if yes, is it free?  (The industry often uses the term extended enterprise).
  • If Internal, does it align to the standard feature sets. Does it still offer e-commerce?  For this section, no one should be at zero, but guess what, plenty are in the fail section.
  • If both – does it have the most common feature sets that align to internal and external?  I can always tell if a system is more geared towards B2B or internal, based on pricing, feature sets.
  • Forward Thinking – How adaptable are you?  Move forward quickly or at snail speed.  Everyone says they are forward thinking, but again, it is easy to spot those who really are and those who are not.
  • Bonus areas:  Do you include any courses in your LMS for free as part of a value add for clients? If yes, point city.  If you provide a custom course at no charge, extra points.   OR do you include other items as a value – add.  Maybe you give them a 3rd party authoring tool at no charge.  Do it all – land big time points.
  • Other –  Uber Wow Factor.  Things could be a Kindle Fire app (wow), fun factor – would a learner have fun in this system, if yes (WOW). Offer a resource library/exchange where clients can share tips/tricks, templates or content they created (non-proprietary) and so on – WOW for corporate.

Education LMSs

For Educational LMSs, their feature sets standards are part of the list.  If they don’t have e-commerce, they don’t get a negative for it, if they have it, good stuff.

As for some of the items listed above, some do not apply and thus were not considered.  Example:  Pricing Model.

How is it defined, is relevant and sorry teachers getting to use it for free is not an added point benefit – great marketing way to sell the product, but not any real value add, unless students and teachers get it for free, and if yes, then unless you charge the districts or campuses or dept. of edu and so on, you won’t last long.

But, forward thinking, social, standard education feature sets along with some standard LMS features (in order to be align to LMS specs as a LMS) were included.

And yeah mobile, social and your authoring tool (if you don’t have the ability for someone to create content, you lost points).

If you offer asychronous course builds, you landed some additioonal points. Synch based? Sorry that is a standard feature set.

Gamification Factor is important.  If there is any platform that should have gamification it is education.

Include a resource library/exchange where teachers can share lesson plans, syllabi, content, files, templates they created or just chat with each other for ideas, etc.? You score points.

Messaging – Text messaging? Enable the ability for learners to leave audio and/or video messages for teachers, professors and so on? Point wins.

Training and Support plays a big role IMO for HE and K-12 platforms. As such, it plays a huge role in factoring points.

Offering training for teachers, is understandable as a fee based, but your training should include at no charge – any administrators for the platform (if there are five, then all five), key stakeholders identified by the school, university, DOE and so on.

If the system is ADA 508 compliant or whatever is used in another country – big points.  You might be in for a shock, but there are quite a few educational LMSs that are not ADA 508 compliant – and I say shame, shame on you.

If you offer special feature sets for learners who have a learning disability to get additional points.  Some systems do by the way.

I also looked at systems to see who is their target audience.  In other words, they say their focus is HE (higher ed), but is it really? I mean math equation feature screams K-12, okay K-6 more likely. Not HE.

Rubrics?  I have to question that as a HE feature, although many vendors include it.  I taught at a university, I cannot recall one person who I knew who taught at the same univeristy, using Rubrics.

Heck, even in the days I taught HS, I was unaware of any 9-12th grade (i.e. Fr-Sr) who did Rubrics.

Parent Portal is K-12.  If you are telling me that your system is geared specifically for HE, this should not be a feature.  Student Portal is fine, but for me the key is what features are available in that student portal.

Under classroom management, if it is highly geared towards someone being in the classroom for HE, seriously, you need to go to some universities who offer online courses. The whole point of online is that they ARE NOT in the classrom.

I also looked at systems who offered corporate and education.  Are they the same edition i.e. version? If yes, no cheeseburger for you ( Belushi we miss you).

If you offer K-12 and HE are they separate editions – because if they are not, whoever built them needs to go to multiple universities and sit in the sessions.

Finally, the WOW factor in education.  Again, I know of a system that has an app for the Kindle – WOW.  Another provides over 300,000 resources to their teachers (who use their platform) – WOW, another has an app store for students – WOW, WOW.

The Rankings – Top 10

Based on everything, here are my top 10 education LMSs for 2015.  Where noted it will state either K-6, K-12, HE or some combo of the two.

1. Frog(K-6)

2. NEO LMS (K-12, HE)

3. Instructure (K-12, HE)

4.  Fishtree (K-12 and HE, albeit, I think K-12 would be better)

5.  Adrenna (HE)

6. Its Learning (K-12)

7. Blackboard (K-12, HE)

8. eSchools (K-12) Link goes to primary version

9.  My Big Campus (K-12)

10.  Haiku Learning  (K-12)

For specifics – incl. feature sets and total point scores – it will be available in my 2015 Top 50 LMS report, which you can pre-order here and save $100 off the regular scheduled price of $599, when it goes on public sale on Jan 20th, 2015. When you click the “here”, it will open up your email.

Please provide the following information: name, contact info (ph and e-mail), and whether you work in edu, govt, corporate, consultant, association, non-profit or other (this is for internal purposes only and will never be shared with anyone) and then prior to it being available to the public, you will receive an email from me along with your special CODE you will need to buy at a discounted price.

For those who buy the report, beyond some very cool components, you will also receive my new quarterly newsletter chock full of info, insight and latest news – you won’t find on my blog or in any publication I produce.

In many cases, the information will be exclusive – so you will read it first before it goes public, whether it is on my blog or not.  Plus you will get access to my Town Hall Webinar, exclusive for report buyers.  There will be two webinars only for report purchasers.

Again, please be aware that the report is not free.  If you pre-order it will cost $499 USD. If you wait, until the report goes live on Jan. 20th, the cost is $599 USD.  If you are purchasing three or more copies, I do offer volume discount.  When you buy the report, you will get only one report.

Again, the report is for the top 50 LMSs for 2015 and includes not just education LMSs, but also Corporate LMSs.  The report also includes:

  • Top three LMSs for gamification, social, video, mobile, next generation, WOW features (example: you can upload video from your mobile device – that is WOW, so a WOW feature platform, has a lot of WOW cool features that make sense).
  • Top three LMSs for manufacturing, retail, technology, healthcare, pharma, associations, non-profit, content/training providers, education (K-12 and HE), financial services, energy
  • Top three LMSs for B2B/B2C, regulatory and compliance management, internal only
  • Top three LMSs to watch (may not be in the overall top 50, but has potential to get there if they stay the course)
  • LMS video demos which will be seen on lmsdemos.com – It is always free for a LMS vendor to have a demo of their system on the site – FYI.
  • Video quick hits – more on that later
  • Executive Summary by Video
  • Gamification points in certain areas, score more and you could win one of five amazing products from E-Learning 24/7
  • Free one hour analyst call with me. Retail value $350 – you get it free.

Bottom Line

Whew.

For those who follow me on Twitter @diegoinstudio or via Linkedin, E-Learning 24/7 group there will be daily updates, real time tweets starting Wednesday at Online Educa Berlin.

Oh, and if you are wondering why isn’t Moodle on my top ten. It’s an open source platform where you can do as little or as much as you want including design, configurations and more.  

So yeah it is widely used in education, but is it as robust as some fee based platforms, it all depends on feature sets. IMO, its not.  

From a free open source standpoint it is still the best one out there, but I would go with one of my top 10 fee based solutions over Moodle any time.

And any night.

E-Learning 24/7

You can also contact me at craig.weiss@elearning247.co  (and yes, it is .co)