I’m a big fan of fun.

Actually, I think a lot of people like to have fun depending on whether or not the activity/item is fun for them.  I always hate it when someone says X is fun and then you do X and it stinks. It’s not fun, it’s boring or stupid or just dull.

But fun.  Ahh fun.

This brings me back to this post, because learning what features are in “vogue” and what is on the mind of many vendors, is fun to know.

Why?

  • It offers you a glimpse into features you either want to have NOW or want to have LATER
  • Shows you where/what vendors are thinking in terms of features
  • Provides insight into how some vendors view the LMS space

Caveat

No surprise here on this caveat, but this funtastic list does not show features that are common in the majority of platforms and features that are stale as old bread (chat, forums, profile page, chunks of admin functionality, catalog, etc.).

Nope. None of that stuff.  Nor does it contain features such as m-learning – because they all offer that.  What though they may not offer yet is on/off synch with native self-contained app.

 Hey Ma! It looks just like a web site

That’s right sonny boy, the latest feature to hit the LMS market, is a front end that looks like a web site, often times the consumer’s themselves. 

What is different than say in the past, is that if your corporate site has social links on the top, whalla so does the LMS learner side.  You have ABC at the bottom, oh gosh, so does the learner side.

In other words, it looks just like your own main business web site, right down to the little minor items.  Granted, the menu does not go to your business pages, rather the menu is now learner oriented, specifically for their courses, etc.

In the yesterday world, a LMS like web page, was just that, “like”.  Now, it is. 

And before you go, well we can have our home page – portal entry as a web site, that is been around for awhile.  What is new though is after you get through that login page, the rest of the system looks like a web site- your site, and beyond just the colors or banner.

Customize This!

The end game is all about personalization and for a long period of time, many vendors offered the ability to fully customize the front and back end, with changes of fonts, text, menu labels, removing and adding items.

Even a few vendors offered the ability whereas each learner would have their own look and feel, different than another learner and on top of that, the ability to have learner X have English, learner Y to have French and so on. 

But in this latest feature it is all about widgets and drop boxes. 

Yessir, you can drag and drop – move around and oh, by the way, add or remove your widgets on the learner side (with admin either saying you can or cannot). 

True, you could do this with a few vendors, but now you can do with it with many, many more.

There are vendors who have several widget options, others have a much larger list and yep, many have zero.  Yet, we are talking about the drag/move widget block angle and not the click to remove and its stoic in design, but it can appear based on the administrator.

Vendors that offer this new drag/move/drop and add widgets usually have a new modern UI. 

Responsive you say?

Responsive I say.  I also say on/off synch native self-contained app.  As an additional bonus, the native app can be skinned with your logo, rather than having the vendor logo on it.  Wowsa!  That sounds like fun (just go with it).

For whatever reason, every vendor has to show you their responsive on screen, even if you tell them you know what is responsive (which is a huge hint, that I do not need to see it).  So the vendor changes their screen to that of a smartphone or to a tablet and whippee!

Got it.  The other nice piece though is the on/off synch, which is huge.  It started with a few vendors in 2013, saw many more in 2014 and now, it is full gear in 2015.  However, just like any thing, I have run into vendors who refuse to do it.  Refuse. 

What native iOS though? 

The standards are iOS and Android and that makes up the core of the vendors who offer not only a native app, but also one that is self-contained on/off synch.  For those vendors willing to push to the next level though, I am seeing more with Kindle Fire than say Windows 8x.  And unsurprisingly, I still see Blackberry.

One important note on iOS and Android mobile that many, many consumers are unaware of – do not assume that the app will work with the latest OS version.  Always ask the vendor.  I have found vendors whose native on/off synch app won’t work with iOS 8.1, let alone 8.0.  Equally, I have vendors who do not work with the latest OS for Android.

Speaking of working/not working, the new feature to make its appearance is functionality in that native (self-contained app).

Options that were standards included taking a course, taking an assignment (edu, HE), forums (posting included), taking a test, reading PDF, todo list and few other items.

What is new though includes:

  • Check off list on the manager side with digital signature for those who like on-the job or just in time training.  You are on the warehouse floor. You want to make sure that Susan is doing pick and pack correctly. You stand by her and have her go through the steps, you check off yes or no. If all yes, you get her to sign and you sign.  A compliance step completed or just verification of learning.
  • Instructor view – Check attendance, verify resources (facilities management), print out sheets (a few, not universal to those who have instructor view), real time questions (rare, but out there),  to do lists or tasks, etc.
  • Manager view – View the courses taken or completed by learners in your department/group, progress status, take your own courses (in the view itself, not universal), review scores, etc., assign tasks (not seen in all, but growing), to do lists (yuck, but they are showing up there)
  • Administrator view – I have seen only two systems who offer this full view and all the capabilities that come with it, via the native self-contained app. The way it is achieved though is somewhat misleading. Rather than having specific features for the mobile per se, you go to the LMS (in the cloud), access the admin side and go from there. So, while yes, they do have it with on/off synch, saying 100% true admin functionality within the app itself is questionable at best.

Learning Mastery or How I am telling you to do your learning

Learning mastery is the new super buzz word in the space and what it is basically telling the learner is that you have this to do list or task list you need to complete.  It is usually linear in design, so you have to do A before you can go to B and so on. 

The premise is that by completing your daily to do list, you will see an improvement in learning and thus attain a higher level of mastery with that information.

Uh, okay. 

You can show me all the data you want, but each person learns different and so having a to do list or task list that must be done daily and as a result that reinforces learning for higher comprehension and synthesis, is subjective.  I might do it and hate it and thus each day I hate it more. 

I might get better scores, but if your learning objective is based on scoring and tests, then you really need to go back and learn what is learning and what is training and the benefits of doing it.  Seriously.

I’m equal not a fan of task lists, even if they are non-linear, but they are showing up in more systems than before.  I often say to myself on some of these items, if the people creating this feature in the system, where in a reversal role would they want a task list?

I can see how in K-12 and maybe HE a task list would work, and HE is debatable, but on the business side? I’ll leave that up to you to say whether you think that is ideal.

I predict you are reading this sentence – Predictive Analysis

I talked ad nauseum in a previous post and how I saw it moving forward and yep, it is on its way here in 2015.  At the end of the day it is how intuitive the predictive is that will make your system invaluable (for those that offer it).  True AI is not yet doable IMO, but you can get pretty close.

Take a Journey with me

I have seen this with a few vendors and I like what I see (if it is done right). You can either have it as your learning path (which is what it is) or have it as your home learner dashboard.  One vendor I saw it with, really blew me away. 

They offered both options and the client could pick one of three templates to create it.  Each template was customizable. 

Anyway, in basic terms you are changing their learning plan – usually seen in a hierarchy or some other fashion, into a graphic map with hot spots, including hot spots that will open up the courses right there, rather than having to drive further into the LMS.

It might look like a street map or a location map with icons representing each learning piece (course, document, video, blah blah).  Or you might be in a more structured way including here is what you need to do first, then when done do this and so on.

Or it can be some other type of graphic map.  So it takes that standard learner side you see so often on the learner page and changes it to something bold and refreshing either as the page itself (which has pros and cons) or as the learning curriculum assigned to that learner (right now, better route to go). 

Video Blocks or taking videos in your LMS

Becoming standard.

Still waiting on universal SCORM tracking capabilities (see with two vendors) and ability to have it create an auto transcript (a few vendors offer this),  video search bar based on keywords, meta-data (seen in a few systems, beyond the usual VLP), ability to bookmark (a few vendors) and the ability using keyword to go right to the area that person says it (again, a few vendors). 

Hey having something is better than nothing, but here is hoping that more vendors add the increased functionality listed above, beyond just offering video courses with the minimal how many times a user looked at it, how long and downloaded (if available).

Gamification

Already in fire mode, nothing is slowing it down.  Next stops: adding a badge library, offering a built your own badge tool, reward store and offering points to social at a minimum, courses and admin at the fullest.

Dashboards

On behalf of the entire planet and civilizations located around the universe, it is about time that vendors finally saw the light on having a learner home dashboard as the main screen upon entering the system.  When I say learner home dashboard, I’m referring to the main screen with items such as their courses and/or course catalog plus courses, progress, mini calendar, recommended courses or highest rated and so forth.  Think of it as home, their learner home.

It is on the rocking stage as we speak.  On the admin side though, I wish I saw it more.

User Interface

A huge increase in modern UI, but for some vendors that is not applicable to the admin side.  It looks dated and in some cases ugly. 

There have been vendors who go the other route, i.e. admin first than learner, but as a whole – for those vendors who have gone modern UI, I’d estimate that maybe 60% have updated the admin side as well.  Honestly, it should be 100%, especially since the people who are in the system every day is/are the administrator(s).

So much to say, so little time

I could go through each of the new feature funtastic items that are out there – and there are plenty more – but that can be for another post.

In the mean time,

LMS Ecosystems are Exploding

Not in a fire and brimstone way, nope, rather in a super, delicious, fun and exciting way. 

Remember an ecosystem is all about one stop shop and does not include (TM/PM) as a requirement. This is great stuff, and btw, it should be available to anyone who wants to use it, regardless of employee or student size or B2B/B2C.  If I as a customer want to have it, let me have it. Uh, keep the punches and throwing of lemon pies to yourself.

Extended Enterprises

I hate the term, because I believe it no longer applies to today’s business environment. However, many okay the majority of vendors who offer EE, can’t admit this to themselves and thinks everyone knows what this means and if you don’t then you are not seeking an extended enterprise.

First off,  a B2B can be an extended enterprise.

I could be one person selling courses to clients – each a tenant or child (under parent/child relationship) and would fall under extended enterprise.  I could be an internal employee base with each business unit being a tenant.

I also dislike the term enterprise for the same reasons above, as in it is an antiquated term that really no longer applies to the business world.  I could be a small company, employee wise, and be an enterprise.

Take that term, toss in informal/formal learning and extended enterprise and place them in terms that no longer apply in 2015.

Trash on line two. Hello, trash? Pick up informal/formal, extended enterprise and enterprise.  Thank you.

Bottom Line

The sentence are we having fun yet is etched in many a mind. 

Perhaps a sibling said that to you, prior to taking one of your toys OR a friend asked you that, when they toilet papered the principal’s house OR a parent, who wondered if the 12 hour drive to see the largest ball of twine and something they were interested in seeing and not you was hitting the fun note OR a colleague who just passed on their work to you, under the guise of your friendship.

Thus, are we having fun yet, is not a universal positive phrase.

Maybe yes, maybe no.

However, saying fun fantastic is fun.  I mean, just saying the phrase, “fun fan-tas-tic” brings a smile. 

I immediately think of sunny days sitting at the pool or on the beach or looking at the features that are here or forthcoming.

We are taught it is fun to learn, yet by the time we are adults, we no longer see the joy in it.

And why is that?

Perhaps we have become conditioned to no longer see learning or taking the time to learn as a fun endeavor.

Perhaps as a result our own LMSs or other LMSs out there, are pushing us away from fun.

We need to change that. 

Because without fun, it is just drab and boring. 

Drab. Boring. Cold.. Yucky days.

But fun?

Now that’s fun fantastic!

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