Learning Technologies UK 2015 Review

Posted by

I’m back.  Well, back from being sick that is (hence the one week delay).  And with that delay, came my delay of the LTUK15 review.

So, with out any further notice, let’s dive right in.

Overall Impressions

Generally speaking, I really came away quite impressed with the show. As with any e-learning conference and event, the show wasn’t 100% awesome, that is to say, it had some areas for improvement, but overall I give it was quite strong.

Here are some quick takeaways

  • The attendee size was solid.  I heard numbers of 500 and 750.  Which is good, but honestly, I was thinking it would be more.

I am not certain, but I believe LTUK identifies an attendee as someone who paid for the entire conference or at least part of the conference.  Than you have visitors, which include full attendees, expo only and other (who knows).  Thus, LTUK15 stated that they had over 7,000 visitors and based on the human traffic downstairs that would make sense.

From an attendee perspective though, even let’s say 750 attendees (not including visitors) is solid, but not massive by any stretch.

  • Lots of vendor booths.   One vendor told me it was 296, another said, 260. Regardless, there were a lot.  I did see one vendor who bought a booth and never showed up (G-Cube).  That surprised me, because booths are not cheap there, and where you land makes a big difference.
  • Lands.  Think of a Monopoly board.  In fact the expo had two colors as I recall.  Purple – learning technologies.  Orange – Learning Skills. 
  • Location. There are prime locations and than there are not prime.  The expo floor reminded me of that, in the sense of traffic, ease of accessing people and movement/flow of the crowd.

When you have an expo that large, it is all about location. 

Vendors who were in certain sections (I counted Seven sections), seemed to have more humans than say others. And within each section, where your booth was located did make a difference (IMO). 

If you had a presentation on one of the expo stages and it was say in the first three sections, the crowds were packed.  If your booth was in the general flow of traffic and in the first four sections immediately entering up to mid down, solid (generally speaking).

If you were on the out skits of sections one to four, it came down to your booth and even then it was hit or miss.  I walked – actually zipped around with my manual foot scooter – and in mid areas packed, but when I zipped back to the outer rows, trickles.  

Section five was hit or miss, when I zipped around. Again, it was all about where your booth was located. 

Section six and seven, again hit or miss.  That said, it appeared to me that more folks were in learning tech than in learning skills.  One vendor put it so eloquently when describing the two (learning tech area, learning skill area):

“The decision makers (CLOs, Training Directors, etc.) are in the learning skills area and the sharks are in the learning tech area.” 

The statement of sharks and feeding was apropos for vendor success and before the folks at LTUK15 comment to me that it wasn’t the case, I know it wasn’t the case, but it was fun to hear it.

  • Vendors.  As with any show, you get the “why would they come” crew of vendors along with the others who make sense.  I didn’t sit there or zip around and count every vendor by genre or category, nor did I sit around and count them up in the catalog, but my personal takeaway was the following:

Strong number of LMS vendors.  LTUK15 stated that there were 122 “Learning Management infrastructure, systems and methods” there, and what the heck is LMS methods?  Anyway, if you were talking a LMS vendor as I would define them, there were a lot, but there was not 100 of them, let alone 45. 

For example, the 122 list included dominKnow (rapid content authoring tool vendor), Assima  (makes an authoring tool sim offering and platform), Adobe Connect (web conferencing), BrightCarbon, (custom shop that makes presentations and courses).   So, you get the idea.

I did see a few vendors I have never seen before, and there were some debuts there too (which to me is defined by someone who is either brand new to the market or been out 6 months or less and debuting product).

That said, there were more at this show, than at any show I have attended in the past year (2014). 

In my top 50 LMS vendors for example, the list of vendors at the show were: SkillsServe, LearnUpon, Tessello-Brightwave, Saba, Growth Engineering, Docebo, Administrate, Digits-Glo, Cornerstone OnDemand, Cm-Group, Kallidus, Totara (biz partners of wow, a lot of them), Litmos, Net Dimensions, SumTotal, and G-Cube (who didn’t show up).

As with any show there were quite a few custom shops (Bespoke is the term used outside of the states), consulting firms, course marketplaces, hodge podge of this and that, learning languages, training, talent mgt/soft HCM (a stretch for a couple) and authoring tool vendors.

I also saw plenty of vendors who called themselves one thing and clearly were not that thing.  I just don’t understand how people have zero clue on e-learning and yet sell and e-learning product.

For the last freakin’ time, e-learning is the universal term and not a course or a series of courses.  Sheesh.

Okay, I’m better now. Thanks.

Vendors of Intrigue

One vendor, Fuse Universal, had an interesting system.  They called it a social knowledge center on their web site, but it appeared to many folks as a LMS (I say that because a couple of people said take a look at Fuse, a LMS). 

I’m not 100% sold on the social platform piece though, as while it had social – it was by no means the most impressive I’ve ever seen as it relates to social.  I would easily put it in the learning platform category. For those wondering, it does support SCORM. 

Junction-18 definitely intrigued me but there are a lot of questions that still remain.  Let me explain.

What they presented at the show was a beta version. The product (Onboard) itself according to Junction-18, won’t go live until April.  When viewing what I could see it caught my eye, but I did not really get full depth of it and I had to remember that just because what I see now, may not appear in the final product (they can disagree and I’m sure they will). 

If you are a fan of the metro UI look (Windows 8), then you will like the design.  At least on the learner side.  The admin side, did not have that look as I recall.

I also found the person I spoke with a tad pushy, which turned me off. Had I not been so interested in seeing the product, I would have walked away. 

The vendor was doing a trade special, and while I like trade specials (special trade show price), it isn’t ideal to buy right there and then at any show, let alone a product that is not even live yet.

I bring this up, because a)the person told me two people already bought it and b) even though I stated I was not interested in the buying the product, just looking at it, he said okay and then minutes later asked me if I wanted to buy it.  

Growth Engineering debuted their authoring tool gamification solution and it was equally interesting, but I had way too many questions at this point. 

What I did find interesting though it that the “gamification” angle was tied to those building the courses, rather than just in the course (which can use game themed templates).   It is the first product I have ever seen with this very unique spin on it and what it showed of that, did impress me. 

It’s about time these folks who build the courses, get some recognition!

General Thoughts

Normally, this goes up on the top of the post, but for this post, let’s go radical and place it here. 

  • App.  I thought it was very, very good.  I loved that when you picked which vendors to look at and went back and looked at your visual virtual map, the colors lit up accordingly to that vendor.  What I didn’t like is the continuance of ZERO geolocation in the app.

I’ve mentioned this numerous times and for the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone hasn’t added geolocation to their mobile app.  If I had it, then as I was walking (zipping in my case), I could see where I was in connection with the my vendor picks which were in purple.  But, nope.  Can’t have it.  Sigh.

  • Food.  I can’t fully judge on that.  As usual the show’s food had only one item that was diary free and it was kind of yucky.  Again, how hard is it to offer dairy free (lactose free) food?  Especially in 2015? 
  • Freebies.  Underwhelmed.  Pens, lots of pens.  The best was the Kallidus travel coffee mug – big win! 
  • Giveaways.  Equally underwhelmed. 
  • Junk shoved into your free thing they give you as a conference attendee.  Wow.  I mean, if there is a reason to save paper, this would be a good time to use it.  I’d rather them give me a place to interact, seek info, use an app, uh wait a minute – their web site and their app would have sufficed.

  Most people end up tossing that paper in the garbage at their hotels, so why continue to push it? 

I mean, I get the revenue angle i.e. sponsorship and advertising – but I would love to know who actually looks at any of that, and says, “Oooh, I am going to buy that product because of this marketing piece. Or, Wowsa, they are here? I’m going to run over and see it and buy.

Speaking of which, I do not recall seeing a recycle bin anywhere.  If you don’t offer one, please do. 

Product of the Show: 

I honestly do not have one.  There were many, beyond just the three above who made an impression with me, but I didn’t have one that just stood above the rest.

Bottom Line

Prior to the show, there was a battle.  No, it was not a re-creation of 1066, and nor was it really a battle per se, but it did involve two LMS vendors, one of which really needs to eat a Snickers bar and chill (that’s Vendor A).

The Scene

Two vendors  (I know who they are)

Vendor A:  Can I have your pricing?

Vendor B:  No.

Vendor A:  It’s on your web site.

Vendor B:  Then go on the web site.

Vendor A:  If that is how you want to play…  

and storms off.

Classic.  I think the BBC should immediately turn that into production.

Now, what did I do with that business card..

E-Learning 24/7

Bonus blog this week: On-premise – is it in demise?



  1. Hey Craig, really useful blog & thanks for the comments re Fuse. Just a quick point, we (Fuse) do fully support SCORM and have a large number of clients running SCORM courses for the last few years, however nearly all our clients are migrating away from SCORM towards our bite sized learning plans which allows learners to get back to any concept or procedure within a course with search, it also makes updating learning plans so much easier. Although we do support SCORM, our belief is that it is an antiquated standard that is holding the industry back and there is a reason why every successful consumer elearning company from Lynda to Coursera don’t use it. Would be great to give you a demo so you can understand fully how we are trying to move the industry forward with a new approach to online learning

    1. I added the updated thank you.

      I’m not sold on the antiquated of SCORM for a couple of factors. But let me first address the Lynda.com and Coursera statements. Lynda.com is a course marketplace, selling their own course videos. You can convert video into SCORM 1.2 video, but you have to either built it yourself, b)go and get it done via a couple of places, c)have a reason for it – in their case they are not using nor promoting their solution with a LMS per se, so what’s the gain from their side of the house? They could of course, wrap each video behind an API wrapper but again, the value for them isn’t really there.

      Coursera is also a course marketplace/aggregator, whereas the courses are MOOCs and from various universities. So there is no reason for them to use SCORM or any other compliance standards.

      As for the SCORM standards, I find that when vendors say the “we don’t use it for blah blah” its a cop out. You did not obviously, but that is my take. I agree SCORM has less than ideal, but that is why there is SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004 3rd edition or SCORM 2004 4th edition. Each one does something slightly different. And again, there is no perfect compliance standard.

      For me, I’m a big fan of PENS, which was created by the AICC folks back in 2005, but just recently starting to see some vendors use it. AICC to me is antiquated.

      Lastly, use xAPI which is the latest standard and is constantly being updated or is in the process of being updated.

  2. Nice and honest roundup of LT 2015. Really surprised you have no idea who Assima is Craig! They’ve been around for years and are really quite well known for what they do EPSS etc. and have had huge clients. They bought Kaplan Learning Technologies (ref Atlantic Link) in 2012. I used their ATS way back in ’08 and it was really good.

    What has really impressed you about Growth Engineering Craig. I know you gushed about them in your article but the gamification is very simplistic. I think it’s great that it is deeply integrated (on both sides) of the LMS but would be really interested if you could do a deep dive on the system, producing a course, testing it with a group of users and evaluating the results in comparison to a non gamified version on an equally clean looking LMS? Maybe that’s too big of an ask but would be great!

    1. Yes that is correct on Assima. But there list on LTUK has it as though it is more of a consulting firm. Their products – Assima that is, are in my opinion underwhelming. As for Growth, they weren’t selected because of gamification – they were selected because it is amazing LMS that can do equal to any top system out there and do all the things you asked or inquired about, plus much much more. The point (no pun intended) is that unless you are into gamification, then it might not be the system for you, since its design is all about gamification. But features are LMS features, etc.

Comments are closed.