2015 Craig Weiss e-learning learning learning management system LMS LMS Research

Naming Names – LMS Mini Reviews

The latest feature from E-Learning 24/7 provides insight into what is happening with some LMS vendors along with mini takes (reviews) on lesser known systems (coming in May).

This is a new every other month segment, where some LMSs are listed and insight into a variety of items is presented.  In future posts, three random systems will land a “quick take” mini review. 

And when I say mini, I mean mini – like maximum of three paragraphs.  What is happening with some better known vendors or those on my radar of up and coming will be equally presented.

Let’s begin. Issue #1, Vol 1, Vendors 5

  • Instructure Bridge (Yep those HE folks are adding a corporate system to their product line)
  • SuccessFactors (A recent look leaves something to be desired, but on the bright side, there were a couple of nice features)
  • Growth Engineering (Genie is now out of the bottle and what is offers could change the authoring tool space in a good way)
  • My Big Campus (Say it ain’t so Joe. Oh wait, this isn’t the Black Sox scandal of 1919, it is though the end of a very nice K-12 platform)
  • Saba Cloud (Legacy is finished – at least in my opinion – and the cloud is the way to go, but is it for Saba customers?)

Instructure Bridge

Instructure like so many other HE systems can’t help themselves.  They can’t stay with what they do well and push it in new ways never seen before – and focus on that.  Nope, they have to also dive into the corporate market, because well, that’s where the money is (no offense to HE/edu).

Thus Bridge.  I’ve seen it – the entire thing and told them afterwards what I thought –  underwhelmed. 

Yeah it had a modern look to it, but modern is not alone a reason to swoop in and be marveled by it.

My take is that Bridge is going the way of some LMS/Learning Platforms that pitch either the “non-traditional” angle or “focus on features” people only need angle or “simple, easy to use angle” with simple as the key word. 

The whole “non-traditional” push or more importantly, when a vendor says “traditional” implies that their system is not like Cornerstone, SumTotal, and alike.  Yeah, no kidding.

Especially since those systems target a completely different learning landscape and each one is a soft HCM.  

Vendors who offer a simpler system – meaning basic analytics often with a pie chart or some graphs and some reports – shouldn’t be seen as a breath of fresh air that everyone wants.  

Bridge is one of those “simpler” systems with simplistic analytics and the usual standard feature set (although I did not feel the vibe of anything “Wow”).   It is a middle of the road new platform that neither inspires nor awes its potential customer.

Let me put it this way, I wouldn’t put it in my top 400.  Nor should you.

SuccessFactors

Another top 50 for 2014, that dropped out in 2015.  For a company who generates extensive amounts of revenue – sales wise, the system itself seems to be missing some of that cash in terms of investment towards making it rock.

SuccessFactors let me know that they are committed to the learning side (LMS) and will be putting money towards it.

Add-ons aside (yes they are one of the 15), the system itself seems stuck in dated UI land. 

While the blocks/tiles is nice (admins can turn it on/off) and the learning guides (for mobile, specifically smartphones) is slick (it is all about bytes of learning), the system as a whole is a quagmire of blandness.

The connectors component on the admin side was smart and should be standard in any system, but that UI on the admin side was clunky.  And those icons?

Many reminded me of Windows 98/2000.

For mobile, the big shocker was the lack of an Android offline player. 

Yes, that same Android which controls 81.4% of the mobile OS market for smartphones (2014), the latest version of Blackberry (10) (I’m stunned as you are that ppl still use it) will work with Android apps and overall Android is #1 OS for tablets.

So yeah, having an Android offline player NOW makes sense, rather than having one later (it is expected later this year for SF).

On the internal employee market, SuccessFactors plays solid but not great. 

On the external B2B/B2C I just don’t see it – and UI plays a major role, even skinned (out of the box UI and not you dropping cash to make it look awesome). 

No one wants dated when they are pushing a system (under their name) to their customers to take courses and drop cash themselves – at least not in my experience.

Needlessly to say, SuccessFactors has a way to go if they want to get their learning not only up to par with some of its competitors, but beyond par for the market in general.

If I was to rate the Large 20K+ (internal employees) on features, forward thinking angle, mobile/social strength, Learner UI including personalized components and admin capabilities, UI and so forth, I’d put the list in this manner (higher is better)

  • ExpertusOne – Tweaks needed, but hey no one is perfect
  • IMC-AG – (first ones to offer a skinned/your look (not theirs) native app) and a very strong feature set, but whose UI needs some major tweaking (they are aware of that and working on it)
  • Saba Cloud (but they do have some serious issues to resolve  – get them solved and they could move up – however their predictive analysis is sweet) – I’d put them in a tie with IMC-AG for internal employees
  • Cornerstone OnDemand (needs a universal UI enhancement, cleaner and easier to use admin side, forward thinking features, but does have some nice wins including drag and drop for admin)
  • SumTotal
  • SuccessFactors

If I was to list the systems for B2B/B2C

  •  IMC-AG
  • ExpertusOne
  • Cornerstone OnDemand
  • Saba Cloud
  • SumTotal
  • SuccessFactors

I should note that SuccessFactors told me that the majority of their customers purchase learning and performance together.  This was not surprising, since Saba told me the same thing (i.e. majority of their customers buy learning and performance too – i.e. together) Thus, if I was to include Performance which would be in the internal employee side (and just listed top three).

Expertus is in the works with Performance components, but in my opinion Expertus is first and foremost about learning thus a LMS, same with IMC-AG.

  • Saba Cloud (again, learning+Performance at the same time)
  • Cornerstone On Demand
  • SuccessFactors
 

Speaking of Saba:

Saba Cloud

Happy to report that Saba Cloud is WAY better than their Legacy platform (which if you are a Saba user, you should be on the cloud).

Their predictive analysis function which includes skills (great idea) and learner profiles (not a great idea), is quite strong.  I would like to see an admin capability for vetting with the skills angle on the learner side, because right now there isn’t one, and people usually inflate their skill level.

Saba mobile is strong, but can be improved.  Social is a mixed bag. Solid but still needs improvement to take it to the next level.  Support needs to get better.

Despite all this, Saba Cloud is in my top 50 for 2015, but I am still concerned about what Saba will do with all that money. 

Focus it inwards to their own products especially with the learning product, acquire another firm that is outside of learning – for its technology, human capital or both, or acquire another LMS – and thus learning. 

I’m leaning towards the former – i.e. technology, but its just a vibe at this point.

 Growth Engineering

My #1 LMS for 2015, continues to push the moving forward button.  Mobile is set to be released and will include a native skin/logo app with on/off synch, e-commerce is targeted for April release and a new performance center module has been launched.

But for me, Genie, their new built in authoring tool is getting me excited. 

Yeah it has the usual standard features you see with many built-in authoring tools (within LMS/learning platforms), but it also offers gamification not only as part of the courses – but here’s the kicker for the people building the courses.

That’s right, the folks who build the courses can accrue points based on certain variables (the admin decides).  Additional features include a leader board and some very unique graphical design boards. 

  I love it, because the course builders usually are forgotten in the midst of everything else and any time they can be recognized and even rewarded is a huge plus.  

I’d say the gamification angle for course builders, could be a super value add for other SaaS authoring tools in the market.   One additional note, expect Genie at some point later this year, to be available also as a standalone – thus you can have it in your system (for free) or purchase it separately as with any SaaS authoring tool.

 

 My Big Campus

Sad news to report that MBC is “transitioning” (Lightspeed System’s words) from a LMS to some type of teacher dashboard thing (they explained it to me, but for brevity, I’ll just post the link to their statement. 

Transitioning means that MBC will no longer be a LMS and therefore in many ways is closing up shop. Lightspeed told me “We are moving away from My Big Campus to re-focus on our IT solutions.”

One item I would recommend from Lightspeed is to shutter the My Big Campus web site, which is still live and shows the LMS.  There is ZERO mention that it is going the way of the dodo bird. 

The only area where the statement is listed is on the Lightspeed Systems web site, not a place most folks would immediately go to, especially since My Big Campus is listed on Google.

One last item to note, Lightspeed Systems has told me that “several organizations interested in acquiring” My Big Campus.  So who knows, but at this stage it is bye bye.

 Bottom Line

I hope you enjoy this new section as much as I enjoyed giving you the latest. 

Gaining some additional insight, posting some additional knowledge and naming names, to me is the next evolution if telling it as it is, without the fluff, the pr or marketing spin.

Sure, I could have gone the newsletter route, but for this information it needed to be told in another manner.

Another way.

Specifically, this way.

E-Learning 24/7