ATD2015 Conference Post – Review

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Well hello there!  Back after a few grueling weeks first in Australia then in Orlando, speaking at ATD.  Before diving into the conference itself, for those who are unaware, I have signed a book deal with ATD Publishing. 

The book will cover everything you need to know for LMSs including administration, pre/post implementation, committees and much more.  It will have checklists and templates too. The book will be published in 2016.

I mention this up front, because some of you fine folks might think this will make me go lite on ATD.  But trust me when I tell you this, that it has no bearing on my thoughts of this year’s conference, because overall it was the best one ATD wise that is, I have ever been to.

That said, there were some hiccups and from an entire vendor wise (expo here) angle, some unique and some, uh. – what are you thinking – stuff.

Let’s jump right in.

Okay, before jumping in, I want to thank all those who attended my session, E-Learning 2020. 

I have attached the Wherewillelearningbein2020 presentation, for those who were unable to attend.  Secondly, I am humbled by the wonderful comments at ATD and from those who attended my Keynote_AITD_CW_Presentation at AITD in Australia.  Thank you, thank you.

On with the show (no pun intended)


I can honestly say, the ATD show is changing from ILT driven (it has always been that way) to e-learning improvement.  This year, I estimated a 55/60% e-learning, including some ILT vendors offering some type of e-learning component. 

In all the years I have attended and have known about ATD (formally ASTD), this year is by far the most in terms of e-learning vendors, especially those in the LMS space.


  • More e-learning vendors than in the past, including plenty of newbies – not so much “new” per se, rather new in terms of attendance, but yeah some “new”
  • Adobe Captivate Prime – Adobe’s LMS, to launch in August (more on that in a sec.)
  • Growth Engineering LMS – #1 in my Top 50 and their launch of Genie, their authoring tool which comes with the system, but can also be a stand alone.
  • A few of the Top 50 LMS vendors in attendance:  Growth Engineering, ExpertusOne, eLogic Learning, Docebo, Administrate, SumTotal, NetDimensions, Litmos, LearnUpon, iSpring Online, Totara, Shift IQ, IMC-AG, Blackboard, D2L, Biz Library
  • Better organization of the conference – the Universal Studio thing was very cool – Big Win!
  • Recycle bins – hey, with all that paper they give you, it has to go somewhere, and recycle is where it is at!


  • The usual authoring tool players – over 120 in the space, why am I seeing the usual folks in attendance – I mean good for them, but it reinforces the gap that I see happening in the sector;
  • LMS vendors – Hello – is anyone there?  Should have been even more than were there – I always find it ironic that vendors who do not attend any shows, will use excuses such as – “can’t afford it”,  “marketing limitations”, “not our target market – i.e. U.S.”, “limited value”

Let’s quash these quickly

  • If your LMS is in the cloud (SaaS), you have a web site, what stops someone from checking out your product and buying it – regardless of where they are in the world? Nothing.  And here’s the thing – I lot of folks are picking systems outside of their native country.  I just can’t understand the “bricks and mortar” approach so many e-learning vendors use, unreal.
  • The general rule of marketing, you have to spend, to generate –  if I do not know you exist, how do I know you exist?  I see way too many vendors think a web site is all they need and people will find them.  Here’s a hint – they won’t.  The goal of any trade show is to be seen – if you generate legitimate business and deals forthwith – great, but the usual close time is 9 months, and it is very common to have ZERO deals come out of it; but again – I need to know who you are..
  • Can’t afford it – again, you have to spend, to make it.  I often hear vendors say “we focus first on the product, then will market it” – here is an idea – do both at the same time – Yowsa, what a concept!  Anyway, the “can’t afford it” – if you are a start-up I get it, if you have clients – and more than 30 – I don’t, especially when you charge over 50K per client. 

Back to Average

  • The food. I know, I know I always bring this up, but nowadays a lot of folks have allergies to gluten along with folks who cannot have dairy and yet, the food does not specify key ingredients. 

I was at a event recently and what they did was for each item, there was a small placard with a code- D, G, P and so forth.  At the entry point it identified what each letter stood for, thus if you saw – D it meant there was Dairy in the product. 

This works so much better than having to try to hunt down someone who may or may not know.

On the last day at the conference, they served pizza with cheese.  Thus us lactose folks, couldn’t eat it – but hey, there is salad.  Seriously?

And what’s with the water only angle? How about some soda or ice tea or something besides WATER!

  • The mobile app. Still no geolocation.  I talked to a vendor recently about geolocation and how long it would take or cost to add to a mobile app. He told it me it is easy to do and would take little time, especially if the mobile app, existed already..


  • Exhibitor Confusion of Catalog –  Under “Metrics” in the catalog was CVENT, Softbox, Watershed LRS and an actual metrics vendor.  CVENT is an event management system (not metrics), Saltbox and Watershed are Learning Record Stores, uh not really metrics – I mean they have them, but heck in that case shove every LMS under that as well.  I saw the same with some of m-learning items too – Bridge? dominKnow?  Citrix?  Again, many vendors have mobile learning, so I’d only put vendors whose main focus is m-learning, not a component of it.

Vendor Time – Vendor Time

Surprises (good and/or bad)

  • No Cornerstone OnDemand at the show – that was really surprising, especially since they push Learning Cloud;
  • No Saba, again they are really pushing folks to Saba Cloud, and have stated their commitment to Learning
  • Skillsoft and the wording of SumTotal right next to it, I wonder when it will be formally known as Skillsoft SumTotal or SumTotal by Skillsoft , rather than Skillsoft and SumTotal Systems, a Skillsoft company – whew, I’m out of breath just saying it

Good Surprises

  • Adobe Captivate Prime – demo and introduction, let’s roll the tape!

Adobe Captivate Prime

I saw a more detailed demo the other day (away from the show).  I should note I will see even a more extensive part, learner and admin, as Adobe will be giving me full access to play around in the system.  Anyway, some initial thoughts I what I was able to see

  • Very easy UI – that was quite clear to me
  • I want to hold off on the Admin side, because I saw some stuff, but until I can really push it during total access time, doesn’t make sense to discuss, that said you can create learning paths, catalog and have those block teasers (i.e. show a screen or have an image or whatever) rather than just text links to see some course info or launch the course
  • Universal Player – I found this part quite interesting.  Basically, you can add your PPT, MP4, assessment, word docs, etc. along with the course you have uploaded into one nice package and view it within that player; or just have the course you uploaded – SCORM/AICC and xAPI, HTML5

The platform will accept any 3rd party authoring tools; it does NOT come with captivate for those wondering. 

Oh and you can take notes anywhere within the player and in each little section – bookmarking too, and oh, TOC, table of contents for jumping around.  But you can do lockdowns if you want, for that linear angle as well.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  Has real potential.

  • Gamification plays a nice role within the solution; besides a leader board and badges, you can also see where you rank, even if you are not in the top 10 or 20, and you can also see where you rank compared to someone else.  As well as compete against someone else.  Just as with many other systems – you can assign the points you want for each course, piece of content, etc. 

There is much more, but that just gives a slight taste to it.  Oh, you can also have gamification tied to competencies, activities and tasks (if you want).   As the administrator you can turn on “gamification”, “turn it off” or “configure”.  

As for mobile, it is mobile responsive, on the other items – still waiting news on that – but it will be included in a future update.  You can skin the system itself, and it offers SSO.  The system can either be self-service (which means you buy today, you can go live today – technically speaking) or more premium if you will, enterprise angle (for me, I want that hand holding – rather than self-service).

Anyway, for my initial peak it was enough to really intrigue me and I already saw areas of improvement, features I would add (that are not there) and so forth – so IMO, it has a way to go – but it is intriguing enough to be a very nice and pleasant surprise – but I need more innovation (they know that – I told them 🙂  ). 

 Again, I will see much more and really test it out in the coming weeks, which then will lead to my final verdict for this first version of Adobe Captivate Prime.  Personally, I’d just go Adobe Prime – so much easier to say and remember, but that’s just me.  Oh, it is a SaaS only system, hosted on Amazon servers. 

Growth Engineering Genie

This is their authoring tool.  As mentioned earlier, it comes with their LMS, but will be available as a standalone – so you can use it with your LMS via API I assume or just standalone and use it however you see fit.  It is SaaS based.

Items I liked

  • Gamification driven – your instructional designers can be awarded points for creating courses – finally some real recognition!
  • Can create games – you heard me right, GAMES.  Alright a couple are not really awesome, but the other couple are – and they are continuing to add more.  I like the learning journey sort of one.  
  • SCORM support – mmmm.. SCORM..
  • Can assign gamification points to it for your learners
  • Easy and fun to use, perfect for novices and newbies, and eventually will have enough for IDs, but for right now – this is better suited for initial entry crowd – that said, it is FUN – again, what a concept!
  • Can take notes – ability for peer review (unlimited on that)

eLogic Learning

  • They continue to update their UI will final touches scheduled for completion by July
  • I love the “learner centric” feature, which for those who attended by E-Learning 2020 session is something I saw by 2020, and whalla, here is the first vendor who offers it. 

In basic sense, each learner can have their own look/feel by theme, blocks/widgets, language and so forth – it takes personalization one step beyond.  I mean if I want green/red and the system in general is blue; I as the learner can have green/red theme. 

For my true “learner centric” it is not there yet – partially due to technology advancements for everyone needed;  but it does offer “learner centric” in its most important form – and that is wonderful..

Vendors of Intrigue

I will be taking deeper dives on a few vendors, they are

  • Degreed
  • Docebo is coming out with a new version, so will be seeing that in the next week. 
  • BizLibrary has some new things as well  – seeing that next week too. 

All the other vendors from LMS standpoint -I have seen recently and saw at the show – generally speaking – nothing super exciting to report; although there were a couple I am watching (as I have been for a while).  Some with authoring tool vendors and specific m-learning vendors.

Thus, in the grand scheme of things, there wasn’t one “ding, ding, ding.. best product at the show”, rather those “Good Surprises” listed above hit home for me.

What were they thinking?


I have to wonder what are they thinking – actually I am pretty sure I know – but that is neither here or there.  Why are they my “What are they thinking” vendor?

  • They create cool looking games – ones you would want to play BUT
  • They haven’t come out with a new one in two years
  • Rather than focus on that, they decided to add analytics and a calendar to schedule stuff and some performance metrics (the analytics) and some other items to make their solution more like a quasi learning platform; I saw quasi because it is not a full blown learning platform since
  • NO SCORM or any course standard
  • Works only in Flash at the moment, so forget about seeing those courses on any iOS device

But they are going to launch their newest game course this summer and it will be HTML5, then at some point they will go back and change the Flash courses to HTML5 courses.

My big issue with them is something I see with other vendors who make a certain type of product and rather than focus on making that product even better they go off into something else – learning platform components/learning platform/quasi learning metrics, including assigning learners thing and maybe some gamification pieces – then are now behind what was their initial focus.

I mean if I make widgets, wouldn’t my goal be to continue to make my widget better, with capabilities geared specifically to that widget? 

Rather than spend the time with the metrics and the calendar thing for scheduling stuff including meetings, how about focusing first on new games or revamping your initial ones to HTML5 and work on a new game.

Bottom Line

Some very pleasant surprises were there for all to see.  And yeah, some vendors who you would expect to see, were not. 

The sessions, the ones I attended were good and the organization for the show outstanding.  Make a few tweaks, add some more e-learning vendors and then watch out…

Because the attendees are seeking it. Wanting it..

E-Learning that is..

in the form of information, insight and yeah, products.

E-Learning 24/7

One comment

  1. Hi Craig,
    Very interesting session on ATD, much appreciated! After your lecture we briefly met. You told me you would put an adapted and extended version of your presentation on line. Are you still planning to do this?
    Thanks for your reply.

    Philippe Lorrez

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