Top 10 NextGen LMSs for 2015-2016

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Lots to get do, so little time or space for that matter.

What I am seeing

Less statistics.  Personally I am a data freak and when I was overseeing training, I wanted to get as much statistics and data as I could out of my LMS to really gain that deep insight that only a system can provide – or IMO should provide.

But the systems that are coming into the space nowadays have ditched the robust stats for just the basic stats, which – HERE COMES THE IRONY – is how systems were appearing back in the early days – early 2000’s (as a whole).

Now it is as though we have come full circle but the exception being nicer graphics and UIs.

Some vendors will toss in the generational reasoning behind the reason for minimal stats, but then when you think about it – shorter is quicker mentality has been around a long time – a reason why USA Today dominated publications when it showed up in the 80’s. 

The difference nowadays is with all the media in our face – hundreds of ways to attain and acquire information, short and getting right to it – is way better than staring at a screen while drool drops onto the keyboard, as your course never seems to end.. zzzz, oh sorry about that. I was drooling on my keyboard.

As a Result

To the whole reduction of statistics, I had to weigh that in the grand scheme of things.

Is a vendor next gen if they offer minimal (the basics if that in some cases) statistics?  Even if it is designed in such a way to pull/extract useful information from it?  What about vendors who are “nextgen” but still a work in progress – in the sense that they need a tweak here, or a tweak there or what are they doing with that – but otherwise this is very next gen?

Then where do you place vendors who have been around but offer the capabilities including more robust statistics? Do they get penalized for being older rather than something fresh (as in the past year)?

Lastly there is the whole UI thing.  Newer systems are pushing modern UIs, but the UI is one component – big in some way, but the UX must be there.  And yes, you have to have the features – dependent on your target market(s), audiences, etc.

If you are targeting B2B/B2C then your system should have features and capabilities that reflect that.  I wouldn’t expect to see performance reviews in a system that says they are focusing only on B2B.   Just as I wouldn’t expect built-in CRM with all types of sales functionality for a system targeting internal employees.

Yet, in some systems there is a mingling of the two, which is fine if you are targeting both segments or some type of blue ocean strategy whereas it is all for one and wait – I meant it is for everyone.

How do I define NextGen?

Next Generation to me isn’t about one specific feature or capability, rather it is looking at the picture of training today (based upon target audience(s), vertical(s) and yes, that thing called global). 


  • UI/UX that hits all the cylinders – the whole two step thing – bores me to tears.  Total marketing garbage.  It’s funny or sad more so, when you have to get back to the learner home page and it takes two browser back clicks, because in the system you can’t get there with two.  Anyway, as I stated earlier, you need the modern, but you need the user experience to match it and even push forward.   One of the systems here is all about video bytes, so their UI/UX is going (and should be) different than a system who is bringing in multiple pieces such as courses, content, video files, compliance and so forth.
  • Mobile – It has to be there. Responsive is basic land.  Native apps – Yes. On/Off synch – live now or by end of the year.  Anything beyond that?  I’m ready – and so you land more NextGen points too.
  • Features – Not every system has compliance/regulatory features and that is more than fine with me and it should be that way in the market.  LMSs were not built or designed from the early days for compliance/regulatory training.  They were created for WBT and analytical information.

So, not having compliance shouldn’t be a minus for someone.  If though however, you have compliance a next gen feature then would be first digital signature. Then digital signature on a mobile device via your native on/off synch app.

Want to go one step further – NextGen – Ability to shoot short video of OJT of that person with the stated task or whatever and then afterwards, they sign off on it  – and it goes into your LMS.  Video plus signature = proof plus.

If you are involved with knowledge sharing, which today the better word would be curation which then leads to knowledge creation/sharing – that is step one.  Actually, curating the information is step one.  Then the knowledge creation of the info plus the sharing is step two.

Step three? Person who created the original content or byte of content or whatever takes that other bytes of content curated by learner X and builds upon it.  Third step?  That new combination continues to be built or tweaked or enhanced – think silly putty – goes lots of different ways to satisfy various learning styles and so forth.   Why go one way, when you can go six or 12 ways?   Thus, each new capability adds to the nextgen experience.

Social as we know it – okay as most vendors see it with Twitter, FB, YouTube, Linkedin and the same ol same of discussion groups, chat isn’t next gen to me.  Open ID? That is one step. Bringing in communities – nope not next gen.

Enabling communities to be built via those folks using mobile smartphones for example for projects and talking within your native self/contained app, with maybe a little video byte is a different story.

 You have up/down like/disklike? Not nextgen.  But, you have the ability for folks to leave audio or video comments (small bytes) on pieces of content or courses – NextGen.

Lastly, let’s not forget the whole thing called courses. There are systems today whereas the courses have become secondary to content – as in content that is in no way near anything like a asynchronous based course, and no just because you can go “self-paced” that does not make it an asynchronous based course (it has a few other items too).

Courses I believe are still extremely relevant.

Content is too – if it is the right content – which only the client (buyer) would know based upon their learners. 

Whenever I see a vendor who thinks they know more on the courses vs content thing, I cringe.  The same applies to the new algorithms that I see popping up, whereas the vendor has created this algorithm based on this and that (variables and such and I won’t bore you and yes I am making it simplified) and as a result it computes and outputs a score/data point on learning or multiple pieces of learning.

Is that next gen?  Not to me.  It’s different and for some folks it will be a “yippee” and “yowsa-yowsa”, and hey congrats on that.

But machine learning aka predicative analysis which is an early stage of AI is NextGen – and as noted before it is not Amazon Search Recommendation engine.  If it is, then your system must be recommending hibachi grills along with a course on performance reviews.

The Top 10

Each of these systems slide under my Top 10.  They may or may not be the system you are seeking – so please, always do due diligence.  If I think the system needs some major tweaks, fixes and a little touch here and there, I will state that.

If you are wondering does this mean, each of these systems are in my top 50 for 2016 report – the answer is “no comment”, because the rankings are still being put together along with all those lovely bits of data tied to multiple set of criteria.  So, it is “no comment”.

#10 Schoox –  I love how they say “corporate” then mention “restaurants” and “retail”, but anyway that’s just me.  This is a self-service system, you buy and go live type of thing – and it is pretty simple to setup, but that is not why they are listed here.   I love the bookmarklet you can add to your browser so you can curate stuff on the fly, they have the mobile, skill management and some reports that appear in an infographic look – which I like.

While there are multiple areas to view in terms of reports, the information you can see from it isn’t that ooh and ahh, but if you can live with the basics and in some areas maybe a little less – like total number of hours, avg completion rate and such – then the analytics will work for you.

The system has the whole content stream look that I have been seeing recently – okay – over the past year – that can work in some cases and in others not so much.  Here is Schoox it does work.  API key is here and yes they take APIs too.  If you are fine with minimal data points (stats) and are looking for something that is quick and go with a nextgen feel – then check em out. Or not – after all, we have nine to go.

#9 Frog  –  K-12 platform, but for me I still think K-6 is their sweet spot.  This was in my Top 10 for 2014 for NextGen and in my Top 50 for 2015 rankings and it is still a slick LMS that screams err ribbetts nextgen. Apps? Check.  Playing games with assessments? Check.  Playing learning games? Check.

Skill gap? Not sure I need it for a 4th grader, but yeah its there.  Super cool feature – students can upload images and videos right from their mobile device into the LMS.  Oh and integration with Office 365 a nice one too.   Analytics from the K-12 standpoint is solid.  I have been a big fan of Frog for the past few years and nothing in my mind changes that.

#8 Spoke –  Another Top 50 from 2015 system and nextgen in 2014 to boot.  This is a social learning platform, where the social plays into that wall of content stream I mentioned earlier (as a fast and growing trend).  This product is not for everyone – and I want to repeat that – not for everyone. 

But it does offer a lot of next gen features and a lot of hope – no pressure, here no pressure.  Seriously though, it is a fun system – and learning should be what? Anyone? Anyone? Fun!  Communities that add that knowledge share experience exists, gamification is here with all the trimmings (okay, they are missing a couple of the latest gamification features, but heck only one system in the entire market has it – and u will see them on this list too).

Getting back to Spoke, another buy and go live today system although they will help you if you ask, the analytics are the simplified version but again its on a trend cycle (industry wise) and they accept APIs. Oh, SCORM and xAPI too.  I’d love to see more social power come out of here – so Spoke – are you listening or just talking? har har, oh I’m on fire today.

#7 learndot –  When I saw this product a few months back, I admit I gave them an earful. It wasn’t that I found the system poor, rather I found it lacking in a few areas and which I saw enornmous potential and possibilities.  I’m like that. When I see possible and the vendor is not seeing it – well, you get the picture.  Anyway, being that as it may, this is a system for B2B/B2C and sans the areas I found missing, it does a lot on the nextgen scheme of things as it relates to B2B.

One of the areas some B2B folks like is the appearance of their system as an actual web page or maybe a portal (tunnel) if you will.  Learndot delivers. The UI/UX from a B2B/B2C approach can be quite slick and by no way looks like an LMS (well at least not the main POW – which is the POW you need).

SEO (optimized) and HTML5 design.  The challenge with SEO is how to verify that and I know of other vendors who pitch it too, but hey SEO is not universal it should be universal for any system whose customer base is going B2B/B2C, but that is for another discussion.   E-commerce is good, analytics for all that e-commerce deliciousness is there.

One of my big gripes with learndot – wasn’t their ability to add apps – that was nice; rather it was this separate analytical statistical engine for sales training (Gooddata – it is a BI tool, but for learndot it is used for sales training data, etc.) that can go into the system.  It looks awesome – but you have to pay a separate license for it – which was the bothersome part.  Include it – I say!

#6 Docebo –  Another Top 50 LMS from 2015 and equally NextGen top tier system from 2014.  They still have the one-click courses, buy and click and whalla in the LMS and they offer apps (although I wish they offered more), with the one click and done thing.

The minuses right now is the mobile – which is going thru a overhaul, but the system itself is all about nextgen capabilities.  Video HD converter on the back end is quite nice and one of the big reasons Docebo appears in this year’s rankings is something they have in the works.  I  can’t tell you what that is – but it has a lot of potential – and if it hits on all cylinders and Docebo takes it to the next couple of levels…

The Top Five – The Top Five

#5 eLogic Learning –  Top 50 LMS in 2015, new appearance in the NextGen rankings.   One of knocks has been their UI (okay my knock on them) – glad to report is about to launch and it looks RAD.  But the reason they are here is the system – the inner workings of said forth system and the talent there have combined to push the system into overdrive of NextGen capabilities.

Items include

  • Ability to convert video into SCORM 1.2 video – yep, your video is finally a video course with all the tracking and trimmings – who wants Cranberries?
  • Learner-Centric model –  At ATD I talked about this feature as a future feature and eLogic launches it soon after.  Basically it enables each learner to have a fully customized experience – taking personalization about five steps ahead with another nine flights up –  in the LMS.  To me, learner-centric is the next evolution and key future feature for any LMS. I could spend a chunk of writing explaining the whole thing, but they have it, it rocks – time to move on.
  • APIs
  • Gamification, leaderboard, badges and badge library, mobile with on/off synch is about to go live (in final testing) – and yes it has the typical mobile responsive
  • Total new UX – part of that whole UI thing, and it just screams nextgen

Finally, they are constantly moving forward.  And moving forward plays a big role in my book.  Analytic fans should be happy and they do have solid compliance and regulatory too.

#4 edsby –  Great Gatsby!  Actually it doesn’t rhyme, but it sounded like it did when I thought of it.  

What does another K-12 platform have in common with their competitors? Well, it is K-12 and it is an LMS, so there are two items.  After that, it is a whole new ball of wax or thread, let’s go thread.  I like the ability for students to be able to upload their own content (I know it seems like this would be universal – just as you think it would be on the corporate side – but in neither case it is!) and manage it. 

Mobile is here along with the general wall – a time to smash it down, and bring up either a wall of content streaming.  Big pluses for me on the NextGen side include ability to send approvals like field trip, etc. electronically including signatures.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid losing approval slips were a common event and oh those report cards that the parent had to sign after seeing it – hello, tossing into a bush and claiming it was stolen!  With edsby – that famous trick won’t work anymore.  Auto-synch with SIS, SSO with Office 365, APIs, LTI and xAPI too.   

#3 Fuse Universal –  Speechless. Okay, not really, but this is a hot rod of a nextgen platform if ever I have seen one.  It is all about video – as in video bytes, but you can upload other bits of content – documents, files, etc., and yes it has assessment capability and SCORM so courses are doable, but this is more about video. 

If I wanted to have a system to use my 3rd party authoring tool SCORM course, I might want to go elsewhere – because its look and design and approach is not going to be appealing to everyone.  Even a bleeding edge guy like me, I’m not sure I would go with them if I had asynchronous based courses in whatever course standard, UNLESS that course was built 100% in video.

And was no more than five minutes in length.   Take one part VLP – video learning platform, and two parts Shake and Shake and here you go – Fuse.  Social is there with their communities and here is just a bit of what is possible and please note – I’m just skimming the surface

  • Mobile exists – on/off synch with lots of capabilities within it – including ability to record whatever and upload it into the LMS – so even if it is offline, and you capture whatever, when you are online, synch city!
  • The mobile app also has lots of capabilities within it
  • For video in the system, there is search with metadata, whereas you will see next to the video some text for example on what is being covered and discussed and then click on the text area and bammo- it goes right to where the person is saying that same stuff
  • You can have public or private communities –  Public might be good if you wanted a wide open for all to enjoy – or if you were B2B/B2C trying to sell courses, video courses, content, etc. , the private though is a better route in my book and most of their clients go private
  • Open ID is in the product – I love that!
  • Communities are not just the ones you belong to, but there are recommended communities too;  oh and yes gamification with a leaderboard is here;  ability to record screencasts from within the LMS is available – so you can use it to screen record whatever on your desktop, browser, etc.;  Each topic or piece of content or discussion includes analytics such as how many times it was viewed, how many times it was shared, and so forth (visible on the front end), the system has widgets – which the admin can turn on or off, and is in the works of a new video feature which will allow for auto transcripts among other things

The analytics are not robust by any stretch – more basic but I think they are on the right path, give me lots of video stats as someone with bookmarking/chapters video courses with TOC could and would want, and I’m so there. 

#2 Growth Engineering –  #1 Top 50 LMS for 2015, Top Tier NextGen LMS 2014 and 2015.  As noted this is more than just an gamification based LMS, it is a full blown system with compliance and regulatory, and performance management feature sets to boot.  NextGen wise, it is another hot rod racing down the street.  Why?  How about

  • Forward thinking  – in the works for a new admin side UI
  • Genie – pure gamification authoring tool – gamification capabilities for the people building the courses – a novel idea! Seriously, it is very slick to build courses within the offering and you can also build game based courses – from my understanding you will have eight by the year end – as in eight game based courses that can be built from the product – with the product; you can obviously build your own game courses, but it comes with eight
  • Mobile apps, on/off synch, responsive – and for those folks who say “it takes so long” when you ask for why they do not have it, Growth had it built, tested and launched in under five months – and without any misscues.  You also can do quite a bit within the mobile, beyond just taking courses.
  • UI/UX  is fun for learners
  • Gamification – has it all, plus the two next gen features I see for gamification – (built in badge library with over 100 badges, ability to build your own badges (in the works) and a gamification authoring tool – ability to build games (exists)
  • Has app store in the works (yeah, yeah) Nando’s for everyone! (Nando’s is a popular chicken restaurant in England)
  • APIs

What I see missing in the offering is well, some more forward thinking capabilities.  As you know, once you are in the “nextgen” – you have to stay there – and that means pushing the learning envelope.  The games thing is totally cool, but for example on something that could be done: a unique twist on the usual Social Q/A (actually Social Q/A is not even universal in our space) would make sense here; emojis would also be a unique experience as well.

#1  ExpertusOne   – Just when I think, oh they have dropped it or what are they doing – it must be the end of nextgen for them, ZING, SMASH, YOWSA – here they come out of the gate without some really NextGen feature sets.  First off, this is a top tier system. 2013, 2014 #1 LMS, 2015 #2 in Top 50 rankings; secondly top tier rated nextgen for 2014 and 2015; but for 2015’s report, they dropped to #2 for a couple of reasons one of which was that they didn’t seem to be pushing the forward thinking button as they had in the past.

Well, they not only pushed it – they crushed it. 

NextGen wins include

  • Voice capability within their mobile native app. No longer stuck with using your hands and fingers actually to click and take a course or an assessment or do some other things within the app, the voice capability will do some of those things – not everything mind you
  • Extensive feature capabilities within the mobile app – again,not just courses and assessments
  • On/Off synch and responsive already in play (BTW, the number of on/off synch native apps with LMS vendors as a whole is still weak)
  • Gamification with leaderboard, badges, etc. totally there
  • Machine learning aka Predictive learning exists and looks sharp
  • Can shoot video, capture images and upload directly into the LMS
  • Has a few other items in the works (sorry, can’t disclose), but clearly shows that they are not just thinking now but already down the road – in multiple ways

Bottom Line

That is the top 10 NextGen systems for 2015-16.

Congrats to everyone.

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