Welcome wherever you are!  Well, back from OEB15, which stands for Online Educa Berlin.  And as you can probably guess, it was in Berlin, Germany.

Where to start?  How about right at the beginning with my Good, Average and Poor.

Good

  • OEB stopped the smoking area near the booths.  Let me tell you that was a big difference.  Last year, you couldn’t walk down that aisle to check out those vendors due to the smoke.
  • The show is well organized, although the layout could be better.  OEB always is organized, and it isn’t their fault of the layout, since it is at a super hotel in Berlin.   This year, the show was in my opinion, way better than last year.  A highlight was this winter festival they had, albeit, I’m not a fan of goose.
  • A higher education must show. If you are a vendor in HE, you should be at this show.  I was told that people from 90 countries attended the show, and it was packed with humans.  Getting back to the vendor side though, I saw just a few LMS vendors, some gamification folks, including game based learning, plagiarism vendors – with the same booths as last year (sheesh) and other products in the HE space.
  • Some superstar vendors that stood out in this year’s show, and yes, they ended up in my hot picks.
  • For my foodie folks, food was solid, although I admit I mainly ate in the bar food area – I’ll explain why in the Poor section.  The winter fest thing had a nice selection of food. And their breaks are organized and good.
  • Tote bag rather than the briefcase thing you usually get at shows, loaded with ads and stuff.  I loved the tote bag. More totes for everyone.

Average

  • Garbage in their tote bag.  I want to know who reads all that stuff and better yet, who keeps it for future reading?  I always pull it out and toss it, but keep any swag that is in it (a rarity these days).
  • No recycle bin to throw that garbage into.  You want to save the planet? Then get a recycle bin for those ads stuff.  I left mine in my room trash can.  I suspect others did as well (uh, not in my room though).
  • Mobile app.  As usual no geolocation.  But that is common in every show.  When will someone add it?  Geolocation is everywhere these days, but at trade shows.   The app though had a lot of solid stuff in it.
  • Sessions.  I went to a couple, just to see, but honestly was too busy to attend everything.  They had a lot of sessions.  Feedback from attendees was mixed, which doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve yet to attend a show, where everyone is raving about how all the seminars are awesome.   If you can take something back with you – at least one item to use and try, then it is worthwhile.

Poor

  • No listing for those of us who cannot have Gluten, Dairy and so forth.  I’m in the dairy category and I ran into several others as well. It isn’t that hard to have a small placard or something next to each food item stating whether it is GF (Gluten Fee), has dairy, shellfish and so forth.  I see it all the time in biz plane lounges – i.e. the placards, but never at any trade shows.  This was the main reason, that I ate elsewhere, because I could find out the dairy angle, before ordering.  Winter fest was all about cream and cheese.   Anyway, as anyone knows me, the lack of mentioning certain allergies or intolerance with the food, is a peeve of mine.
  • Heat.  Many speaker rooms were a tad toasty.  You either had to keep the door open and hear outside noise or keep it closed.  I did the latter, and it was not a comfortable setting.

The Show – EXPO

As noted earlier, OEB15 hit another home run overall with the show. 

That said, I was surprised how many vendors who are HE oriented were not at the show.  Not sure, if OEB has a limit of number of vendors – I sense that is the case – or not everyone sees the value in it.

Regardless of what country you are targeting, if you are HE, you should be at the event.

For corporate focused vendors – pass.   Yes, there are corporate folks there, but the numbers and segment is more towards higher education.

I wish there were more LMS vendors at the show, especially since there are quite a few that target higher education. 

Instructure and D2L were there, but no Blackboard.

Thinking Cap was in attendance.  They told me last year or the previous year, can’t recall, that they do well at the show.

Interesting, because the system to me, doesn’t scream HE, due to some feature sets.

The fact they land customers at the show, tells me, that there is a demand for other systems, however if you do not show, then people do not know.

Authoring tool vendors were no-shows as well. 

For the last two years, I ask my audience (I present at OEB), if they use 3rd party authoring tools.  Overwhemingly, they say yes.  Which really is interesting since the majority of HE LMSs push synchronous based courses.

I should add that folks who use built-in authoring tools in the HE systems, find them to be horrible and not user friendly.

Anyway, regarding the 3rd party authoring tools, I went around my room and asked each attendee what authoring tool they were using (those who used 3rd party).

The winner?  Articulate.  But the stunner?  Articulate Storyline 2

Only one person used Captivate and one used Studio.  No one used Claro, nor Lectora.

That said, I did find that people who were building the courses, as a whole, were not utilizing or harnessing the power of Storyline 2.

Overall, it was static content – which as noted in a previous post, is a key reason, students hate online learning.

It is still course driven – you create crummy courses, you get crummy responses on online learning.

LMS Side

Again, this was just in my session, but I did ask folks what LMS they were using (if they were using one at all – there were people who did not have a system yet).

The winner?  Blackboard.  Number two was Instructure Canvas. Number three were open source systems with Moodle leading the way.

D2L – ZERO.

I asked each attendee to write down one thing they did not like about their LMS.  Here are a few of the responses:

  • Poor user interface, students can’t figure out how to use it, administrators have difficulty (heard the usability issue quite a bit with Blackboard – although one attendee said he liked their mobile app)
  • Authoring tool is horrible (BB and Canvas were listed)
  • Difficult to use, does not live up to expectations (BB and Canvas)
  • User issues, difficulty for instructors (Moodle)

I think you can see a trend here and it screams usability.

If the learners can’t get to the courses, the instructors/teachers/professors can’t understand or figure out how to add courses, check assignments, etc. – then you have a big problem.

In my Top 50 for 2016 systems, Instructure Canvas, Blackboard and Moodle (#50) are in it.

D2L is not.   At this point, I can not recommend them as an LMS to use in higher education or Enterprise.

Expo Winners and Losers

There were just two products that really stood out to me.

Presentations 2Go

It is a video driven product, whereas as you record, it shows you a 360 perspective.

You can do a lot with the video and best of all, it doesn’t require you to buy a lot of stuff to pull it off.  I always hate systems that look awesome, but you have to buy a big X thing and heavy Y stuff and expect to walk around and use it.

With Presentations 2Go you didn’t.  Other bonuses – the use of metadata, live streaming of lectures, seminars, etc., recording,  ability to live stream to mobile app, user friendly and fun.

Best of all, inexpensive to buy.  I was stunned at what they charged – and stunned in a good way.

Oh, you could definitely use this product for corporate training.  Easily!

Velawoods English

First off this is a really cool product.  It uses various characters to tech you a language, with games and so forth.  The system is in collaboration with Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

So if that makes you want to buy it more – then go for it.  For me, couldn’t care less, because that means nothing to me – rather, how it works, how it plays out, is the key.

Features include

  • Truly self-paced learning (YEAH)
  • Feedback reports
  • Gamification
  • Certificates of Completion
  • Level placement test (free btw, but only relevant to folks in the UK)
  • Mobile includes on/off synch
  • Scenario based learning
  • Notebook, Scrapbook, Dictionary – I admit not sure a HE student, let alone an adult would want to use “Scrapbook”.  The notebook shows each mission (think learning path), among other items.
  • Collaborate with other players who are online and at the same level of the language.  Thus, if you are level four, the other folks are level four too.

The big bummer is right now, only English is available – as in learning English.

I would buy it if it had Latin American Spanish (hint, hint).

You can have a “sponsor” in your own language (or some languages), but that is only to help you with learning English.

They do not have a timetable of when other languages would be available.

I loved it because it used almost a game environment to learn a language.  Too many of the language products are dull and yes “adult” oriented, but still a drag.

This product isn’t.

And guess what?

It is my OEB15 BEST Product!  Congrats.

Disappointed

As with any show there are vendors who I think just phone it in, ignoring demo video viewing or live “play around” and let me see how this works (which would make sense, since the folks are HE, and as with anyone in our teacher, training, L&D industry – we like to try out things).

Who phoned it in?

I place the top two plagiarism vendors in this boat. Each one had the same booth as last year and one of them had the same item – coffee espressos – for you to drink.

I mean they could have had just a booth with robots or a video of them there, rather than actual humans.

Neither showed in real time how the product worked, at least when I was walking around.   I mean where was the demo screen?  Where was the place I could test and try?

Questionmark

I started my conversation at the booth on whether they were riding a dinosaur product that would dissipate by 2025 as LMSs and others are making their assessment tools more robust.

The conversation was robust with different points of view – I respect that.

I still think though that assessment tools like Questionmark may not be as useful in say 10 years.

One of the folks at the booth mentioned something the product has that no one else has in their product.

I can’t recall what it was, but she made it clear in a polite manner that this was very unique and one of the reasons why this isn’t a dinosaur product.

As I walked away, I was with a client of mine, who told me that his LMS had that feature too in their assessment solution.

Guess, it isn’t that unique.

Bottom Line

I like OEB.  It has something for everyone who is in the HE space.  Yes, some sessions didn’t hit the ball out of the park, it happens.

Yes, it sometimes was crammed due to the layout, but from a vendor perspective being crammed with attendees walking around checking out booths is a good thing.

OEB for folks who are not aware, is the biggest and most important show in Europe for higher education.

If you were someone who wanted a global perspective of online learning, it is the show to attend.

If you are a vendor interested in expanding their higher education market, it is a show you equally attend.

And if you are an authoring tool vendor, who wants customers regardless of industry, you should attend.

After all, what is better?

Attending or not attending?

For OEB, it is attending.

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