Five LMS Sins

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I’m not going to stand up on my crate today and rant and rave about the travesties that are happening on a daily, heck monthly basis. 

Nope, not going to do it.  Rather, I’m going to write it, right here, right now and let each of you know, actually be aware of the sins of the LMS industry.

Sure there will be those who firmly disagree – call it a competition drive – and that is fine, but when each of us, every last one of us, is being placed into the middle of the “competitive” angle, then someone, something must be done.

Sin #1 Pricing

19287364_sThe Pricing Sin is happening in the world right now. 

I’m not talking about the seat costs (random numbers BTW), nor the salesperson discretion pricing/commission angle (common in any industry), no, I’m referring to a couple of zingers. 

  • Undercutting of pricing in the United States

As a consumer this is a win for you.  As a vendor though, whether you are based in the states or going into the states (from another country), the price wars await you.

This is especially being seen in the SMB markets, more so than in Enterprise, although it is there too, just not as bad.

You won’t see the price battle at low user counts, rather once you fly into the 1,000-5,000 and then mid-size market of 5,001-9,999 (starts at 1,000 to 9,999, but as an analyst, my  breakdown for mid market with SMB (starts at 501 to 5,000).

When you go into this battle it is easy to say, “I can beat that,” and then you do.  Next thing you know, the other vendor retorts, “I can beat that” and just like that, as a vendor you are in a war. 

The war can end quickly or not, depending on how low you are willing to cut to land the customer.  For me it is simple – look at your bottom line. 

What is your profit margin? 

Can you do this for any customer or is this more about a specific customer?  If you are going Blue Ocean strategy here, then undercutting is a way of penetrating the market.

At some point though, you have to stop and start pushing towards profitability. 

  • Europe or as I call it, the LMS Money Pit

First off not every LMS vendor does what I’m about to tell you, but oh boy, plenty do – and it is not just the big players, it could be mid-size, heck even small size vendors. 

I’ve reported in the past the “discretionary” pricing of salespeople in certain countries in Europe, whereas the following happens (and has had happened for a few years)

  • Setup fees are higher in Europe than the U.S.  (I’ve seen some major price gouging here, especially in Western Europe, by a few vendors)
  • User seats are higher than U.S. as a whole (Not universal mind you, so don’t go running or scrambling to find your contract, but again, more than a few, go for it. I should note that there are plenty in the U.S. that charge high, but we are talking as an average between the two continents, okay, Western Europe vs. US)
  • You pay more across the board – congrats!

If you are shocked at this, get ready for the blaster shocker of them all – the Money Pit slams into the UK, and yeah a bit into Western Europe and Scandinavian region

You pay for bits and pieces that in the U.S. you couldn’t get away with (although, surprise, surprise, there are UK vendors trying to pull it off – and surprise, surprise getting away with it)

There are LMS vendors charging extra for

  • Mobile app – You want to use our mobile app, we charge for it – one-time fee or yearly fee
  • Multi-Tenant – Each child or a few children are fee based – (I know of one UK vendor pulling this neat trick in the United States, just a side note here).  Might be one-time or a yearly fee.  Multi-tenant children should always be free.  This is also known as Extended Enterprise (i.e. multi-tenant)
  • White label – What? You don’t want our wonderful name on this? (This is also seen with many US vendors in the US too, but for whatever reason, seems more popular in the UK)
  • Extras – Whatever it might be, if a vendor can pull it off, it seems they are doing it more so in the UK, followed by Western Europe.
  • Setup – Tends to be higher versus the same seat numbers by the same vendor in the U.S.

You could argue that all of this is the salesperson discretion in combination with the LMS vendor allowing it, and you would be absolutely correct.  Nevertheless, it still stinks, unless you enjoy living on an LMS landfill.

Should note that the price gouge in happening in all parts of the world. But in APAC at this time, I’m not seeing the zingers of above.  Good news there, but seat pricing is still in the “if we can do it” phase, which is part of the LMS landscape for over 16 years.

Sin #2 Mobile Misleads

20240844_sM-learning as mentioned in earlier posts doesn’t necessarily mean what the consumer might think it means, especially when the vendor says native app OR the now frequently used term of “access all the time via the internet”, so you can access without an “app”.

Wow, revolutionary.  I can access your system, take courses, assessments, view the learner dashboard and do it all; and as an admin, whoa, whoa – do all my admin things? Without using an app? Better yet, without needing on/off synch?

Say it ain’t so.  Okay, it’s not so, because the fine print which you never see – because it is not listed –  is you need to be connected to the internet to pull all of this stuff off.

You lose your net connection, nope all that amazing access isn’t there. 

And if you are taking a course offline, there is no push back online with that data, because they (the vendor) who uses the aforementioned angle, doesn’t have on/off synch (which enables that).

Even uglier, if that is even feasible, is that the app they are pitching, the “native app”, that allows you that access, follows the same spin – unless you are not connected to the internet.  Then the magic disappears.

This is why it is so important, so essential that the vendor offers on/off synch within their native app.  But guess what?  Many, many vendors are not doing it.

Based on my last count, less than 1% of the entire industry, has on/off synch with a native app. 

That is to say, there are more vendors who go the net access all the time, unless you lose your net connectivity (with or without a native app) than the on/off synch native app angle that many consumers want.

Their argument against doing it – people are not asking for it and/or their current clients are not asking/seeking it.

My retort – so if your current clients all demanded Palm Pilots again, you would build an app for that?   Plus, if I don’t know, I won’t ask.

I can’t tell you the number of times I talk to vendors who have zero clue on the power of e-learning, let alone why WBT was built – and these are the supposedly experts you are talking to.

Sin #3 3rd Party Courseware installed into your LMS

15194118_sI get a headache just thinking about this and what I see over and over again.

Here is the usual approach, assuming you are buying 3rd party content/courses from an outside vendor – maybe Wiley, Skillsoft, Biz Library, WidgetLand, etc.

  • You buy the courses, regardless of the amount – this is you going directly to the course vendor and not via the LMS provider
  • The course bundle is either sitting on your course providers site, awaiting to be moved OR more likely, you now have the course bundles, all nice and zipped on your desktop or servers or wherever – basically in your hands
  • If your LMS has the ability to batch upload more than a couple of courses at a time, you go that route, if not, you send the whole thing to your LMS vendor who uploads it for you, but charges a fee to do so
  • In many cases, you forget to Q/A to make sure all the courses, not just one or a few, work without incident.  The LMS vendor rarely tests for you. They just say they are uploaded.
  • The time involved with this is long and frustration can easily build. You are at the mercy of someone and it is isn’t your IT or HR, L&D or Training department

This Sin can easily be eradicated.  I’ve had to deal with this in my past, and I always removed the obstacles that are placed in front of you with this nasty.

My approach – Remove yourself as the Middleperson –  In other words, in the above scenario: A is the courseware vendor, B is you, C is the LMS vendor.  You are stuck in the middle, one way or another – either of which is a word, I can’t say or write – but you know the term.

  • Buy the courseware from the 3rd party vendor
  • Notify them, prior to purchase, that you want them to contact directly the LMS vendor and work with them to put the courses into the LMS
  • Once they agree, you notify your LMS vendor and let them know you want them to work directly with the courseware provider to move the courses into your LMS
  • Let both parties know – especially your LMS vendor, that you will NOT pay extra for this;  the courseware provider is often aware of this, but many LMS vendors try to zing you – by making you pay for this – which is a bird turd.
  • You also let the courseware vendor know that they won’t receive the full amount (you pay 50% up front), until the courses are in your LMS and TESTED by you to verify that everything works.  Q/A is essential here.
  • You ask the LMS vendor to test to make sure the courses work; some will do it, others won’t – depends on how willing are you to negotiate this or stand your ground as they say.  

Regardless, always test yourself.  I’ve had vendors say, yeah it works, only to go in and find out it doesn’t.  

That is why having the courseware vendor verify that it is in the LMS and working is important.  But still, Q/A yourself. 

Eliminate yourself as the middle-person.  Thus instead of A to B to C; you now have made it A to C.  

If you know ahead of time that you are going to add 3rd party courseware into your LMS, note what I said above into your contract during negotiations.  

As a follow up, always get in writing the agreement of A to C when you do it.  E-mail is fine.  This way, no one can come back and say, “oh, we agreed to it, but you have to pay XXX”, when in the initial agreement, they didn’t note XXX.

Sin #4 – Deep Learning is here, Misleading marketing is not far behind

11275856_sI’ll make this easy.  In order to have deep learning, your LMS vendor must use an algorithm.  If not, then it is not deep learning.  There are vendors pitching deep learning (aka machine learning) who do not have an algorithm. 

Then there are vendors mainly seen in the education space pitching Adaptive learning, but it is either in the course itself (thus not really adaptive from the standpoint of deep learning which is system wide) or in the system, but not using an algorithm. 

One vendor I know, said they have deep learning but only in e-commerce. 

In other words, when someone buys a course, the system shows other recommended courses for upsell.  This is not deep learning. 

Expect deep learning to become a new confusion sticker for consumers.  But now you can tear that sticker off and toss it in the trash.

Sin #5 Content Curation means one thing, and not necessarily what the vendor says it means

14531740_sAnother brand new feature to hit the market, and guess what?  Another newbie to create confusion in the industry.

Content curation has ZERO to do with an authoring tool. ZERO. 

Yet, I’m finding systems -mainly in higher education, although a few in corporate, who believe it is related to creating content thus courses in their authoring tool.

Thus these “experts” are telling you it means Y, when in reality it means AB.

I’m a learner. I take a picture of a tree. 

Then I shoot some video using my mobile device of Sally picking and packing tennis shoes the right way in the warehouse.

Sally uploads her video and photo into the LMS via her mobile device. 

The items are now part of her library, profile, area (how ever it is defined).  Sally decides to share the pick and pack way with other learners.

She also decides to post it as a “video course/content piece” in the training catalog or area for all learners.

Steve sees it and goes “Wow.”

He knows of a shortcut to speed up the process.  He decides to shoot a small amount of video, showing Saralee picking and packing tennis shoes with this shortcut which saves time, and money in the long run.

He uploads the video. 

Instead of sharing it with others, he adds it to the video Sally uploaded that is located in the training catalog or training area that other learners can see.  A block of content is now added to another block of content.

And the build continues.  Or something new comes out of it.  Maybe a few photos too.  Learners BTW can review the items, leave comments and perhaps add their own materials too.

This is content curation.  The videos should never be more than 120 seconds BTW, 180 seconds is fine, but nowadays folks don’t watch that long.

Bottom Line

12793108_sNothing like softening the situation with a cute bunny rabbit emoji.

Where was I?  Oh, right the five LMS sins.

There are other LMS sins for another day to be shared and explored. 

The sins you see here are not just in LMSs, but also in sub-sets of an LMS including learning platforms and so on. 

Be aware that many, many LMS and sub-set vendors within the entire LMS industry, do not have any of these sins. 

For those that do however, something must be done.

Maybe all we need is an algorithm whereas it searches every LMS and sub-set of them, and finds these sins.

Then removes them forever.

Or maybe we just point it out to each vendor who does this

And say don’t try this with me. 

Not today.  Not next week.

Not ever.

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