I’m a dreamer. I dream that those who are involved in e-learning (online) and soon immersive (VR/AR/MR), learn and understand about the nuances of the various types of learning technology current and down the road.
Each piece can help you achieve amazing and outstanding results. But, as with anything, used wrongly or poorly, and the technology fails.
There are plenty of folks out there that get it. They understand that the most effective courses (regardless of micro or not) are non-linear (people can jump around). That they utilize adult learning and are engaging/interactive.
Plus they each can incorporate a form of learning technology, believe it or not. And many do.
I note this because there are a lot of people who see an LMS and their subsets as merely a place to host courses. This is a fallacy. A myth that constantly plays out on a daily basis.
When this happens, any new piece of learning technology that is either contained within an LMS (and its subsets) is blackballed or not utilized across the board OR is pitched as being standalone, as if that is an ideal and better route to go.
I’m here to tell you to not fall into that trap. A LRS is ideal and a perfect fit within an LMS (and subsets).
I don’t care if you have a TM/PM system – you want an LRS in it. Pitching your platform as employee engagement – get an LRS as a component. Social learning solution? LRS as a component. Oh, mobile learning solution or micro-learning platform, I want an LRS in it.
Selecting though which LRS is the right one for you though is the challenge today. More are popping up and will likely continue to do so in 17 and 18, especially when it comes to vendors in the LMS space incorporating them as part of their platform.
If you are someone who says, I want an LRS but I do not want it in my LMS or adding one of the below via an API into your LMS, that’s fine. Because they can be standalone offerings.
Before jumping into the rankings, I recommend an interview that was done a year ago, regarding LRS and xAPI (it was conducted on this blog).
Keys to remember
- There are some standards in terms of what data is captured that is seen in most LRSs. These include top influencers, xAPI, statement activity, most popular content, search extraction, data visualization (but all over the place from that standpoint), and connectors.
- When I note “LMS integration/incorporation” it means that an LMS vendor has struck a deal with an LRS vendor to incorporate the LRS into their LMS as their LRS, thus the vendor does not have to build their own LRS.
- If an LRS vendor has a partnership in place with an LMS vendor that I am unaware of at the time of this writing, I will make an update to their listing. And tweet a notice about it, so follow me @diegoinstudio if you want the update.
A few quick points, that many vendors fail to note regarding an LRS (and I can’t decide if it is because they are unaware or indifferent).
- The premise (besides what it can do and its benefits) was that each learner has this data record and it captures everything (which it does), BUT and here is the kicker, if the learner leaves the company, school, etc., they take their data record with them.
Thus, if they go to another company, business, school/university the data record can be inserted into that LMS (assuming it has an LRS) and it will work fine (interoperability).
- From an education standpoint, I can see how a data record of the student’s learning can go from primary to secondary to higher education.
Some vendors though have changed the premise of the data record transference. How?
- They delete the record if the person leaves (regardless if they quit, fire, bolt, go the route of the school angle above, etc.)
Yes, an LRS can be an amazing tool and component, but that data record is an important piece of the pie.
If you follow the route of deletion, then that approach of its total usefulness, from the learner angle is gone.
Just something to think about.
Anyway onto the rankings
Oh, I added screenshots when possible and a couple of recordings of screens from the top two. The screens are just for visual purposes only.
- Yet Analytics – A very strong LRS that can do a lot. The graphical interface is robust. A lot of analytical data can be viewed and captured. Data visualization is great. Pluses include usage behaviors, influencers, trends of actors (learners including network), learner profiles with details, statement frequencies (many systems do this, just fyi). Unaware of any LMS vendor that has incorporated the LRS into their platform. Can be standalone or API into your system/platform including TM/PM. The system is just a winner in so many ways. Pricing is listed on the web site. Easy to use. Has connectors.
2. Watershed LRS – This is a very good solution that provides a lot of power and some difference in terms of analytical data extraction than Yet. That is not a minus per se, rather, an approach that will work for many folks – who want an alternative.
The data is easy to follow and read. I wish the graphical interface was better (my understanding is that they are working on a new GUI (graphical user interface). Right now, compared to some others it looks dated, which is a shame, because as noted it packs a sweet set of information. Pricing is listed on the site.
There are LMS vendors who have Watershed in their system (as their LRS). It can also be a standalone or API into your system/platform including TM/PM. Easy to use. Has connectors.
3. Wax LRS by Saltbox – A good LRS that at one time, I felt was top of the pack. That no longer is the case, but it isn’t because of them per se, rather there are ones that have just moved further up due to functionality contained within.
The graphical interface needs an update, but is user-friendly and provides a solid set of data visualization. I love the fact that they have connectors with other SaaS offerings such as Salesforce, Zapier and Slack. Albeit, I’m not seeing the real benefit of incorporating an LRS into Slack, especially since the premise of that data record seems lost in this manner. I mean, honestly, how is Slack being harnessed when it comes to learning/training?
I am equally unaware of any LMS that has Wax incorporated into the system. Can be a standalone or API into any system/platform including PM/TM. Pricing is on the site, but the top of the line solution is a “Contact us” approach. Hey, thanks for the transparency!
4. Learning Locker– A lot of people love Learning Locker. It is open source first of all, which I surmise plays a role (although it also offers a fee-based option too). It has a very nice GUI and is easy to use. They say they are the most installed LRS in the world. Not sure about that, as in highly doubt it (and will continue to say so, until they can show the data to back up such a claim).
I love the ability to create business rules (from simple to complex). Identifies influencers too (listed as top performers) and why they are the leaders. Captures the data many other LRSs do as well, including statement activities and learner history.
Connectors include Slack (surprise), SAP, Tableau (many support as well). Data visualization as a whole can be better. Seems too simple for me, but I am a fan of lots of data, lots of analytical extraction to chop up, cut up and see. Especially when it comes to training – the more I know, the better I can develop, design and implement content/courses/etc. for my learners, regardless if they are customers, employees or both.
Pricing is on the site. Standalone, API, connectors (as noted above). Unaware of LMS vendors that incorporated it.
LMS vendors that created their own LRS. Many vendors have gone this route. As a result, the quality is all over the place. Some are strong, others are not. GUI follows suit. Data visualization is useful but to a degree. The biggest issue I have with several vendors is the data record deletion and the refrain from offering all the analytical data that the LRS captures. It is more of a drip, drip, drip – here are the common stuff that virtually everyone else does and here are some unique pieces BUT if you want the store, forget about it.
Listen you can extract a monster set of data with an LRS, so why hold back? I get the pitch not everyone wants it, but when you are doing your setup, ask the customer if they want “regular – which is what comes with the system” or “extreme” which punches a lot of analytical information and all that it entails. Again, from a training/learning standpoint the more data the better. After all, if you want to do an effective gap analysis, is simple really better?
Xyleme Analyze – Provides the standard fare of LRS analytical data. The GUI is very user-friendly, and follows more of a streamline visual appearance. Personally, it should be a tad more robust on the data visualization side of the house. Includes items such as most popular content, top influencers, activity statements (all of which are standards nowadays – as in every LRS does this to some degree). Standalone, API, integrated into an LMS/learning platform/TM/PM too. No pricing on the site.
Riptide Storepoints – Nice GUI. Data visualization is solid, nothing to blow you away. Includes most of the standards today in the LRS space. Connectors include BI tools. Says they can track digital content such as VR and iOT. Uh, I wonder about the iOT, because who is heck is saying, “Hey I have iOT content on my smartwatch, we need to track that baby.” Unaware of any LMS vendor integration/incorporating. Standalone, API. Works with any system, including LMS (subsets too), TM/PM and aforementioned BI tools.
Screen shot is small, but that is the best I could capture on their site. Squint.
GrassBlade. Love that it can generate certificates, includes many of the standard features on a side note (but not all of them). Connectors include LearnDash (WordPress LMS) and Zapier (sweet!) Data visualization is doable, but nothing to write home or email folks about. Another alternative out there. For some folks, it is a fine fit. Unaware of any LMS vendor incorporating it, standalone, API options. Pricing is on the site.
Mzinga. It is there. Captures some of the standard data, not enough to warrant a love factor for me. Standalone, API, LMS integration – unaware of others though.
edTotal. Captures some of the standards. Standalone, API. Will be doable for some folks. At least they are trying, so that is a plus.
There they are. The rankings of the top four and a few others to examine, consider or just think, maybe some day, I will try one out for size.
For the folks who believe an LRS is an LMS, it is not. It is a compliment to an LMS.
Of great value.
If it is done right.
With data visualization that empowers the training, L&D, even HR executive to do more. To design, define and interpret so that what is being extracted means something beyond just tracking for the sake of it.
LRSs are a form of learning technology.
Start now and reap the benefits.
But be realistic.
For that LRS you seek, may not be there right now.
Tomorrow, another story.