Trends. They will often bare fruit. Sometimes is a way we like, other times in a way we don’t. Who can forget the trend of seeing Ned Beatty in every movie out there? He was soon replaced by Morgan Freeman. And Morgan now is being replaced by Anthony Hopkins. That is a trend, I wish to no longer see.
Many people who discuss trends only look at the “plus and positive” ones, and never or rarely mention if that, the minus or negative ones.
Well, no more to that.
Here are the latest negative trends happening in the e-learning industry (for ATs and LMS).
To break it all down, I went Arrgh, Grrr route. Arrgh is at the threshold of despair, below, below average, where you want to use the WTF remark, but just can’t do it.
Grrr, screams the latter term you can’t say out loud along with you wanting to have your favorite sports team fire their coach and toss them onto a dirty mattress in the dump of your most despicable/loathed town/community near you.
Let’s Do it.
Folks who know nothing about e-learning, why it was created i.e. WBT, and equally no idea on why LMSs were developed/created in the first place.
What makes this a horrific trend is that these folks are selling learning platforms or solutions to consumers, who are unaware that these people have zero experience. If a person is willing to learn about the reasons WBT was created and its benefits (i.e. self-pace, learn on my own time/anytime, non-linear (A to C to G), able to make mistakes without others knowing about it, etc.) and why LMSs were created (to track what learners knew and did not know, and be able to fix that or improve upon that), then they can enter the space with no knowledge or experience.
The problem though, at least what I am seeing, is that they are not willing to do so. The e-learning industry is worth billions of dollars and this includes the LMS space. Money attracts investors and entrants who look at the dollar aspect first and foremost. When this happens, you assume that they know something about it or at least have learned the background about it.
Right now, this trend is showing otherwise.
Algorithm in Deep Learning that skews the data.
I talked about this, in my newsletter, but for those who have yet to subscribe/had a chance to read it, there are vendors out there whose algorithm is flawed. The flaw you ask? It gives points/higher weights to courses completed and minuses/zero weight to those not completed.
Why is this an issue? Because it defeats the purpose of why WBT was created and its huge benefits. If you are offering personal and/or professional development courses which could include any type of sales training or new employee training courses, it is more than likely you offer your learners the ability to bounce around the course and not have to complete it.
After all, a huge plus of WBT is to go where I want to go in the course to learn it/reinforce/synthesis and/or to go where I need to go and want to go to learn, rather to start at the beginning on something I do not have an interest in, or already know.
As I always say, if I want to learn about Labels in Excel, why would I want to start off on how to open the file? Not relevant to me and I do not care. ILT follows a linear format. WBT does not (although you can go linear). If you require someone to complete a course, first off it screams compliance, but more importantly, if it is not, then “forcing” completion to achieve a result that skews the whole value of the algorithm and deep learning in the first place, is a negative.
Secondly, and to me even a worse crime (if possible) is that in some cases, the administrator cannot change the dynamic – i.e. allow for weigths/points for non-completed courses, turn off the “completion” requirement (if they so choose). The administrator thus, has no control.
What this tells me, is that the vendor thinks they know more about how to train your employees/customers then you do (actually, it also tells me they had no idea on why WBT was designed in the first place).
The point of it all, is that this negative trend skews the data out of the gate and your results on future depth will provide you with erroneous information, especially as part of a gap analysis for future learning and growth.
Authoring Tools going everywhere but nowhere
SaaS authoring tool vendors continue to include analytical data as an option in their platform. Some are turning into hybrid or lite LMSs. Rather than focusing on adding feature sets to make them a better authoring tool, as in authoring tool components, they focus on the other. There are exceptions (i.e. those who have/adding analytical data as an option), but it is rare.
Desktop authoring tools that are well still on the desktop. I am sorry to say this, but if you have multiple products and one is cloud-based but the main tool is desktop based, this does not qualify your authoring tool as SaaS. Nor does massively adding lots of stuff into your authoring tool that maybe less than 1% of your audience will use, especially since the reason RCATs took off was that anyone could create a course.
The industry as a whole continues to separate further and further out. That is to say, there is a widening of a gap between good-average-poor. The average are not doing anything to move or try to move up to good, and the poor stays the poor. The good is splintering between really good and just good. The loser to all of this, is the person building the courses.
If you are an instructional designer, choices are limited. I know quite a few IDs who were long time fans of Captivate who bolted and went to their competitors. A close friend of mine who has a top tier custom development shop, left Storyline and jumped over to Claro. Some shops use Storyline 360. Some Lectora Online. The point of it all, is that for an ID person or e-learning developer person (background), there are few choices. I guess in one way that is good for the vendors, less competition, in another way, not so much.
To me, and I expect nothing but flame-o-grams here, the top two for ID folks are Lectora Online (which is not for beginners) and dominKnow Claro (which a beginner can use). Storyline 360/Storyline is next up (#3).
Bye Bye ID terms
I can count on my two hands the number of authoring tool vendors who still follow the hierarchy of original online course design- Chapter-Page(s)-Lesson/Assessment/Scenario. That is the actual nomenclature to course design. It goes hierarchical by the way, and then there are additional terms, but this is targeting the three big ones. What is replacing it?
Slides. Yes, the term that will “cringe” anyone who has an ID background, learned effective course design and thus ID on their own (me included), or has e-learning development background.
My personal non-favs
- Slide view (yes, they use the term)
- Slides – They offer you the opportunity to change the name from Slide #1 to whatever you want to call it – yes, Chapter please!
- See PowerPoint as an authoring tool. Quick call Microsoft, and tell them to add “authoring tool” to their presentation software pitch. Wait. They have added capabilities to PowerPoint so you can create SCORM courses from it. Thank you RCAT slide vendors.
- New authoring tool vendors entering the space using “slides” as the term. Again, I can’t decide if they have no idea on ID or if they just decided to follow the pack. You choose.
Courseware LMSs showing first and foremost their LMS and then either mentioning afterwards that it is the courses/content you are purchasing or letting the reader figure it out on their own.
A courseware LMS vendor is one whose primary goal is to sell you the courses/content and as an added bonus gives you the learning platform/LMS for free.
If a vendor adheres to the courseware LMS approach, they will never sell you only the LMS if you so choose. It is courses then LMS. There is one vendor I know in the entire courseware LMS space, who will offer to sell you the LMS itself, without their courses/content to purchase first, but less than 5% of their audience goes this route.
It’s a risky business approach i.e. courses primary, LMS freebie. You can end up with a streamlined learning platform that is limited and despite its “newness” with some new features, it will never match those other nextgen systems (even ones years old), because that is not their core money maker, it is the courses.
When I start seeing “courseware LMS” vendors showing prominently their LMS/learning platform on the web site, it says to me, that to attract a wider audience this needs additional promotion/push. And for long term success, a courseware LMS provider must have quite a bit of content/courses for folks to choose from, regardless if it is micro or not. Otherwise, they will follow the route of Learn.com
Learn.com started as a course aggregator. Then down the road of history for them, they became a courseware LMS (we just didn’t call them that). Next up, LMS first and we sell courses for our own system only (in other words a LMS). Then, they got bought by Taleo. Next Taleo got bought by Oracle. Product is garbage. Story is over, night night. Sleep tight!
I’m not saying this is going to happen to the courseware LMS providers, because there are couple that are doing well, but it is sometimes quite tempting to push into the LMS space (more $$$$ potential) with the content as a secondary sell, rather than primary. In this case, the LMS vendor will not only sell their own courses/content if they offer it, but also from other 3rd party providers.
On the other side, if they stay courseware LMS, then as noted above, courses/content has to be consistently there and good; and the LMS must follow suit or not. That becomes the vendor’s dilemma. Either invest heavily into the LMS too or not.
I could make a snarky comment here, on a topic such of this, with negative trends such as these, would be easy to do.
But I won’t.
Not for any other reason, then starting a new trend.
a series of bad ones.
Next week, I will be attending the Lectora conference in Cincinnati, Oh. If you are attending, feel free to stop by and say hi.
And don’t forget, I will be speaking at the ATD conference in Atlanta, GA. Topic: LMS RFP Criteria. We will start working on one, right in the session. And you will get my latest RFP SE (Special Edition) after attending the session – just need to provide me with a biz card or way to send it to you. No spam, just the latest RFP. And my friendly e-mail.