ATD17 Post Review: Rants & Raves Edition

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Atlanta.  Home of Coca-Cola. The Braves (wait they moved to Cobb County).  Excellent cuisine. Humidity.  An amazing airport.  Did I mention the humidity?

Oh, and of the course, this year’s ATD 2017 Conference.

We are changing some things up this year, for the post-review.  A wonderful new name – Rants and Raves Edition (h/t Pam).

How different you may inquire?

Glad you asked.

Here’s how

  • Mini Takeaways on several products
  • Best Product
  • Dud of the Show
  • Trends at the show – vendor wise, some real surprises, some not. 
  • Bottom Line


Not sure if this is a rant or rave.  I’ll slide it under Rants since it is trends and trends can be either.


Not a lot of mention on VR, even though there is wide interest in the topic along with IoT (why?),  AR and MR.  Heck, ATD had sessions on VR for example.   As I hit the floor, I saw only a couple of vendors.  

Video – total mixed bag.  Seriously, the video is super hot with folks adding it as standalone (as a course), seeking video editing/tracks and doing a lot of stuff with video.  Especially with mobile video.   There were vendors on the video angle, but again it was not a “hot scene” vendor wise.  If I was like an Adobe Premiere or similar I would have attended.  Missed opportunity for a lot of vendors in the video arena.  

There were a few video learning platforms there and one product I did like on the video course build side, more on that in a bit.

Mobile – Sure vendors noted it, but it wasn’t a driver.  I wouldn’t place it in the hot category from vendor speak as it once was.  Oh, mobile first appeared, but a hint – that is just lingo trash unless they have robust mobile including on/off synch. 

Shocking (not really) plenty of mobile-first do not.   Guess, seeing it via my mobile browser with a required net connection is enough.   In that case, my Kindle Oasis is mobile-first too.

The “buzz words” that were hot (and many vendors to choose from)

Roll the tape on the buzz.

Adaptive Learning – It is was in a lot of places. Whether it was an LMS or a learning platform or someone pitching their learning platform as an “adaptive learning” platform or course tools that had adaptive learning or products that were supposedly adaptive learning, it was front and centered.

To have adaptive learning you really need an algorithm, and admin capabilities to decide whether to assign points/weights to certain items versus others AND as noted numerous times, the option to say that folks do not have to complete a course to gain points or higher weighted value. 

That said, there were plenty of “adaptive learning” products that while they had an algorithm, the vendor decided on the factors, which of course, IMO, tells me they believe they know more about your training and L&D than you do.   On the other side, I saw a couple of adaptive learning products, that uh, were stretching the adaptive part in general.

Micro-learning –  Another hot buzz word.  There were vendors pitching their products as micro-learning platforms. Here is a secret – anyone could have built a micro course from the days that online learning was launched in the late 90’s.  And any system accepted them.   

That said if you are curious about the benefits of micro-learning to your business/organization and so forth, and some hot tips from yours truly, sign up for my free webinar happening June 7th.  I will be serving free coffee (to me) and water (to my dogs. They also get a peanut butter ball as a bonus).

Enterprise –  Dump this already.  The term no longer applies to SaaS IMO.  And if it can get even worse, vendors today are changing what the number of employees is, when it comes to Enterprise. 

The common and one noted in various labor sites are 10,000+.  There are vendors going as low as 500 employees (falls more into small business), 1,000 (SMB) and 1,000-9,999 range (mid-size).

Not knowing why WBT was developed, launched nor the scene behind e-learning in general. This was mentioned in another post on trends in general and it appeared frequently on the expo floor, by a lot of vendors.  I have an interesting piece to share on my Linkedin group this week, on one vendor’s customer service person’s retort to me.  It wasn’t very customer oriented.

Mentoring/Coaching – Plenty to hear. Plenty to see in some form or another.  I saw quite a bit of the “record someone, then you can playback and respond” and/or “webcam recording or live” and retort back.  

Gamification as a feature.  I went to a show in the UK a while back and there were plenty of vendors totally gamification oriented and the buzz included gamification as an entity, not a feature.

At the ATD show, it was the complete opposite.  Yes, there were some folks selling game based learning, but the “gamification” as a feature was more visible.

Vendors in General

Quite a few LMS (and various subsets), Learning Platform, folks pitching themselves as not an LMS, yet had the 16 standards and courseware LMS providers.   I was aware of several vendors in my Top 50 LMSs in attendance.  And traffic as a whole was strong.

A lot of new entrants from the human side seeking systems.  Plus the “I hate my LMS” crowd, seeking new ones to switch too.

Skillsoft debuted a new LMS, but I would say it is a major work in progress.  Cool UI, UX was solid, but feature wise it was lacking.  I heard a lot “that is in our next release” or “that is on our roadmap”.  

Cornerstone and SumTotal Learn were present and accounted for.  I was told that Cornerstone is going to have a new release with UI changes in September (via an attendee). 

With my analyst hat on – until I see it, words are vapor.  They had a UI change years ago, and it was not across the entire system.  So, show me first.

Finally, a limited number of course authoring tool vendors too.  One company was pitching PowerPoint as this amazing authoring tool.  I won’t go there.

Vendors who scored well in my book


High Marks

Open Sesame – Love em.  Great courseware aggregator provider.  I loved that this time around, they had salespeople from the each courseware company talking to customers, rather than just OS people doing the pitch.  Before angling towards or Skillsoft, I’d search them out.  Tell them Craig sent you.  (I always wanted to say that. And no, you won’t get a special deal. Actually, I have no idea on if you will or not.)

MindMarker – The guy who founded the company gets it when it comes to courses and why WBT was created.  That was a big win for me.  I am so tired of seeing vendors who have zero clues, and no desire to even go back and learn.   Remember folks the whole value is the ability for people to go where they want to in the course and as often as they want to – it is a non-linear angle.  

The product is sharp too.  I think he told me they won the booth thing at ATD, so congrats on that.  Still loved the neon green pants beat the Orange shirts of eLB.  Although was looking for the purple shoes and an appearance of Cesar Romano (Joker in the Batman series). 



Koantic –  Video course tool.  I’ve had my eye on them for awhile, so getting a better look was nice.  I’m a fan of Chrome extensions and they have one, which for a course authoring tool of any sort is rare.  Collaboration, peer review, ability to record with their mobile app are all there. Create quizzes too – but I found that underwhelming.  You can assign tasks as well – not sure how fun an ID person would like to receive that Diddy – but hey whatever.  

mentorCliq –  First off their website stinks, so don’t get discouraged if you go there and are like “what..?”

Very nice approach to doing the mentoring. Mini-review coming in July.

Practice Learning Platform – A good example of the coaching aspect as noted earlier. It includes something with learning new skills as an angle too.  I will have a mini-review on my blog in July.

area9 Learning – Adaptive learning platform with an on/off synch mobile app – SWEET.

Liked what I saw.  It is not for everyone and it needs some feature sets and some tweaks for that matter, but it has potential. 

nawmal   If you like Go Animate but seeking with a little or a lot more panache, this is the product to check out.  Really enjoyed what they were doing.  Didn’t really see the AI angle to the whole offering, but from a building of the animated videos, good stuff.  The price might turn off some people. 

Best Product of the ATD 2017 Conference


Envelope, please.  No Warren, you cannot read it.  We all remember your Oscars fiasco.

Open Sesame

Been around a bit, but really went another level here.  A huge value win for me is that they “cull” their courses, which means they get rid of the dated, poor quality courses. 

And, they are strict in terms of what is allowed into the course catalog with an actual human checking each course before acceptance.  

Dud of the Show

Linkedin Learning

 I saw nothing with LL that changes my product review, completed earlier this year from ATD TK.  Seriously, re-haul that baby. Lots of things missing and flaws abound. 

Bottom Line

Well, that was fun.  The show really was enjoyable.  Before I forget, I want to thank everyone who attended my LMS RFP Criteria presentation. 

I received a lot of positive feedback from so many of you and I all hope you enjoy my new Special Edition – LMS RFP template.

For those folks who would like to receive my newest template, please contact me ([email protected]).  I’ll send it over.

Congrats to the product of the show.  Many happy returns.

And congrats to all the noteworthy new solutions out there. 

I love to see the e-learning industry grow.  Eventually, immersive learning will too.

And when that does.

Watch out.

Because I’ll be there

and so will you.

E-Learning 24/7

Note: No post next week, on holiday.  But the following week – yes, finally my debut NexGen LMS Quadrant. 


Images courtesy of Brett Lamb