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State of the E-Learning Industry 2017

Breakdown of the state of the e-learning industry. See who is trending strong growth and who isn't.

It’s that time of the year.  A time to reflect back to see where e-learning as a whole is at, and where it is heading for the coming year.

That said, reflection is for some other blog author to write about. I’m all about now and where the industry is heading (based on trends).  

Now.  The Present.  Or as some people will call it, Now, as in the present.  Think of it like those movies, you know the ones that say “present day”, and it was done in 1975?  Yeah, like that.

Except it is Oct. 2017 and the industry is in full swing.  Already at mature stage (excluding the LMS market, where the systems are there, but the user base is still in mid growth mode – yes lots of newbies still entering). 

Breaking it down- by space

NASA, can you hear me?  Actually, if you want a great space movie, rent Capricorn One.  Great, underrated film. 

Any who hah, the e-learning market is made up of various segments or as I prefer spaces.  Most folks are aware of

  • Rapid content authoring tools (build courses – you build them)
  • LMS and subsets, LP, SEP (Sales Enablement Platforms)
  • 3rd party courseware providers (ex: Skillsoft, Wiley)
  • Assessment tools including Online Testing Tools (even online proctoring) (ProProfs, ClassMarker, Questionmark)
  • Learning Engagement Platforms (Degreed)
  • Custom course/content shops (lots of them out there)
  • Web conferencing tools (aka virtual learning classrooms, webinars)

But are you aware of these?

  • Coaching and Mentoring tools (mobile is a key component)
  • Knowledge Reinforcement tools (mobile is essential)
  • Courseware marketplaces (OpenSesame, udemy, Coursera)
  • Social learning tools (not the same as a Social Learning Platform)
  • Video learning tools
  • Learning Record Stores
  • E-Learning tools – other  (not listed in any of the categories/spaces above)

That’s a lot of categories/spaces/markets. 

Some overlap one another, some are ideal as bolt-ons for systems, and some are just there.  I did not include PowerPoint or Slide tools that can be seen online.  Because, that is a stretch to slide them (no pun intended) into the e-learning space, just because they are online.  

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

As a whole, business is being generated in all areas, how much is a different story – since it varies by market and by the vendor themselves.  You can have a slowdown market as a whole, but be the player of said market and be doing quite well for yourselves.  Long term – well, a change in model might be in order.  

Or the slowdown could be in specific segments, and not in all segments, but when putting them all together, it is another story.

HOT

LMS and subsets including Video Learning Platforms, Knowledge Management Platforms, Social Learning Platforms; Learning Platforms, Sales Enablement Platforms

Where it stands

Let’s put it this way.  If you were say a vendor who at one time did only video overlays, and now you are in essence a VLP (with feature sets you will find in an LMS who has solid analytical data),  that should say something.  Well, it says two things, but for our purposes, it says follow the money.

LMS

Toasty.  Still expanding.  Need to know the difference between an LMS and a learning platform?  Analyticals and reporting (quality and quantity).  I will note that some LMSs are failing there in the analytical arena, but the majority are not. 

Skills and competencies are exploding within the market itself (I’ll dive deeper into that in two weeks, with my LMS forecasts for 2018). 

More vendors entering the space then leaving it.  VC’s and Equity firms continue to toss money around.  Write an idea on a piece of paper, someone might give you money.  Yes it is the dot.com days again, as noted in a different post.

On subsets

Video Learning Platforms are a mixed bag. 

HapYak is now in the VLP space, which is a shame really because I liked them as a video overlay product, which is what they were for a few years, until this relatively recent switch.    Consumer knowledge is relatively low on this market, so that is a minus, on the other hand, folks who use a VLP only, are loyal to VLPs and not likely to depart from them.  

The big question mark is how will VLPs, that focus on the corporate market, play once the LMS space fully utilizes all the video management functionality that exists out there?  Once that happens, I think VLPs will face a huge challenge. 

Social Learning Platforms

Well, let me just say it has been a fun ride, but this subset is slowing down.   Social engagement has never been overpowering in any SLP.  Nothing to truly separate them from many LMSs that provide social, and more often than not, the LMS vendor is superior in terms of social functionality versus say a “social” only learning platform.   

Learning Platforms and Sales Enablement Platforms

Grab some kindling wood.  Another hot market.  Everyone seems to be entering.  Heck, just yesterday, my dog barked he wanted in.  I explained that I did not think a learning platform only for dogs would work.  But who knows, any VC’s out there?

Anyway, they are expanding fast and nothing is indicating slow down any time soon. 

Rapid Course Authoring Tools

Content (beyond just course building) is starting to make an appearance.  Jury is still out on how this will play out in the RCT market.  From the course building standpoint, it has become essentially four areas

  • Basic to Advance (Desktop only) with layers, multiple objects, assets, etc.  As a course builder if you have the ID and e-learning developer skill sets, you could make an amazing interactive course.   Basics include the convert PPT into a course (yuck).

Some of the more intense ones, still use a hierarchy approach, and the utilization or actually, the recommended and standard approach of Chapter-Page-Lesson/Assessment/Scenario as their nomenclature.  

Sadly though, there continues to be an increase in the term “Slide or Slides” as the key term, whereas you can change it to be called a page, etc.  

  • Basic to Advance (SaaS) – similar to their brethren in the desktop world, with an additional component of analytics.   Why?  I am not a fan of this, because it burdens the system and the main purpose – that as an authoring tool.   Every vendor that has jumped into the analytical piece, from my perspective, has missed out or are behind in authoring tool functionality when it comes to video for example, or truly interactive GBL (game based learning) or even immersive learning.  
  • Basic –  Says exactly what it is.   There are vendors who do well in this little playing area.  
  • Bundles –   Usage of B to A, but adds an additional component of bundled tools with them.  So it is not just the authoring tool.  You get items such as a course verification tool (ensuring that all coding is correct and your course does not have any errors),  create videos tool (example: Camtasia) and the list goes on.   I do not consider Articulate Studio in the bundle – because all those components are parts of the tool.  Rather a bundle is separate items that could be standalone products if so desired, and would not have a negative impact on the authoring tool, if it wasn’t there to begin with.   Usually it is desktop with desktop tools, or SaaS with desktop tools.  Lately, though I’m slowly starting to see desktop with SaaS tool or tools.  When SaaS to SaaS only tools as part of the bundle shows up – that will be a big differentiation, in a good way. 

Next week’s blog covers the Top 10 Authoring Tools on the market.  For those, who must know now, here they are (in no particular order – hence next week’s blog for the big announcement. Top three gets a Way To Go and a couple of barks from my dogs).

3rd Party Courseware Providers

Strong.  Starting to see some newbies enter the space.  The key is to land partnership deals with LMS and Learning Platform providers, so they can integrate your courses into their own course marketplace (where folks buy them) to go into the LMS or it appears in the LMS, but folks still buy them separately (i.e. it is not free). 

You can survive without the partnership deals, at least for now.  Long term, this needs to be your core strategy.  The days of people going directly to the courseware provider, getting the courses, and then having them either in their LMS or sitting on the courseware providers servers, with behind the scenes LMS appearance,  is slowing down.  Folks as a whole, just do not want to go directly to you.  

One thing to realize though is that there are LMS vendors who mention/note/market that they have a courses from various providers in their system, but fail to note that the courses are not free.   Sure they may make their own and those are freebies, but the providers – 3rd party is not.   I wish there was transparency on this, but in every release or announcement of this spin, there has yet to be mention that the 3rd party courses/content is not free, and a separate cost.

Custom Course Shops

Never will slow down.  Still strong.  Depends on what you as the consumer are willing to pay.  If you are paying under 10K for an interactive course, I suspect you will be disappointed.  As a whole (30-70K) range tends to create a stronger interactive course (but it comes down to the shop themselves, which isn’t good for anyone).  

Thus, from a price standpoint, price plays a partial factor in quality, but it is truly dependent on the custom development shop.  I’ve seen courses that cost over 100K to build, and they come out as garbage.   Bad custom shop.  

I’ve always used one specific custom development shop for courses that need to be built, and are highly interactive and engaging. They are not cheap, but quality is outstanding.

I want to note, that this is for online learning courses, and not immersive learning courses (VR, AR, MR, 360 video).  For that market, you can ping me, and I’ll give you the name of the best shop for that space.

Assessment Tools

An important factor for those tools in the cloud is UI/UX.  I have to tell you, I’ve seen way more than I want, whose UI is dated.  Functionality for what you need is there, but everything else screams “Update needed”.  

The challenge facing the Assessment tool including test/exam tools are, wait for it, LMS and learning platform vendors, more on the LMS side.  Some are starting to do more with their assessment tool.  Equally those who have partnerships – integration with 3rd party course authoring tools, can leverage the assessment tool that comes with the authoring tool.  

The market today is mixed.  Yes, there is money to be made, especially on the education side,  and on the compliance/regulatory side (with specifics for that segment), but as a whole, it is drip, drip – moderate at best.  

For me, if you want a slick and functionality solid assessment tool, I’d recommend ClassMarker

Proctoring

Online proctoring has potential, but for proctoring you need extra security measurements, including web cam, and some form of bio metrics (example: face recognition).  

Learning Experience Platforms

Degreed is the leader for Corporate.  The market continues to grow.  As we say it it trending upwards. 

Web conferencing tools

Yes there are freebies out there, but the fee based ones are the drivers here.  Strong and steady market.  My personal favorite is Zoom.   Although I will admit that Blackboard Collaborate is no slouch.  You can get it as a standalone or integrate it into your LMS. 

On the “Ever heard of these”

Strong growth

3rd party courseware marketplaces

Must have multiple course offerings, they can be free (MOOCs) or more often than not, fee-based (even if the fee is only with other vendors) Best – OpenSesame.  Overrated?  Lynda.com  – I wouldn’t buy any course from them.  Needs some vetting/culling; some of the talent is weak,  some voice-overs sound like my Chemistry teacher in high school (zzzzz).   Yes, there are some good ones there, but seriously, there are way better course marketplaces out there. 

Coach and Mentoring tools 

Strong now, but LMS providers and jumping into the space and starting to make a dent.  Once they offer coach/mentoring and even ask an expert in mobile, the space of coach/mentoring tools will suffer. 

Reinforcement tools

Good growth.  Again, LMS, LPs and especially sales enablement platforms are playing in this market.  If you only want a Reinforcement tool, they are there, with some strong ones.  If you want a combination of other things, then seek out the LMS/LP/SEP vendors.    I still see growth in the RT space, but it is all about functionality with mobile.  And vendors need on/off synch mobile app, which as a whole, is poor.

Other E-Learning Tools

Solid and steady.   Next!

Social Learning tools

Dudsville.  Yeah, they exist, but why would you want a standalone?  Not seeing it.  Good growth years ago.  Eh, not so much anymore.

Video learning tools

Growing, but as we learned from HapYak, you need to have the right video tool for creating online learning courses or online learning content.  I say it is a market to watch.  Video is here to stay.  The challenge – finding the vendors. Marketing in this space is awful.

Learning Record Stores

Some vendors have them built into their learning system.  They can build their own (many do), partner with a 3rd party LRS (quite a few do, with Watershed LRS as the leader).   I’m on the fence as a whole with this space.  There are not that many players, which is good in one way, bad in another.  One vendor has no interest in partnering with LMSs, etc. – which from a biz standpoint, ranks right up there with the guy who came up with New Coke.  Right now, the market is stagnant. Revenue is up and will continue for a very small segment of vendors.  The differences between top tier and mid tier is widening.

Bottom Line

What will the state of e-learning be

In 2020?

I’m betting on strong, with an asterisk.  

Certain spaces will expand.  Certain spaces will fall.

And newbies not yet assigned a category will either be a brick or a star.

Ignoring the immersive learning market.

Though

Will be a mistake.

Because it will cut into the e-learning market.

A small, tiny percentage, not enough to strike fear.

But

2030?

A different ballgame.

With e-learning take a hit.

And not in a good way.

E-Learning 24/7

Upcoming blogs (now posts every Wednesday)

Top 10 Authoring Tools for 2017 (next week, 10-18)

LMS/LP/SEP Forecasts for 2018 (10-25)

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