2020 – The Year of the Hub

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Initially I was going to write about my forecasts for 2020. Then I realized that the post would mainly focus on one major trend that will impact the space in such a way (good, I believe), and thus as a result, decided to hold off on my forecasts for 2020 – until Oct.

As part of this trend, I’ve included some additional trends too, since they apply as well.  Plus for fans of VR who want to know about that trend, it’s in this post, after the Hub.

For me though, the one Trend that will take the industry by storm (in fact, it is starting to appear with a few waves)…

The BIG Trend

In studying the industry these past nine months, a trend or a series of trends have been forming and one shines through over and over again.  I’ve heard it from end users (not the trend, but what they are seeking).  I’ve heard it from vendors.  I’ve seen it, staring at me, wanting me to expose it for what it is, and what it can be. What it is and how it works, is going to be a gist of this post, because this trend, will change our industry, I believe for the better.

Many consumers, I surmise are doing it already without even realizing it, and even some vendors are too.

The HUB

H2

Welcome to the Hub.  The game changer in the industry, whereas every spoke is interconnected with the central component, the learning system.  The Learning System can be an LMS, a Digital Learning Platform (formally known as an LXP), Learning Platform, Sales Enablement Platform, Employee Engagement Platform and so on. 

The Center entity though is the main system.   This is where everything is driven off or from if you will.  And each component, off of each spoke, again interconnected goes from and in off the Center entity. 

In each case, push and pull exists, because even if it is content from a 3rd party provider, which in the Hub it is, the content is sitting on the content provider’s server, and not directly within your learning system.

The Connectors

Each of those bubbles if you will are part of the collective (Borg are extra).  They are a series of connectors.  You can have more connectors or less than I have above, but what I have seen is that in most cases, the number seems to be four.   But every trend is pointing towards six, hence the six connections.   Again, you can have more as your grow, but within the six, could be subsets of each connector, which without over repetition (I know too late), is still six.

H3

There isn’t any specific order in the Hub, because, wait for it.. they are all interconnected, so A can be D, D can lead to J and so forth.  But, as you can see they all connect to the Center Connection – the main entity.

Here is how I define each connector and this is based on a series of trends that I am seeing.

Learning System Connector  

Trends are pointing towards consumers selecting additional learning systems (think add-ons) to their main learning system.  This does not mean everyone is adding a Digital Learning Platform (aka an LXP) to their LMS or an LMS to their DLP (aka LXP), but what it does point towards is a multi-set of learning solutions, rather than just one to handle everything.  For example, if you are providing employee training and customer training, the trend is pointing towards people having a system for employees and another system for customers.  Now, could one system handle both? Yes, absolutely, but overall, that is not what is occurring in the industry.

Other types of Learning System Connectors could be

  • A SEP connected to your LMS or DLP (aka LXP)
  • A coaching platform connected to your LMS
  • DLP (aka LXP) connected to your LMS or vice-versa  (this is the most common, i.e. DLP (LXP) connected to an LMS
  • Micro-Learning Platform connected to your LMS or DLP (aka LXP) or Learning Platform
  • And the list goes on…

The trend points towards separate coaching platforms, albeit more LMSs and even some DLPs are adding coaching/mentoring (the term lately used in replace of coaching) functionality.   However, if you examine the e-learning industry from a system standpoint, coaching/mentoring standalone solutions are at a higher number than ever before in the space.  

Apps

An app is often listed as a mobile app.  Preferably on/off synch, but as I mentioned in my LinkedIn mini-post, most learning system vendors still are not on/off synch with said mobile app.  The overwhelmingly focus vendors seem to be using their mobile app is for learning mastery, which surprise, surprise creates under utilization of all other functionality on the app (another post for another day on why that is, and what/how it can be resolved). 

You can have multiple mobile apps with a learning system.  Unicorn LMS for example, has a mobile app for their system, another for Minds-I, and then one for CPD.  However, that is not the norm.  The majority of vendors have two mobile apps – one for iOS and one for Android (and yes, it is easy to say one mobile app with two different OS versions).

System(s)

Nowadays clients are connecting their learning system to at least one other non-learning system, usually a HRIS or HCM platform.  A push/pull of data is taking place.   If you have a performance management/talent management system you might connect it to your learning system, which in turn is having it connect to another HCM or say a Payroll system for that matter.  As noted earlier, each connector can have sub-connectors or if you prefer additional connectors expanding off the hub (I just positioned six).

Let’s say you have Salesforce.  Well that is a system is it not?  And you have Workday, but not Workday Learning.   Rather you have Absorb LMS.   Thus, under the systems connector you would have Salesforce Connector and Workday Connector tied to the learning system.  With the learning system push/pull data to each one. 

APIs/Integrations

Extremely popular in today’s e-learning industry. More and more vendors either are showing/visibility their API options (example: Mailchimp, Zapier, Office 365, etc.) or have experience with them and thus usually have the API documentation and thus the API ready to connect to your learning system.  Integrations have always existed in the learning system space, so the new trend is frankly more and more integrations, without the need to do a customization integration thanks to… APIs.  An API by the way stands for Application Program Interface.  And you can have multiple APIs too (again sub-connectors), the proper term is called a Mashup (two or more APIs, and honestly more common than having only one API). 

Content

A must in today’s learning system market. The trend line is showing that more and more 3rd party content shown in a learning system’s marketplace is visible.  Then the client selects the content (most is fee-based, although some is free), and then the content is added or placed into the learning system.  The end users (learners) can access it for free.  This is 3rd party content, not content you as the client have created and uploaded or had someone upload for you into the system.   3rd party content providers include Open Sesame, LinkedIn Learning and Skillsoft to name a few. 

When your learner is taking the content they “see” it in the learning system, in reality however, it is being housed on the content provider’s server, which is why content is another connector.  And yes, it is highly likely you will have sub-sets of content connectors.  

Two trends are appearing when it comes to 3rd party content and a learning system.  First, the majority of consumers (defined by me as the client, and not a learner per se), are selecting two or more 3rd party content providers, when purchasing the content thru a marketplace, with an exception. 

Secondly, there seems to be a trend that if a consumer purchases only one 3rd party content provider (if available in that vendor’s marketplace) – it is either LinkedIn Learning, Open Sesame, Udemy or Skillsoft.  

A third trend in the 3rd party marketplace is the lack of foreign language, which is odd, when you consider that many end users buy/use mobile apps and software to learn a foreign language. Why foreign language offerings are not making a bigger dent in the content provider marketplaces, is due to a series of factors which include among other things, lack of interest by learning system vendors to add them (#1 reason), and a lack of interest among foreign language providers to offer their content in the marketplace and those that do, tend to be very picky, which uh, doesn’t make sense.

Another factor of the lack of foreign language is due to the non listing of foreign language as an interest in any DLP (aka LXP) in the market.  I’ve yet to see one that offers end users (under their options of interests or topics) a foreign language or languages.  Clearly, people have an interest (otherwise nobody would be using Dulingo or Babbell mobile apps for example). 

Tools

Common Tools (trend wise are)

  • SaaS authoring tools 
  • SaaS publishing tools – Inkling for example, would slide under a digital publishing platform, and thus a tool
  • Business Intelligence tool (a hot trend for 2020 and yes, some learning systems have built-in ones)
  • Online Proctoring tool (Yes, I know some people will say this is better listed under systems, but I slide it here, especially in the EdTech space)
  • SaaS assessment tool
  • SaaS web conferencing tool (#1 SaaS tool in the industry tied to learning systems)
  • Any SaaS e-learning tool

What is of interest is that a trend line is clearly pointing towards consumers having at least two SaaS tools for their learning system.  I believe this will stay true for 2020, and likely will expand to at least three tools.

XR Trend

Before you race over to the latest XR trade show with learning (XR is the umbrella term for VR, AR and MR), I’d hold off buying that ticket.  While VR is popular with big companies such as Wal-Mart, and other companies who have the financial purse strings to buy custom VR content, the majority of companies even F500 and Global 2000 are in a hold pattern.   Mid-market, SMB and Small business too.  

There are multiple barriers that are causing the hold and it won’t change in 2020, although there is a glimmer of hope – one 3rd party VR and AR content provider (360Immersive – be aware the web site is a tad confusing and implies they only do safety VR, which is erroneous, because they sell canned content across multiple verticals) who has canned (off the shelf content) with course standards, SCORM 1.2 and xAPI.  I expect them to make a small dent, but most 3rd party VR content is not off the shelf and VR authoring tools are misleading in terms of true VR.

Current Barriers to mass usage of VR content in the e-learning space include:

  • Lack of off the shelf VR content with course standards (that one vendor listed above, should change that, but again, it is very rare as a whole)
  • Cost – Custom development cost is not cheap
  • Headsets – Standalone wireless headsets in the VR space is a barrier, they still do not have the same processing speed you need to avoid headaches, which is over 90hz, the latest Oculus is around 70hertz, has a low battery usage of about 2 hrs, and plenty of complaints that viewing say Netflix and YouTube is underwhelming.  Vive is far better, but the one you want, is around 1900 USD and you setup is not easy.   Oh, and then there is content. 
  • A pure VR LMS – Two do exist, one is better than the other, but even then, to have say VR training records into a regular LMS (i.e. non VR) is not doable. 

AR is a far better route to go, because most folks already have a mobile device, so AR will work with it, but finding off the shelf content for AR for learning/training isn’t that simple (again, that one vendor, could change that).

MR is the future, but not ready for prime time in 2020. The Samsung  HMD Odyssey is far the best MR headset, and that isn’t saying much. Content is the major issue here, okay capabilities too.

Bottom Line

Interconnected. 

Intertwined.

Introducing the Hub

It is already in full view,

Now get ready to see it fully utilized, in 

2020.

E-Learning 24/7

 

 

 

 

 

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