Learning Systems RFP and Tier4 NexGen

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EXTRA! EXTRA!  Read all about it, that is what the kid on the street corner back in the 1800s and early 1900s would shout to get your attention to buy the latest penny press.

If you have ever seen “Newsies” and I am personally sorry if you did, they show a perfect example. 

I note this, because this post covers my new Learning Systems RFP Template, which includes the latest NexGen Tier 4 feature sets.  Everything you need to know will be in this post.  This is why, you can actually download a hard copy of this post for future reading or bonfires. You choose.

Why one RFP instead of specific ones for LXP and LMS?

Simply speaking the systems are becoming extremely similar, with only minor differences.  This could change in the next year or so, but for now, depending on what you are seeking can be found in this template.  If you are not interested in X or Y, just delete the row(s). 

When see the template you are going to be like “this is a lot of features and categories, no vendor will complete all of this.”  If they want your business they will.  This is far better than them receiving a 20 page RFP or 100 page RFP.  Vendors who gripe, clearly have never experienced a 10 page or more RFI/RFP (and high page RFPs are common).  

NexGen Tier 4

Each year I publish a NexGen Grid, with last year being the new T-Grid for NexGen.  There are vendors who achieved a perfect score for Tier 3, and there are some now who have many Tier 4, just not all of them.  Thus, if there is something you see in the Tier4 level, be aware that vendor may not have it. 

That’s okay for now, but find it if it is on their roadmap.  If the vendor asks you what do you mean, I can tell you that is a) not a good sign  b)unlikely to have it and c)if they pull the “oh, we call it this,” – then this means you believe there are Lizard people living by you. 

To offset the “what is this” a vendor may ask, or just for your own knowledge, I included some terms and definitions in the template. 

Here are the Terms and Definitions

Some are brand new to the industry, but popping up in places and yes, the industry continues to confuse folks.

vILT – The instructor/presenter/trainer appears via a web conferencing tool through the system, or on some other virtual tool/system, and conducts the session online. It is a new term in the e-learning space.  

Classroom Management (not a new term, but a lot of people get confused on what is means)  – This is for physical on-site training whereas the instructor/trainer/whomever presents before attendees. Aka ILT.  Resource management is a feature that checks to see if that item is checked out, before you decide to check it out.  Think, you want that projector, your company only has one, and Fred in accounting has it. 

Machine Learning – System uses an algorithm, which is initially “trained” based on a set of data. Then afterward the system continues to learn, through user actions, additional data streams added, etc. Some vendors are very open on what was the initial data set, others less so.  Machine Learning is a subset of AI.

Skills Management – Replaces the term competencies (which is an old-school term).  LXPs were the first ones to really leverage the use of skills, but vendors across the board or jumping on board with it.  Still, the LXP space leads overall, especially with skill ratings for example. 

Event Management – Scheduling capability, includes calendars, waitlists, notifications – a must – you will want. Covers webinars, online instruction classes, seminars (F2F, although right now that isn’t happening), events, and so forth.  Waitlist is a must feature.  Auto waitlist is ideal, this way you are not having to go into the system and manually add folks to the session, if Sara decides changes her mind and not attend the webinar.  I find that folks often confuse event management with classroom management.  BTW, you want the calendar feature.

Digital Coaching – Replaces the term coaching. Expect Digital Coaching to grow extensively. This is something you will want in your system. Please note that some features are very brand new to the industry and thus not every system will have it.  In the template there are some NexGen Tier 4 features in the digital coaching section.

Video Assessment (Tier 4 NexGen) – This is not an “assessment” that appears in a video or you add to a video. A video assessment is based on speech patters/words used when practicing a scenario, sales training techniques, customer service techniques to the coach/mentor/manager.

A VA component will always include a listing of over used words, words that are difficult to understand, a transcript with highlighted words (so the learner knows), and a form of metrics visual via data visualization on the learner screen. This is very brand new to the industry, so a lot of vendors do not yet offer it.  

xAPI – Often referred by vendors as Tin Can (the proper term is xAPI).  Is not the same as an API integration. It stands for experience application program interface. I recommend you wanting xAPI for your system. It is a course standard, and many claim it is far better for content on a mobile device than SCORM. 

CMI-5 – A replacement for SCORM, which many consider outdated. CMI-5 is still very new to the industry, and while there are some vendors who offer it, it is not a need right now. 3rd party content providers do not support it (the majority), authoring tools do not support it (a lot of them), and thus, if you really want it, prepare to see your options dwindle significantly.

Online Proctoring (NexGen Tier 4) – This is through the learning system, whether via a 3rd party system (API integrated – and usually the case) or within the system. Security measures are very important with online proctoring. A very good tool will require the learner to either scan/photograph their driver license (not a fan of this), or capture a photo of them through their web cam.

Basically, the learner looks at the web cam, the software lines up, then takes the pic. The proctoring can be timed – i.e. you have an hr to complete type of thing. Please be aware that it does not usually mean, that a “live” person is on the other end of the system “as a live proctor”, like you would find if someone had to physically take a certification examination or exam of some sort, and a human was watching them.

I have seen online proctoring systems that use bio-metrics and there are a few, who offer a live human watching but they require the learner to have their web cam (i.e. the proctoring provider). I do not recommend this type of solution. Online proctoring is new to the corporate learning system market. 

Sections in the Template that are new, hot off the presses

  • Video Assessment – This is something you will want by the end of 2021. It is often used in conjunction with digital coaching, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you are doing sales training, customer service training, call center training, anything that requires F2F interaction, even online, this is going to make a huge difference for you. In a good way.  Right now, SAP Litmos (LMS) and Brainshark (a Sales Enablement Platform) definitely have it.  Expect others to join the club.
  • Microsoft Teams – Super hot right now in the learning system community.  The features contained within, not every vendor will have.  Always check to see what their solution looks like within Microsoft Teams.  The Big Ticket Item you will want (a must by 2021) – ability to stay within MS Teams and do everything you could do in the learning system (it mimics the learner side), and you never have to login to the learning system.  Data is auto-pushed into the LXP, LMS, Learning Platform and so forth.   Majority of vendors do not offer this capability, yet.  MS Teams is a NexGen Tier 4.
  • vILT (Tier 4 NexGen) –  It is rare for your learning system or any learning system to have a proprietary built-in web conferencing solution, thus API-Connected is the usual route vendors go.
  • Extended Enterprise (B2B/B2C) –  If you are doing or want to do customer education, then this section is extremely important to you. Extended Enterprise is old school term, but I am aware that some companies and even vendors still use it.  The more appropriate term is B2B/B2C.   A couple of the features always existed in the B2B/B2C section, but there are a few that are new.

NexGen Tier 4 Features

Please be aware that the majority of systems do not have every NexGen Tier 4.  Always check if you want specific ones listed here and where is it on their roadmap, if they do not offer it.

The reason a lot of folks end up hating their system is they buy it based on their needs now, rather than looking down the road.  L&D and Training needs change frequently, and if you have a system that isn’t forward thinking, you are not going to be a happy camper when you need it, and they are not even considering it.

All Feature Sets in

  • Video Assessment
  • Microsoft Teams
  • vILT

The following Features in other sections

  • Online Proctoring – This is new to the corporate world.  Has existed for a while in the EdTech sector, including education/HE systems.
  • Templates (can be edited) for Terms of Use/Privacy terms/Etc. – that can be added to the system, when a user logins the first time. This is an ideal for customer education.
  • System comes with digital assets (stock photos, clip art, video clips, themes, etc.) that the administrator can utilize in the system. Should be free.  Some vendors tap into agreements with iStock for example, most do not.  This is not a common feature set, but if you do not have a graphics team on hand for you beckoned call, it is nice to get.  Rare in the space right now.
  • Supports California Consumer Protection Act – CCPA does not go into effect until 2021, and is a law, not optional. If you are not in CA, you do not need this feature.  If you as a vendor, have any customers or are interested in having clients in CA, you will need to develop this feature. 
  • Where are their servers hosted – The most common in AWS.  It is always a great idea to know where they house their servers.  For folks that ask vendors all types of security questions, I can tell you that their responses, if they are on AWS or Rackspace for example, are coming from those pages on those respected sites.  AWS stands for Amazon Web Services.  FindAnLMS for example, my learning system search engine is housed on AWS. 
  • Exchange Connectors for Zoom, Microsoft 365 (they re-branded, originally called Office 365), Outlook 365 (surprisingly, not ever vendor can tap into the calendar for Outlook 365) and Shopify. 
  • Built-in business intelligence component which is the metrics/data back-end of the system.  There are vendors replacing their metrics/reporting developed by them, with a robust BI tool.  Those that offer it, usually it is integrated via a 3rd party and you do not pay for anything – it is included, and you can’t even tell it is 3rd party.  One vendor I know built their own. 
  • Create your own library of skills, including definitions
  • Match a skill or a series of skills to a piece of content/a playlist
  • Ability for a pre-assessment to identify skill strengths and areas to improve
  • System can generate a playlist based on skill rating, skill level or any other skill related variable (achieved via machine learning)
  • Skills tied to job roles/job profiles, which can be used to submit to jobs within the company (if applicable/available as part of the system)
  • Learner can rate their own skill(s)
  • Manager can create, edit or delete skill ratings for their own team
  • Allow managers to assess an employee’s existing skills
  • Online Proctoring
  • Mobile app checks bandwidth speed and will modify for optimum FPS (Frames Per Second) and Quality of Content 
  • End user (the learner) can change optimum speed or quality if they want to (does not need Admin approval)
  • Auto notification when CEU/CPD needs to be completed, before expiration
  • Built-in Themes (client can select a “theme”)
  • Mobile coaching capabilities within an app
  • Peer to Peer Coaching
  • Client can create their own courses (via system or 3rd party) and sell them on vendor’s course marketplace – to other clients in the vendor’s system
  • Learning System vendor creates curation content playlists
  • Learner can create their own content playlist and share it with others (who may subscribe depending on system)
  • Learner can create multiple playlists
  • System can use job roles and/or skills to identify and present recommended or suggested course/content playlist (constantly updates)
  • System can scan documents, courses, content, audio and video files and produce text results in a transcript or similar items

UI/UX Specific

  • Ability on the learner side, to move widgets around (drag and drop) – With admin approval
  • Administration – Options are on the left side of the admin screen, center or right of the admin screen.  If left side, should be able to close the sidebar if you will.
  • Administration – Options are clear on what is listed under them (example: User Management – then under it, add new users, edit, etc.).  I’ve seen some funky terms vendors use, and areas that make no sense. 
  • Administration side – Drag and Drop capability

Bottom Line

I could use the usual “One Ring to rule them all,” but that is dated. Speaking of which, if you decide this month to watch “Newsies” and I can’t figure out why, check out a young Christian Bale.

He may not know the NexGen Tier 4 features, let alone anything regarding learning systems, or the new template, but he can sure sing.

E-Learning 24/7

No blog next week.  Week after, MS Teams for Learning and Training. The Pros/Cons and what you will need to maximize it for learning/training.





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