Three Takeaways Today

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Hodgepodge. It’s a nice word, and one that truly reflects this post. I could have gone one route, or selected another or even a third way, but after deep consideration, okay, five minutes, I decided on this way – three takeaways in one article.

Do they have anything in common with one another? Seriously? It’s me. So, no, no they do not.

Will they spur visceral responses? Who knows. I mean what is visceral anyway? I’m asking for a friend.

The Three

PowerPoint is not E-Learning and shouldn’t be used as your course tool/development – For whatever reason, there are people who have been around online learning for years, who still see PPT as a means for the creation of content – i.e. courses. I’m here to tell you – they are way off base.

Learning System Execs of the Year – Something new for 2020.

Early Release of three systems in the Top 10 Learning Systems for 2021

 PowerPoint is for Presentations, not for creating an e-learning course or as part of your course development

I know this will come as a shock because the early days of Adobe Presenter, iSpring, and Articulate Storyline used PowerPoint as their core development for creating a course, thus you would upload your PPT into one of these solutions (and there were others) and a TOC here (optional, sadly), add some images there, save and convert and yowsa – SCORM course for all.  

Rapid content authoring tools took off because of the PPT premise, but just because you could do it, doesn’t mean you should, and here is where these tools and others failed.  They took a premise of strong course design that allows interactivity and engagement, with knowledge of ADDIE or at least some basic ID understanding, and flipped it into a PPT template so that you can create quickly your courses and get them online.

What used to take six months, with storyboards, actual text to design (i.e. 10 pgs to one short-focus area, for example), was now achievable in two minutes.  Sure, the storyboards were out. The brevity of design whereas the focus should be the key takeaways vanished, with that table of contents being an added distraction, and zam, bam – here have your boring static e-learning for the taking.

How many of you, right now, have sat through at least one workplace meeting with Powerpoint as the key viewing item?  How many of you have taken or are taking a course that you know was built using PowerPoint?  How many of you looked at either and said, “this is so interactive, wow, engaging, I can’t understand why anyone would want anything else out there?” – Maybe you did think this, right before the drool from your lip, landed on your home office desk.

PPT is boring.  No way around it.  And I say this as someone who uses PPT with cool designs and such for presenting seminars, webinars, or making a presentation to a company – if they request such a visual.  I find that audience members tend to get irked when they cannot see a PPT as part of the presentation.  So, as with others who speak – PPT rolls in – but here is the key – as a presentation tool, not as a course tool. 

In the early days of e-learning course creation, you could either use your in-house instructional designer(s), self-teach yourself Authorware, DazzlerMax, and similar tools – or have your in-house ID person do it for you, outsource development to a 3rd party aka custom development for your proprietary course.  Even non-proprietary as well, although if you could afford it, finding a 3rd party off the shelf course was the way to go. 

Then Dreamweaver, a tool for designing web sites, rolled out templates for course building.   Before you know it, Adobe Presenter and Articulate Studio showed up, and made PPT the course build of tomorrow, without providing any resources on effective course design, an instructional design that is, or even offering free courses on how to build ID-sound courses.  No need, PPT is here!

Some referred to these tools as merely PPT Flash Convertors because the output was in Flash.  

But any learner, any student taking a PPT course would not mistake it for an engaging piece of content – i.e. course.  Many of them, did not have a TOC (an issue that still exists today, in general), rather it was a forward and back button for navigation.   

Maybe you were lucky and stuck a graphic in there, or animation at a later point once it was available in PPT.  When web links were doable – here comes the fun, the learner clicks the link and goes to a web site, now that is interactivity at its highest level. .

When YouTube arrived, you could place it in the PPT course (via a link) and it played within your course, a new level of engagement, assuming that someone is watching it all.  Granted it wasn’t at the same level of placing an employee in a room, turning on the tv and the VCR/DVD with your content, and then walking away.  Nope, it was far better – because it was online!

Many of the modern authoring tools offer the ability for the course builder to still use “PowerPoint for the course design/development if that person so wants to.  It would be nice if they just didn’t, and actually provided a new design/format for course development that was still easy (for beginners) to do engaging and interactive content, rather than using PPT as the crutch if you will.  As a child, I walked everywhere – home wise – with a Pink Panther toy thing.  That was my security blanket.  You may have had your own security blanket in some form or another, but we all outgrew it.

We left it behind as we moved forward.   So, why can’t an authoring tool, do the same thing?  Why can’t they remove the security blanket of PPT – totally rid the option in their tool, for once and all?  Some do, mind you, the vast still have it.

Just because it exists – readily available for creating a course with it – i.e. PPT, doesn’t mean you should.  

Takeaway 2 – Learning System Executives of the Year Awards 2020

Something new I am rolling out this year, on top of the other awards/rankings I present, will be recognizing individuals who have excelled in the learning system space.  For these awards, and there are three, and they are folks who work at a learning system vendor.

The criteria will be published with the blog announcing the winners later in December.

Here now though are the finalists for the Learning System Exec of the Year 2020 Awards

Learning System CEO of the Year 2020  (remember these are the finalists, and one of them will end up the winner)

  • Karl Metha, CEO of EdCast
  • John Baker, CEO of D2L
  • Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify 

Learning System Marketing Exec of the Year 2020

  • Erin Pinkowski, VP of Product and Marketing, Biz Library
  • Michael Daecher, CMO, Thought Industries 
  • Jill Adams, CMO, Absorb 

Learning System Sales Exec of the Year 2020

  • Jonathan Birnie, SVP of Sales and Marketing, SAP Litmos
  • Joe Hill-Wilson, Chief Commerical Officer, Learn Amp
  • Josh Devanny, Head of Sales, THRIVE

Takeaway 3 – Early Announcement for the Top 10 Learning Systems for 2021 

If you are not a reader of my daily postings on LinkedIn or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, then you would not be aware that I am slowly announcing the winners for my Top Learning Systems 2021 Awards will be published with details, criteria, etc. on my blog the second week of Jan.  Based on 1,000 system analysis in the corporate space (which includes government, b2b/b2c, non-profit, association, customer training/partner training/customer education). 

For 2021, the awards cover the Top 10 only, Plus #1 systems in various verticals/industries, and for small business, small enterprise, enterprise, large enterprise, customer training/education (aka Extended Enterprise).

For the Top 10, here for you are three of them – Just a quick sentence or two, again, extensive details will be on the blog, with pros and any minuses. 

#2 Thought IndustriesThe best system in the B2B/B2C market -focuses only on customer education/training, partner training side of the house.  

#5 Cornerstone Learning Suite – NexGen Leader Grid. Robust feature set on both sides, learner and administrator. Strong in Large Enterprise and Enterprise. Someone to watch in small businesses and small enterprises.  Admin side needs some work though, too cumbersome.  Content anytime is their marketplace very good.   This isn’t your old Cornerstone or Oldsmobile for that matter. 

#6 SAP Litmos – Functionality strong. Lots to like. NexGen Leader Grid. Very strong in Enterprise, Small Enterprise, very good in B2B/B2C.  E-comm still a work in progress.  One of only a few vendors with a built-in video assessment solution with metrics.  Large Enterprise is good, and far superior to any other SAP offering – like, you know, SuccessFactors. 

 Bottom Line

There they are – the three takeaways.  And here are three more to consider

  • A fourth award was announced on social media, the Top Learning Systems Analyst Relations Exec of the Year, Jennifer Borun, Cornerstone OnDemand
  • If you believe PowerPoint is the best solution for course design and development, then one must assume, you have a Paint by Numbers Dali hidden away
  • LXP is a segment name that is fading fast. Vendors that were in the LXP space, are switching to calling themselves Learning Experience System, Learning Experience Platform, Digital Learning Platform, People Development Platform, Learning Ecosystem, and Learning Platform.  There are those who still refer to themselves as an LXP.  By the end of 2021, I expect the LXP moniker to be still in play, but with a much smaller list of vendors, as the rest switch to another learning system category. 

E-Learning 24/7 





  1. Great post. To be fair to PPT I have seen (almost as rare as a dodo bird) some cases where a person with real ID skills made PPT sing and turned it into an interactive engaging piece of learning content (which was later converted into a course that looked the same, but of course published as SCORM). However, like ya said the tool encourages a “presentation” approach and design and thus this is what you you get when this is used as the medium, the tail wags to the dog.

    I would add PLEASE PLEASE stop thinking “narrated” audio makes it interactive and “special”. Audio used judiciously can be great, but as pure narration – ugh. Oh and if you want your learners to really hate you and block out your training, lock the next button until the audio narration is complete. I mean can anybody really read and comprehend content faster than the audio narration??? (Heavy sarcasm 🙂 )

    Congrats to the learning leaders too!!

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