Halloween Edition: Tricks and Treats

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Spirit, That’s me

Hi I’m Spirit. Dad isn’t around, so I am taking over. At least, until Voodoo, my brother comes back, and then see ya. Anyway, Dad walked away, and I wanted to tell you all the wonderful things I love to do on Halloween. Whine like a Banshee is fun. Then, Dad gives me a treat, and I stop. Maybe in 15 minutes I start up again, Dad comes over and pets me. I like that, but uh, what about the treat?

Okay, Dad is back, I have to run.


There has been a lot of weirdness going on this year, in the learning system space, some that turned out to be treats for everyone, others that were tricks – to you, to me, to those noises you hear late at night when you are the only one in the home.

Have you even seen your TV turn on, when it is unplugged?

Or found a picture in your smartphone gallery that you didn’t take and shows a chair that wasn’t in your room, and your feet backwards from the rest of your body?

No, uh, yeah, uh, me either. Anyway, where was I?

Trick or Treat

Trick – Assigned Learning

The Mass Exodus aka Great Resignation is real. In August, in the US alone, 4.2M workers left their job. These are not just front-line workers, or blue-collard, but office workforce at all job levels and roles.

Three items are often cited for folks leaving:

a. Burnt out

b. The company/biz does not value me as an employee

c. The company/biz does not know who I am, doesn’t seem interested in me, and doesn’t care.

I will not say that online learning will retain employees, what I will say though, is that right now – you, can do something that can address and counter these items in your learning and training.

Personally, I was never a fan of assigned learning, unless it is for compliance and regulatory.

If someone wants to learn a new skill, why do they have to go on some path in order to learn it? Why can’t they just select the skill, pick an area here, or an area there, without being told, “No, no..you have to go this way”?

Assigned learning is not fan. It is impersonal. It is subjective based on what L&D or Training or whoever oversees the learning system and e-learning, thinks the employee should follow, at the same time, espousing learner-centric. I want to learn graphic arts, but it is not part of my job. Assigned learning, says – sorry, that isn’t possible. You can only learn skills around your job.

Look at the above and ask yourself the following:

  • “The company doesn’t care about me” – Does assigned learning say you do? Wouldn’t allowing your workforce to pick and select skills of interest be a way, to show that you do care? Wouldn’t embracing the idea that empowerment in learning is a stronger route to acquire and retain knowledge, then forcing someone to follow the same path as everyone else?
  • “The company doesn’t know me, doesn’t value me” – If everyone is on the same path for that specific job role and those skills – how does that say “Yes, we know you”. If you do not offer any personal or professional development courses/content, where does the value show up? And the caring of the employee’s well being?
  • Do you have any wellness courses/content in your learning system today? Have you created any webinars where topics such as Yoga (sessions are scheduled, folks invited to attend) can be started, with a weekly meet and conduct Yoga, remotely? Do you have mediation sessions tapping into your webinar/meeting angle or mediation sessions, yoga, etc., sessions recorded and then available for your learners, via the mobile app/via the web? Do you tell your employees, that these courses – “create a library of personal and professional content” is available to their significant other, partners, family? Do you offer an executive education program (tied to a university) whereas your employees can take courses (online), to learn more on whatever, at no charge to them?

Assigned learning is the worst way you should be conducting your learning and training (exception being compliance and regulatory which is always a protect/cover the company and biz, and is why so many people wait to the last minute to complete it).

Assigned learning is a bag of candy corn. Liked by few, pushed by many. And just as Candy Corn, assigned learning doesn’t really benefit the employee, because it is based on your tastes – no theirs.


Did someone say metrics?

Metrics that actually matter to your learning and training? Where you can segment the data, slice and dice, and correlate as well? Where the data visualization looks like it is new and not from Excel? Where in some systems it is extremely equal and in some cases better than a BI (Business Intelligence) tool? YES. YES and YES.

Segmentation and advanced metrics are showing up more and more. There are two routes this is going, one I love, the other, well, it is not a trick, but it’s not a bag of Peanut Butter cups, either.

The Great Way – TREAT

It comes with the system. No additional cost. There are vendors who have struck deals with BI providers, and thus the metrics/analytics you see open the back-end is from that BI tool. Fully integrated at no charge to you. And yes, there are vendors who build their own advanced metrics solution, and replaced what was once there.

Then there are vendors who offer an advanced metrics capability, but it is an additional cost, an add-on. What you receive in their system, is basic, in some cases, quite, and in many cases have an Excel 2010 appearance. Okay, some have the latest Excel pie charts. Nevertheless, it is underwhelming.

But, wait, there are vendors who from a reporting side, require you to download the report and segment that way, skirting their responsibility to have it in their system – as part of it, without DL required.

I can think of two systems, right off the bat, who have simple analytics/metrics in their respected platforms, but offer advanced analytics for an additional costs. If I was these vendors, I’d get rid of what they have now, and place the advanced into the system, as the analytics themselves.

No one is forcing you to use all the capabilities, but equally, no one is saying, you can’t. I build successful e-learning programs around metrics. Views means nothing. But looking at the top pieces of content tied to a set of skills wrapped under usage and time, can say a lot. I know there are plenty of folks who do not believe in a learning preference, but for those who do, you will see very quickly the preferences of each and every one of your learners – from online content deliverables, to the amount of time they spend, to where they go with others, to what they never touch – and perhaps, why – especially if the topic is of great interest to them.

The top three vendors who I have seen, who have the best metrics/data are:

  • Fuse – Outstanding, great UI
  • EdCast XP – Outstanding, the UI is solid
  • Degreed – Can’t say much right now (But what I saw… ) – Goes live in a couple of weeks.

Bonus – Coming In mid November

Mid November 2021


Learning System Executives for 2021

These individuals brought to the table, effective strategy, outstanding work, including communication, responsiveness, knowledge and people skills that are crucial in today’s business world. Sales success and business strategy tied around ARR and Growth for CEOs and similar.

I wish as I noted the other day on LinkedIn, that I could add another 50 even, 75 names to this list, because in 2021, there were so many outstanding people out there, that just WOW’d me.

The original list (published on LinkedIn) had 19 names. This one will have the added one, to make 20.

In no particular order

  • Luke Oubridge, CEO, Fuse Universal 
  • Karl Mehta, CEO, EdCast
  • Ann Findlay, VP of Sales, Thought Industries
  • Christian Weibell, Chief Product Officer, Rockstar LP
  • Jonathan Satchell, CEO, Learning Technologies Group
  • Dor Nachshoni, CEO, Juno Journey
  • Roberta Gogos, VP of Marketing, Fuse Universal
  • Chris Bondarenko, VP of Sales, Docebo
  • Robin Wadsworth, President, Thought Industries
  • Todd Tauber, SVP, Strategy, Degreed
  • Joe Hill-Wilson, CCO, Learn Amp
  • Phil Saunders, CEO, Cornerstone on Demand
  • Peter Hedström, CMO, Learnster
  • Anders Willumsen, CEO, Eurekos
  • Erin Pinkowski, VP of Product, Biz Library
  • Kenneth Chapman, VP of Learning Innovation Advocacy, D2L
  • Jeff Fissel, VP Solutions, Instilled LXP
  • Dawn Baron, Director of Marketing, PeopleFluent
  • Jennifer Borun, Sr. Director Analyst Relations and Strategic Engagement, Cornerstone On Demand

And Number 20

  • Veronica Veroulis, Director of Analyst Relations, Pluralsight


Future Leaders of Tomorrow – I always like how people will note “tomorrow”, as in it may be tomorrow, or next year or five years from now. Initially, I had this very short list, as my “Future Leaders of 2021 for E-learning”.

Keep an Eye On Them: I see great things….

  • Joe Yates, Senior Enterprise AE, Schoox
  • Anna Lloyd, Director of Product, Learning Pool
  • Rob Bennett, Enterprise Sales, Formerly of Intellum
  • Andrew Hauser, Director of Client Services, PeopleFluent
  • Jessica Miller, Digital Marketing Manager, Blue Volt
  • Guy Caldwell, VP of Bongo (digital coaching and skill validation solution)
  • Pamela Dumont, VP of Marketing, Intellezy (content provider)

Learning System Treats

  • One Learning System (name withheld) offers voice navigation throughout their mobile app. Which I find very cool. I do wish other vendors did this, but go beyond navigation – and also enable it multi-platform. Example – “Click Course. Start Course” – That would be innovative.
  • Degreed is launching Degreed Intelligence soon – I saw one component that just blew me away. It is very cool and will do wonders for some many folks. Promised to hold off on what it is, until after the Degreed LENS show in early Nov. – But it just pushed so many ideas around what they could do with it.
  • EdCast XP aka TXP continues to get better and better. I love that they now included Domo, a robust BI tool as part of the system, at no additional charge. A few other items are in the works, one that I see as more vendors doing in 2022, as EdCast will become just the second vendor to offer it, but the first that includes it at no additional charge (the other vendor charges for it). It takes building/developing to a whole new level – for anyone, not just the tech person you can never find.
  • I still believe that Fuse’s natural language search capability where you can ask a question that then produces the content relevant to it, is a big-time game changer. They are the only system to offer it today, everyone else does tags or similar.
  • Learn Amp’s latest version of the system, is another wonderful win. From UX to skills development, there is a lot to like. Learn Amp continues to be under the radar for so many.
  • IMC-AG will be rolling out something called Channels in 2022, along with a few other new capabilities. With a slick UI/UX, definitely of interest.
  • All included is definitely the way to go, when selling a learning system – a “suite” if you will. You can always turn off a capability or mod (for example), then turn it on, when you are ready. Add-ons just saw extra fees. I understand the vendor’s perspective on the add-on, in some cases, the “new add-on” is tied to a 3rd party provider which isn’t free to the vendor, so they need to offset the cost, by passing a bit onto you. On the other hand, there are vendors who just include it. After all, there are plenty of ways to generate additional revenue – what you think pricing is based on a formula? Then there is a setup fee – easy to place the “add-on” there, as part of the whole package. In other words, it is better to pay one-time, then yearly. Speaking of which..
  • Docebo’s Discovery, Coach and Share is really quite nice. I wish it had an updated UI, that said, the content curation capability (pulling free content down from the web, BTW is not their AI doing this), selecting and asking experts, and a few other items, brings this out. Not a fan of the “Quora” approach, personally, still, I have always liked it. The downer? It is an add-on to the LMS – Learn. And you pay yearly for it. No surprise, it is their best seller.
  • Learning system vendors continue to add course/content marketplaces, some refer to it as “elearning marketplace, ignoring that the term is actually e-learning, but I digress”. Always remember that the client, could be you, selects and buys the 3rd party aka off-the shelf courses/content, sticks it in the learning system – and your learners access it for free.
  • Not a total surprise, but in 2021, the “combo system”, this is one which targets employees and customers, that I saw (and so far, I have seen nearly 30% of the global space), skews towards employees, when it comes to features, messaging and capabilities. There are a several outliers, Skill Jar for one, targets and messages customer ed, although at one time this year, their split was 50-50. Valamis, acquired a vendor who focuses on employee onboarding. Which is odd, since Valamis pushes the whole customer-ed angle.
  • Enterprise continues to be defined – by user base – all over the map with learning system vendors. The number one range is 1,000 to 2,500; with 5,000 to 10,000 coming in second. However, I continue to see 500 to 2,500, 500 to 1,000, and even, 1,000 to 10,000 being defined as “Enterprise”. One vendor bases it on total revenue – bad idea, another starts at 25,000 users as “Enterprise”.
  • If you are an Enterprise, and the vendor says we have a lot of clients who are Enterprise, ask how many are in your user base range, and what does the vendor define as Enterprise – by active user base. If they can’t tell you or won’t share, move on.
  • The two best systems I have seen in 2021 for the customer education market, are well, systems whose client base is over 85% customer focused. One of these systems is over 90%. They are Thought Industries and Intellum, in that order.
  • Looking forward to seeing Biz Skills, the new learning platform from Biz Library, which launches in early Nov (so if you are reading this post, by the 2nd week of Nov – it will be live). What I have seen so far, I like.
  • Drag and Drop on the Admin side, with administrators being able to select from a series of “widgets or blocks” continues on the upswing. I am a huge supporter of this, especially when you can customize the widgets – in a simple manner. This is specifically for the admin, to speed up the process, looking at key data points.
  • Drag and Drop, move around with your mouse various blocks/widgets, and allow the learner to select the blocks they want (via a drop down on their homepage) is overall a work in progress. Nevertheless, the number of vendors offering it, has surpassed last year. I believe it is a must, especially if you continue to push learner-centric.

Learning System Tricks

  • I’m tired of hearing mobile responsive or mobile first. It means nothing, except spin. Even if a vendor does not have a mobile app, you can view their screens via your mobile web browser, in fact, if a vendor says we have mobile learning, or mobile responsive or mobile first – that is all it means. The screen may not even be the same screen you see on a non-mobile device/it may not allow you to go landscape – Portrait is the most common view, so looking at the system from a tablet, will drive you bonkers. There are vendors who still do not have an Android app, even though Android has over 75% market share worldwide. I understand the reasoning due to technical, but come on. On/Off synch – which you definitely want – continues to be in slug mode. If I hear one more vendor tell me, that everyone can access the net with fast speeds via their mobile app or at home using Wi-Fi, I am going to talk to a tree, because the tree has more brain power. Ever heard of a smart mesh adapter? You probably have at least one at home. It boosts your WiFi speed. And that 5G angle? I will say no more.
  • If you – the vendor are targeting the customer ed/partner training or B2B, or B2C segment, messaging that your system is “Ideal for the workplace” or “performance management” is a sure way to lose out on those clients. Why would I want a system for PM, when I am selling courses/content to B2B clients or via e-commerce?
  • Stop telling people that your built-in authoring tool is a “content editor”. Nobody even knows what that means, and well, maybe that is the point. A built-in authoring tool (unless it is via a 3rd party SaaS authoring tool) is never going to match a commercial tool. Yes, it is true anyone can build a course or content, and it is equally true that it will not be highly interactive or engaging – because that is not how these built-in authoring component is designed (again, excluding a 3rd party integration with a legit authoring tool vendor).
  • Why are vendors (as a whole) not coming with digital assets, especially stock photos, and other tidbits as part of their system? Do you think everyone has these assets readily available? I know of a few vendors who direct folks to sites that offer 100% free stock photos, and one vendor actually has a deal in place with a royalty-free stock photo place (this is paid angle), that the client gets to use for free – it is integrated into the system. I’d add a template for Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, whereas the L&D or Training dept or whoever can edit and put in their own wording. It is not like some small biz has a legal team.
  • Stop with the AI spin. It’s not AI, it is machine learning, which is based on an algorithm that is trained with a data set (initially) and continues. Not all algorithms are alike, so please do not assume that vendor’s A data set is the same as Vendor B. I always ask what data did they train their algorithm on.

Treat or Trick – Helpful Tips

Skills is huge, massive even. More vendors than ever before are adding skill libraries and taxonomies. Yet, overall, skill capabilities are very low. We are still very much at the infant stage. I saw a system, last week, who doesn’t even have skill ratings (basic skills feature) in their system. This system is growing, and pushes skills, so it is definitely odd.

I see a lot of “on roadmap” when vendors complete my template around the skills tab, and even when I am looking at the system itself. A few vendors, will say they have the feature, then when reviewing the system, they do not. Perhaps it is just a word misunderstanding. But it could easily be, that the salesperson has no idea, after all, they are not privy to what product managers or the product dev team is working on. So rather than saying, “I don’t know or I will find out”, they say yes.

For the Skills data – which they have in their system (if they offer or have it) always, always ask the following:

  • Does your data come from any 3rd party services or providers? (EMSI, Burning Glass – now owned by EMSI, IBM Talent Watson, Job Boards, LinkedIn, Public sources, etc.) If yes, please list which ones.
  • Does your data come from clients too? Or just clients?
  • Please provide the percentages of the data being used in the system from 3rd party sources (Example: 10% LinkedIn, 5% Our own, 25% Job Boards, etc.) – Job Boards is the worst. HowNow for example, data is heavily via Job Boards. Most vendors, who have skill data, will use multiple sources. The #1 (besides the vendor’s own data) is EMSI. EMSI is the best IMO. #2 – LinkedIn.
  • How often do you validate the data to ensure it is accurate? How often is it updated?
  • What is your process if a 3rd party site’s data is hacked? How can we be assured that the data will not be corrupted?

Bottom Line

Hey everyone, I’m back. Spirit here. Dad went for a snack, I think it is for me. Cali, my sister, is nearby, watching for Voodoo. I told her, that Dad is getting her a snack, even though it is for me.

I hope you enjoyed the tricks and treats – tell me, did they taste like bacon, because I love bacon, it is my second favorite flavor, after peanut butter.

Do you have any peanut butter for me?

Because treats are meant to be special, like me.

And tricks, well, as Dad always says,

“Back in the day, I would get this Halloween candy that looked like small soda bottles. They were filled with some unknown liquid, which every one drank.

Then plenty of us kids chewed on the wax. “

It sounds delicious.

Does it come in peanut butter?

Spirit and E-Learning 24/7