Best Learning Systems for 500 or fewer learners

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The magic number.

Some people would say it is eight, after all, the future of civilization is eight with that magic 8 ball. Who denies this? I recall some Schoolhouse Rock cartoon that identified the magic number. I can’t recall what it was, perhaps two? Seven seems to be a popular magic number. A lot of people think it is lucky. A lot of people also thought the pet rock was a worthwhile investment back in the ’70s.

1,000 is the magic number for a lot of vendors. It is the cut-off if you will. There are vendors that unless you have a minimum of 1,000 end-users (regardless if they are employees, customers, etc.) are not interested.

I know of vendors who will go below 1,000, but their “sweet spot”, the number they really would prefer is a minimum of 1,000.

Vendors (as a whole) go all over the map with the term “Enterprise”. As I always say it is whatever the vendor wants that number to be. In just the past six months, the magic number has risen. The days of at least 301, are fading. Now, 1,000 to 5,000 (a percentage goes 2,500 to 10,000) or the second most popular 5,000 to 10,000. Larger numbers, are Enterprise, this way, if you, fall in the range, congrats – Enterprise. Perhaps then, the magic number is 2,500. That is another “sweet spot” for quite a few vendors.

What about the less than 1,000?

Is 500 to 999 an option? Yes. 1 to 999? Yes, although to be honest, 1 is sort of a non-starter although there are some vendors that will say it.

The bigger question is what is “small business”? If a vendor believes the magic number to be 1,000, they tend to equally believe that 500 to 2,500 is a small business. How can you be a small business at the same time, as a mid-market (the usual is 1,000 to 2,500)? You can’t, which is why there are vendors who say SMB – Small and medium-size business.

This whole backstory is relevant to understanding, the magic number. The number that a vast majority of vendors see as the minimum.

The list presented before you drops down below 1,000. It drops below 999 or 850 or 625 or 505.

500.

500 end-uses. When you say to a vendor, “I want a quote for 500 end-users”, and they go into the whole active end-user, remember that the quote will be based on that total number, not active per se. I mean, if you pay upfront, where exactly do the active users come in?

At 500 or less, you pay upfront. Actually, to be honest, the majority of vendors require payment upfront, even at 2,500 or 5,000 or 10,000.

To identify the top 10 learning systems, the data is based on the following (it includes UI/UX)

  • 50 to 500. The range for this segment. If it is less than 50, yeah it slides under the 500, however, I considered vendors with a minimum of 50.
  • Features matching the 500. In other words, what functionality do these systems provide that aligns well with the smaller size audience. Knowing that if you go with customer education, the smaller number should increase in time, as you acquire more customers/clients/partners/members. There are systems that believe 50 to 500 should be simplistic because nobody in that range wants a robust system. I surmise that these same systems (i.e. vendors) have Chia Pets sitting on their desks.
  • The vendor is committed to taking its system on a forward journey. Nobody wants dated. Every vendor says modern UI, because if they said, “Lycos anyone?” – after learning that was a popular browser in the late 90’s, you would bolt. You want a system that says, “Okay, we want this audience of end-users”, and “we still are going to add this or that, still going to push to go here”.
  • They know the market. 50 to 500 is not the same as 1,000 to 5,000 or 10,000 or higher. Totally different audiences – not so on functionality per se – just approach, process, fully understanding the use cases far more than a vendor who has the majority of their client base at 5,000 or more. Heck, even 2,500 or more.
  • If I know that the vendor’s ideal minimum is at least 1,000 they are not in this list. If I wasn’t sure, but I knew the system inside and out, I could easily figure it out. For example, anyone who has ever hired a speaker can see within the first 30 seconds whether they might be a fit. Within two minutes, either a go or no go. The same logic applies – you know. It’s not about being famous either, I rejected some NY Times Best Selling Authors, because I wasn’t airing an episode of insomnia cures.
  • There were a couple of vendors whose pricing lists the “most popular” as 1,000, but they have plenty of clients below that. This is a marketing angle, like saying the most popular dish is “Scorched peanuts on a stick.” In reality, it isn’t, but they have a lot of peanuts to unload.
  • Support to meet the target size audience. Not all support is equal – as we all know. Support for this segment should go beyond a few “videos” and a knowledge base.
  • Pricing – look the price per seat per month (ignore the whole active end-user spin), is going to be high for this size of the audience. It just looks low when you multiple by 12.
  • Match the system. There are plenty of people who compare a system that is ideal at 500 with a system that is targeting 5,000. It is not a fair comparison. Nobody is going to compare a Ferrari to a corolla and say to themselves, “this is a fair comparison”.

Best for 50 to 500 end-users

As you can see, I didn’t go with a top 10 or top 425, because “best” doesn’t mean the best system on the planet, what it means is that above all other criteria, I’ve covered in the past, the system has to hit the above items. Pricing was a bit wonky because vendors change pricing all the time, and their bands (i.e. range behind the scenes) change too. There is price it to the hills and there is a fair price. I looked at the latter.

  • Biz Skills – I love this system. From the UI/UX to the whole skill mapping to content ahead of time – a massive time saver. This system is perfect for folks who have limited knowledge around skill mapping to specific courses/content. Biz Library knows the 50 to 500 audience quite well. They sell Biz Library LMS too, which is a fit for the segment, but I think that Biz Skills is just better. They are the first system to do 100% skill mapping to each piece of content ahead of time. That’s impressive.
  • LearnUpon – While the whole 500 plus (means 500 or higher they see as Enterprise) says one story, the majority pricing makeup is under 500 – and knowing their pricing I found it to be fair value. The system is quite good, with lots of features to offer, but if you are eyeing skills strength, look elsewhere. Worthy of consideration for customer education, albeit, the system below, is a tad better.
  • Knowledge Anywhere – Really a wonderful system for the customer education segment. Lots of functionality and capabilities. Fair value for pricing. They know the audience size and market and excel at many levels.
  • The Brainier LMS – Employee system, brings a lot of nice elements. While I wish their metrics were better, the system as a whole offers key functionality you want/need, plus has an element of “we want to move forward” and is not afraid to do it.
  • Talent LMS – Strong player in this segment. A lot of capabilities and functionality and they definitely know the market. This isn’t a system that screams skills for all, but it does offer enough variance that it just clicks for me. Pricing is slightly above fair market value, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for you – it is still quite affordable – very affordable at this market size.
  • KREDO – I know they will disagree in some aspects, because yes, they have larger audience sizes (the vast majority of systems do too, i.e. they target 5,000, but have clients at 25,000), but to me, though the 50 to 500 is a good niche for them. I like the system. There I said it. Employee angle here. Readily admit though that the system won’t be for everyone. A slight difference between UX (user experience) and many systems.
  • Nimble LMS – If you can get up and running in less than 10 minutes, then yeah, you are focusing on a specific segment. I like the inclusion of a built-in authoring tool here, and while quick turnkey (aka as self-service) may skimp on some capabilities, they do meet other criteria.
  • Kokm – I looked at them from the corporate standpoint (employees), but they play in the customer ed segment too. Functionality-wise this system offers a lot. E-commerce comes with the system, which is nice, they offer a lot of integrations, and mobile-friendly too. Pricing is fair value. Nice UI/UX. Another vendor who, again, lands big clients, but they do quite well in the 50-500 (albeit, more at the 250-500).
  • Eurekos – A customer education system that bills monthly for your active user base. This is why I slide them here. The usual mantra of active users – is to pay upfront. Eurekos doesn’t do that. Do they have clients that exceed 100,000 active users? Absolutely (and they do quite well here) – but again, they fit quite well in the 250 to 500 segment. Support is very good. Moving forward system is an understatement. Runner-up to the best learning system for the customer education segment 2022. The price value is very good. Be aware the website is in need of an overhaul – i.e. don’t judge the system because of the website.
  • NetEx Learning Cloud – Ignore the whole micro-learning pitch (every system does this, and has since 2000). Feature-wise – strong. Ideal in the 100 to 500 route. UI/UX for the most part is slick, but they fall into the “this is cool UI/UX”, but over here we just uh, look, a shiny penny. Metrics I wish were better. Still, a worthy value for employees.
  • iSpring Learn LMS – UI/UX is quite nice. Gamification, integrations, URL masking (aka alias) is a win – I wish every learning system offered this for custom domains, rather than shoving their name in the “custom domain”. iSpring is known for its authoring tool, which still plays a big role here – a factor I did weigh. However, the system aligns well in the 50 to 500 segment. Mobile too.
  • Rise – Another learning system that falls into the same “authoring tool” first then an LMS wrapped around it angle. 50 to 500 is essential here, IMO. Offers some good functionality, and I do like the level of integrations they offer. They are one of many vendors who think “lessons” as a term is applicable to the corporate learning market – it is definitely NOT. Anyway, minus that, the metrics are another so-so. The vendor behind Rise is Articulate. They have money – invest in better metrics.

Who Missed The Cut

  • Docebo – I know their “sweet spot” and ideal minimum. That pushed them out.
  • Totara – All over the map – sure you can go at 50, or 10, but their approach of direct to consumer (here in the states), and preference to blast more than 1,000 end-users, just couldn’t get me there. Plenty will disagree. I’m okay with that.
  • Learning Pool – Ditto. To be honest, go with Stream LXP – it has many of the LP features in it anyway. Sunset Learning Pool the LMS already.
  • Systems that come in cheap or say they are free or look like they just learned java and HTML. There are a lot of these systems out there. Sometimes cheap means, well, cheap. Let’s not forget, that your learners are going to access these systems. Let alone perhaps customers.
  • Moodle – Yes, it is free – but that is before you need to host it, or resources to build it, and support when your end-users need help, or someone who can maintain and update it – they aren’t free. Plus, I’ve never seen a WOWOW Moodle system built by clients. The slick ones tend to be by folks whose whole market is Moodle mass customization.

Borderline

Udutu LMS – Their price point is fair value – actually it is very inexpensive. . Offers a wide set of features. . UI is okay – UX the same. The system has been around for more than a decade, and I would hope they would have done way more with the UI/UX since then, which played a role. Definitely plays in the 50 to 500 segment and there are some nice components here. But there were misses too. I debated about them, multiple times – and slide them here. Confident they won’t like that. I’m equally confident, that the recycle pickup truck driver gets a kick out of waiting until the afternoon to pick up the recycles, just to irk me.

Bottom Line

The magic number.

Did you know the Ancient Greeks thought the magic number was three? Yeah me neither, it is amazing what a five-minute web search can show. Nine is another number by some other folks, don’t ask me who, no clue.

Schoolhouse rock?

It’s three. Then again, explaining e-learning to Schoolhouse Rock would be the same as them

explaining what is a bill to me,

when I was five years old.

E-Learning 24/7

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