DevLearn 2022 – Rewind

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To say nothing exciting happened at DevLearn is to say, that the Mirage hotel, is still a great hotel, and the idea that some company plans to refurb it or rebuild it into something else is unheard of. Wait, that is exactly going to happen. Say goodbye to the Volcano, and don’t get me started about the room. On the plus side, or I hope not, DevLearn won’t be there in 2023 because a gutted hotel is not a place to have a show.

This year’s show was full of pageantry the likes that have never been seen since a Rose Bowl Parade (overrated). Seriously though, there were plenty of vendors making their first debut at the show, and that went from great to, uh, yeah. The biggest aspect, well, at least from my writings about the show, and vendors who need a course in how to do a trade show with, you know, prospects walking about, was something I will get to shortly.

On the other front, there were plenty of vendors who hit a home run, not just with marketing messaging, or outstanding staffing, but also product-wise. From my perspective, there was a lot to check out, including some systems and offerings that brought pause – in a good way. Did I see an offering that made one system stand out and thus win Best in Show for 2022 at DevLearn?

Let’s hit Rewind

Helium – by Thought Industries

Before covering Helium, I want to mention that there are already vendors using the term “headless” technology as it relates to their learning system – you can expect to see the term more in the coming year.

The easiest way to explain what “headless” means is something along these lines (again, in basic terms)

  • Separate out the front-end (learner side) and the back-end (Admin side) so that the client, can take full control from the development aspect – so that the client can edit the code, add code, and define what the system looks like and what other platforms it can be delivered on and consumed.
  • One of the biggest challenges in the industry is full customization. Vendors nowadays, the majority at least, do not want to do mass customization. They will do some of the basics, the usual pieces, but if you want to overhaul the system, yeah, limited options. The vendors who do offer it, charge quite a bit, which detours many a person.
  • With “headless” that changes. If you want to go full tilt with development and mass customization, you can. If you don’t, and want a few tweaks here and there, you can – via the code. This goes beyond the usual tweaks, that folks again, do themselves – with systems that enable HTML or some CSS editing.

Now there are systems that spin “headless” but cannot go as deep; thus, “headless” will no doubt add more confusion to the space.

The challenge with “headless” is whether or not you have an internal development team that can pull it off, or at least one person with coding background to do so. A large company (as I define Enterprise) or very large, it is quite likely. Other size entities, across the board. It is not like your IT person has a coding background because the majority do not.

This “headless” technology shows up in “Helium” a free add-on to Thought Industries Learning System dubbed TI Enterprise Learning Cloud.

To me, it is a potential game-changer for a variety of reasons/factors

  • The full customization angle, that goes beyond the usual common route of the learning system space, regardless if within the system or via the vendor’s professional services team
  • The ability to deliver/consume content anywhere – although to date, TI does not have a client who is pushing out say via IoT or VR for that matter.
  • Limited CSS editing is out, Helium includes Tailwind CSS. Other development items are React and GraphQL. Oh and Server Side Rendering
  • Storybook is included
  • An extensive development site is included, it is pretty extensive and covers just about everything – from examples, coding and minimum requirements. I liked that you can check the code and the it will identify if there are any errors – and then you can see which ones you need to edit.
  • I found there were a few codes already included, for those who want to do a quick cut and paste job. TI plans to add more next year, which I found to be the right approach.
  • There is a Theme available called Astro, again for those who want a template to build from. There are people who love the theme design angle – from a coding standpoint to save time. Anyone who has used Elementor for example, will appreciate this option. I use it for the FAL web site.
  • Coming next year, the client will be able to hire 3rd party developers/teams, if they want to do Helium, but do not have the staff in-house. This will appear as a marketplace if you will.
  • Clients will be able to offer (either for free or sale – price) their own development codes/pieces, extensions they have created, for other clients to purchase (coming next year).

Thought Industries also has TI Connect. Numerous vendors in the space, have added something similar, including Docebo – Docebo Connect, EdCast by Cornerstone (can’t recall the name), and the list continues. Every vendors should offer it – always an additional fee. It is basically an extensive list of APIs you can connect to, using “recipes”.

Other Winners, err stood out

Actually let me first talk about “all hype” lack of delivery. There were multiple vendors there pitching VR training platforms, which was more in alignment around VR content for the most part. It looks awesome as a whole, but there is always a litany of items, folks forget about:

  • VR headsets. They are not cheap – the top one for Meta, runs $1,500 USD per headset. Plus, how many are you going to buy for your employees/customers/members and so forth? What about those working from home?
  • Liability. Meta Quest for example tells you to map out your room. What happens when that employee trips over a shoe, or some other item and hurts themselves? What if they go into the sliding door or hit their hand on something and it breaks? Don’t laugh it happens all the time. And, so you need to have a liability form, because trust me, someone will sue. If you plan to do it at your workplace, where? And what about those remote workers or hybrid? For those who provide it only to specific groups, what happens when employee X complains because they are not getting enough access because you didn’t buy them a headset.
  • Let’s go conference room – how many employees at one time? When – time wise are you going to make this available? Ditto in the warehouse
  • If you give out headsets, do you plan to lock down or how would you for WebVR browser? How many companies lock down company-provided laptops?
  • Remember you will need to upskill all your end-users on how to use a VR headset, use the browser, and so forth. Enjoy those training materials.
  • Taking the content in a learning system. Unless that system is VR, then you have someone using their VR browser to a place that is not VR. Somehow get into the system, to take the VR course, on a non VR platform.
  • Content isn’t low cost. Yes there are VR authoring tools, but the ones you can find anywhere and made by a couple of big brands is not full 100% VR. The ones that are, tend to be with the VR platform itself. Custom content will set you back at least 60K USD for good.

VR just isn’t going to gain mass in the L&D and Training communities. It will continue to be for a fortunate few. And no amount of hype is going to get it there.

Other winners

I saw numerous learning system vendors who are under consideration for the end-of-the-year Top 20 Learning Systems, and for the early 2023 awards. Each one showed their systems well – okay, a couple didn’t – but that is a marketing issue and technology.

Those at the show were

  • Thought Industries
  • Eurekos
  • D2L
  • Docebo
  • NovoEd
  • Schoox
  • Valamis
  • Learning Pool
  • Litmos
  • Cypher Learning
  • G-Cube
  • Tesseract Learning
  • Intellum – another F for messaging, “Edtech” – when did you jump into Higher Ed and K-12?
  • Bridge – who scored a Big F for messaging, where was the customer ed mentioned?
  • LearnUpon
  • Training Orchestra – If you are interested in what a training management system is, I recommend going to my Learning Library

On the authoring tool side, I thought dominKnow did the best job. Sure, Articulate had the better location ($$$$$) and bigger booth, but it was the same ol same with them. Next time, just have an Avatar.

I am not a fan of seeing a demo at a show, so in my quest to check out vendors of interest, I learned a few things – some of surprise, okay, most not.

  • One vendor, can’t even remember their name, but they did proctoring was curious if ILT was going to make a comeback, since they are doing mainly online. The answer is NO.
  • Micro-learning continues to be misspelled, but beyond that it is not new – even learning system can do it. 7Taps looked interesting, Arist (a bad booth, and huge fail with a salesperson), another intrigue, but you couldn’t see the product, unless you found someone with a laptop – plus, they are not the first vendor to do what they are doing – that said, a demo is coming. Ditto on 7Taps.
  • Other scheduled demos include Lucy, Skill Gym and Realize-It.
  • To no surprise, of the vendors I checked out, on behalf of a client, only one has followed thru with a planned demo (the client is a company in the consumer goods market). Every vendor was made aware of this. This issue will follow-up is not new -it happens at every show – and no, it isn’t just me. It is a constant complaint from folks. You can expect around 40% that will never follow up.

The QR code

Egads. I brought this up in my review of DevLearn on LinkedIn, and you would think I announced that Freddy Krueger created the Mona Lisa.

Only a few vendors had a QR code on their booth. One was a very small booth, two folks in fact, and they offered to schedule a demo – face to face. i.e. no need to scan the QR code.

The QR code was to schedule a demo, although at least one vendor could download some information with the QR code. The latter doesn’t bother me; it is similar to leaving materials for folks to take with them, which usually ends up in the trash bin.

As for the demo scheduling, no, just a huge no. And that is where it started because when I sought the VP of sales for one vendor to reach out to, rather than scan a QR code, it was sacrilegious to do so. The way to get a hold of them? Via Linkedin. That works out so well for folks who don’t know you or want to connect for whatever reason. Anyone who is on LinkedIn knows exactly what I am talking about. One vendor who was pro QR code; I honestly don’t recall seeing one at their booth. Maybe it was there, but if so, it wasn’t immediately visible as you walked by.

The feedback I heard from the various group of CMOs and VP/head of sales with numerous vendors was that

  • Bad idea for QR code – to schedule demos
  • Not having the person’s name or at least take your take name info to have them reach out was a bad decision (again, I was looking at them for a consumer goods client) – I can’t ascertain if they didn’t take folks names, but the VP of sales info was not something they would provide – hence going to schedule a demo via QR code
  • We are – L&D and Training, people people. We like to talk to folks. Even if it is nothing more than asking for a demo isn’t that difficult. Have a person dedicated at the booth for scheduling demos. They can find out what the person or people want to see, answer any questions ahead of time, and so forth. A vendor is in the customer service business at a trade show. Vendors seem to think they need to qualify, forgetting that there are people at the show who are not the decision maker nor are privy to everything that will be needed (if they are not the DM). When you push a QR code, you are betting that the person knows how to scan a QR code (not everyone does) or will be fine scanning it- especially since there are security experts who recommend using a QR reader with antivirus or malware protection with it. My QR Reader has both of those options.

You can do what you want as a vendor, but this is the time to showcase, not dissuade. I hope never to see a QR code at a show to schedule demos, but based on the feedback I received from those who think it is a great idea or a must, others will follow suit. For some industries, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be with ours.

Bottom Line

Fast forward.

The show is over. Traffic was better, according to vendors who were at DevLearn in 2021. The DevLearn staff did a great job; it was easy to navigate to the show, and it was not a hassle to find things. The net was spotty, common at any trade show, and attendees enjoyed the show.

The vendors seemed happy.

It’s all about being seen.

Remembered.

Except for that one vendor whose name escapes me.

But I know they had a black booth and offered proctoring.

Does that count?

E-Learning 24/7

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