Hits and Misses in 2022 – Learning Systems Edition

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Hits. These are the capabilities, ideas, components, even messaging that scored well in 2022. Some are truly the “score”, that will go forward in 2023, to I believe not just imitators, in one case, and I would be one who would follow suit, then there are “scores” which bounced off the crossbar or off another player and went in. In other words, they delivered, but they didn’t fully achieve.

Misses are just plainly missed opportunities. Missed chances. Missed capabilities, whereas they had something that is “gold” but didn’t leverage it, or in some cases, were unaware of what it was – I see this a lot – and thus, failed to capitalize on it.

And finally a hit that will come down to a party that normally doesn’t do a good job of messaging, delivering, let alone explaining. It’s success or failure will come down to that specific party, thus either game changer or game that got away.

If you love jumping and pinging here and there, you are in luck. This post will bounce from Hit to Miss to Miss and Miss, back to hit.

HIT – A perfect score

Helium from Thought Industries. I’ve written a bit about Helium, and what it can achieve, but in basic terms, it gives full power in terms of UI, and to some degree UX to the client. You may have an IT/IS person who knows how to code, combine them with a graphic person (for the design elements), and let them at it. The Learner side can look vastly different than out of the box, and to a lesser degree the admin side. Even with limited development skills, there is an area within Helium, where a template is available, and code snippets – you select say X, the code is provided, and a simple cut and paste. Big wins for me, include

  • A complete tutorial available online with visual steps, i.e. you can see how it works, then play within a sandbox environment (you create it). The tutorial though is totally designed and orientated to developers.
  • Everything you need is there – excluding of course, what you plan to add
  • It’s 100% free. Comes with the system. So you can go full throttle and take the UI and some UX this way, or you can do a bit here or there. Be aware you are not changing the functionality angle, nor would you want do – especially around metrics, etc. But you, well, whomever is the developer now offers flexibility to add this or that – perhaps various APIs.
  • They plan to add a marketplace in 2023, whereas a client, could hire “developers” for Helium. A perfect example of what this will likely look like or at least where you can get a sense is how Shopify does it, if you want to hire a dev team to create/change your web site. Some can do only off the templates you select,others can do it all. To me, this would be the best route for TI to go – template twists or dev to the hilt. There are though IMO, areas that need to be worked out, from a process to validation standpoint. Plus, there could be a separate cottage industry for Helium (more on that shortly)

Why use Helium?

Thought Industries is for customer education/partner training, associations, and other B2B/B2C, like training providers for example. Helium today, I believe is targeted towards larger entities (they define their entire platform as “Enterprise”, which only adds to some confusion). However, you could be at a small company or even a person, who sells content and knows how to code.

The Power of Helium is the client now has the control for design and experience. This has always been a challenge with various vendors, especially today, where turnkey (out of the box) is the standard, a few tweaks included, and thus implementation times are very short (a plus). The number of vendors who can do full customization is very small, and it is labor intensive (on the vendor part, which means cost), and priced high on the buyer side. Helium though, pushes out the cost – as in the cost is significantly lower to the vendor, from a labor standpoint, and for the buyer, the fee to do what you want, is zero, as in Free. The implementation/update time is all around the buyer. Thus, you could buy the system, and get it ready, then start working with Helium. Go live, and offline, work with Helium, then when ready = push it go live. So, system is up and running, say in one month, but the “new” version, your version comes out in four months. I really love that side.

What about other vendors?

They should build something like Helium, and offer it to their clients. Regardless if they are customer education focused, combo (customer/employee), employee, heck even EdTech – if they have coders – which BTW would be ideal for students who are seeking coding skills – here you go..

The Benefit?

Customization control is given to the client. The vendor, doesn’t have to do it.

Final Take?

Helium is a game changer. There is no doubt in my mind, that it could rapidly change the industry, commercial wise, and offset the usual spin I hear on folks going open source, because they want control of the code. Yet it is better, because you still get the goodies/functionalities/capabilities in the system, that you purchased, plus their – the vendor’s updates, enhancements, etc – thus you are not just getting a shell.

You just score on the UI and some UX.

Helium says you can have your cake and eat it too. Or give it to Steve who has been eyeing it for the last 20 minutes.

The Cottage Industry

Depending on how many vendors see something like Helium as a must for their system, and in 2023, it should be on that roadmap, if I was exploring other LOBs, something like Envato would make sense. There you can find templates for specific solutions – WordPress Or Shopify or Magento and so on. Templates will play a role if enough vendors follow the Helium approach (creating their own), because many people will want to try, but lack the skill sets, and perhaps do not have the budget to hire someone to code. In something like Envato, which is a marketplace by independent folks, the templates can get really extensive in what you can do. I’m not saying you will see something like this in 2023, let alone 2024, if anything the vendor’s themselves would be the template drivers, nevertheless, it could lead to a niche cottage marketplace.

HIT – Cohort-Based Learning

A Topic I’ve written about here and here. There is definitely a lot of interest in 2022 around cohort-based learning, from a vendor standpoint to a buyer standpoint. If you truly want your employees, customers, partners, whomever to learn, cohort-based is the way to go. However, it requires strong metrics/data behind it, otherwise, you will lose out on its possibilities.

The Potential Miss?

People thinking cohort-based learning is the same as group/community learning. I’m not just referring to buyers here, but vendors in a big way. Group and community learning has been around for more than two decades. So it’s not a new concept, cohort-based learning as it relates to corporate is.

The challenge I see for folks, who aren’t sure, or just perceive group/community as the same, or want to provide the change to do it, but need to explain it for anyone, well here you go.


Group Learning/Community

  • You have a bunch of people tied to a course/content, or the entire community, or a specific topic, albeit the course/content, learning path and entire community are the most common.
  • Reactive – they have a discussion board, forum – you post, at some point, someone responds, hopefully with something more than “interesting”. Chat text is awesome, if this is 1998. Not a lot of interaction here, which is why nobody is using AOL as their “communication/browser” of choice.
  • That bunch of folks tied to a course or learning path – it is assigned and they have to complete it. There is not a free flowing process here. The folks are often in the same department/or same role, with whatever other factors the administrator or the person overseeing designates. The manager might have a role in deciding who on their team goes to this group or that group. It’s all about the approval process. Dictated by someone, who may not know their own team members, skills, interests or potential – beyond the limited contact they have.
  • Social engagement? Not really. Did I show you the discussion board?
  • Learning Choice? We have to be in this group, with zero flexibility to switch to another if we so desire. Someone behind the curtain, controls our learning.
  • All for one, and one for none.

COPs – aka communities of practice were a novel idea in the early 2000’s for online learning, first seen with WLAN or LAN networks. But they lost their fizz, and although there are vendors who have attempted a psuedo COP via their group angle, it doesn’t really deliver – because its flaws are inherent.

Cohort-Based Learning

  • Think Knowledge Journey – Embed that term in your brain, and think only around “knowledge journey”
  • What is a journey? A way to discover new things, ideas, interests, information, content, communication with other fellow folks along the way, interaction, experiences – Knowledge
  • It is limited in scope – 10 people per cohort. No more. A group has lots of people, part of its flaw, a cohort should be limited, but here is the kicker – you have as many as you want, AND the learner can be in as many as they want.
  • Proactive – because User generated content is allowed – that’s right, each learner in the cohort can create their own content and share it. I saw this on LinkedIn – a perfect example, of shared content, visual in its appearance via a screen record. The person who presented it, was talking about this nifty trick you can do in Excel. It was seen on the screen, right within their post. Whalla – and people responded, some with other tips and tricks. And I suspect, someone will add another screen recording of their tip, and now you have a discovery. Something new to nearly everyone, known to someone who wanted to share it with others. Take this approach, and the forum angle is gone – social is in play, because each person is adding their own content to the entire cohort.
  • People are in the cohorts based on variety of topics – don’t limit them to a learning path, or a specific task, that is group learning. People who cohort-based, can search for other cohorts that are available – each cohort identifies minimum requirements or criteria or is available to “all”. This is done with content, why limit there? People are in multiple cohorts at any given time. Some last one week, others six months, or even a year. They control the process, not you. Cohort has a start and finish date, but it doesn’t mean, once people complete they walk away or become inactive. That’s groups.

Cohort-based is ongoing, because of the social interaction, user generated content, and duality methods of communication (video, audio, real-time, with offline too, via your mobile app would be a good idea).

Coaching is not in cohort-based, and coaching is not the same thing as mentoring. You want mentoring, because that will bring folks back into the cohort, as new ideas, are brought up, new methods and approaches to acquire knowledge, that goes beyond the start and stop of a topic.

The people are anyone. From C-Level folks to newbies. You want on-boarding? If a senior exec or C-Suite person is new, and Michalea is an exec assistant, and is new, they go into the same cohort.

The Holy Grail

When authoring tools came into play, the item you would hear over and over again, was the idea that the learner while taking the course, behind the scenes, the course would recognize what the learner is doing, successes and challenges and then based on this, you would end up on a different pathway within the course. Thus 10 people taking the same course, could end up on 10 different paths. The authoring tools couldn’t accomplish that, an algorithm wasn’t in play then, but behind the scenes of creating the course, you could create these steps to go this way or that way. Still, it wasn’t the holy grail.

Adaptive Learning makes a spin around the adaptive learning experience, but I have yet to see it, achieve the HG status. Cohort-based learning, those cohorts could achieve it, with the right algorithms in place.

Could cohort-based learning change the way you train, and your employees learn? Absolutely. Adaptable. Ever-changing. Ever-engaging. Social. Empowered.

The Miss?

The Loop.

We, are in an endless cycle of the learning loop. It started probably a few hundred years back, and as technology has evolved, the loop hasn’t. It shows up early in school, then college/university, and right into the corporate landscape. Some associations go loop too, but interestingly enough for obvious reasons, they have broken free to a point.

The Loop is Assigned Learning. Everything is assigned. You are in this “course”, with this group or nobody – usually it’s a group, just not always visible, and you must complete. Once completed, you have acquired the knowledge, so the Loop says. You were assigned tasks. Each task completed. Knowledge acquired. Retention has to exist, because the loop says, you completed it. You, as the admin or the person overseeing the whole training or L&D or Education department, looks at the percentage data, sees high completions, and says, “see, ROI!” Completion is the driver here. Not Learning. Synthesis? No. Comprehension? Dependent on many variables. Retention? Perhaps, depending how often they return. But people eye that “completion” as though that is the only data point of value.

Assigned learning is often pushed for compliance and regulatory, because everyone knows this isn’t a proactive approach, rather, a protect thyself and company approach. Nobody is going, “I can’t wait to take Age Discrimination”. Should they know it? Absolutely. But reality is that many people, including HR execs, I know, will wait to the last minute to take and complete the course. They pass the test – which they can take as much as they want – and see?

It’s just completion.

That’s the loop. Assigned to Completion Data. Engagement? No. Social? No. Mentoring? No. Various ways to learn with others? No. Metrics that can truly ascertain engagement with content among everyone tied around other variables associated with the loop? No.

The Loop is Broken

Folks realize this, and yet, continue on the loop. Steve D (from Fuse) wrote a wonderful piece of LinkedIn, around content with an example of a topic his son was trying to learn. Social played a major role and the way of bouncing back and forth to retain. The post covers the flaws of SCORM, and I concur. What though got my eye, was the content sharing and approach – it isn’t this way or the highway, rather, it is any way, whatever works. Free flowing.

The Double Miss

Vendors who jump into cohort-based, I believe are going to be the ones who have to know what cohort-based learning actually is (hint, read my post on it) and then make sure, their salespeople can explain it, with right to the point pluses – you want ROI? Here is how it will deliver (the key will be the metrics).

Vendors have to be the knowledge keepers here, since many people do not know, and thus won’t ask for it, or think that because they use the loop, let’s just keep the loop going.

The miss will be, many won’t know. They will hem and haw about it, or espouse information that is over here, when it needs to be there. The trickle down theory of knowledge IMO with many salespeople is all over the map, on other capabilities, even e-learning itself. I blame the vendor, because they are not providing this information to their salespeople. I recommend some cohorts ASAP.

Other Misses in 2022

  • If you purchase Cornerstone and decide to buy some content via Content Anytime (it’s an aggregator from Cornerstone, with multiple publishers), where you aware that the Grovo content (owned by Cornerstone) allows you the ability to edit it and tailor the content to your business, etc? My guess, is not. Why? It’s never messaged.
  • Speaking of Cornerstone, they have a DAP – Digital Adoption Platform – called MyGuide. It’s an add-on. I say, include it in the LMS, at no charge, and ditto for EdCast (where it initially sat, and was still an add-on). I like MyGuide, but with the recession afoot, having to pay extra isn’t what I would do.
  • Degreed has this wonderful gem called “Guidebooks”. I continue to see it as GOLD, and yet it is part of an add-on – Degreed Intelligence, and it is never pushed strongly about its benefits. I say include it with the Degreed system – at no additional charge. I am telling everyone – this thing rocks – Guidebooks. It enables anyone to create an executive summary, dashboards, and other items, without having to figure out what should I add or not – because of how and what you can do – easily. and quickly. I’m still shocked that no other vendor has thought about this, replicated it with tweaks, and offered it.
  • Ignoring the recession. Departments are getting gutted. Yet what I hear and surprised is how many vendors are either ignorant that it is here, or coming depending on your take, and thus have no game plan for how it will impact their business nor how to help their current clients or future clients. There will be verticals/industries who will take a bigger impact than others. And I know vendors who will feel that, because they play heavy in those industries.
  • Missing the Message. If you are targeting customer education/partner training/B2B and so on – say it. Clearly. I should see that on your home page. I should see that at your booth. I should see it in your system (which is a mixed bag). If you are targeting training, say it. Bridge, as noted at DevLearn, wants this market, they talk about it, and yet, their messaging? Workforce development. They are not the only ones. Go to any vendor’s web site, and if you can’t figure out in the first three minutes who their system is focused on, then that tells me, they either don’t know themselves or that marketing missed.
  • Add-ons. More and more folks are starting to seek out systems that have it all. Look, you do not have to use it, you can turn it off, but you aren’t paying more down the road.

Huge Miss – Actually mistake

Way too many vendors think that everyone has a BI tool, or everyone that is a large enterprise (which is defined in numerous ways by vendors), and thus, why include one or some level of advanced metrics in their system? That’s a bad approach.

Ditto on the premise that more employees or customers, means that the client has a higher budget. Sure, 100,000 users or 25,000 users is one thing, but there are vendors whose cutoff begins at 5,000. If you are less than that, not interested.

Here’s the problem. In that range 5,000 to 10,000, the budgets can be all over the map. I’ve had clients in that range whose budget was a maximum of 40K. And I’ve had clients, with 1,500 users whose budget exceeded 750K.

Each of these have something in common, which anyone who has provided training or learning, knows – never assume. Right? Those who oversee these areas – training, L&D, Education – association wise, and has done any training, even teaching, knows the rule – never assume.

Vendors that do this though? Assumption.

Final Hits

  • Vendors who offer to white-label their mobile app, so it doesn’t have their name on it, when the employee or customer goes and seeks it. This is fee-based. Typical PP is 10K. If your vendor does it, I recommend it, especially for customer education (aka training), especially if you are selling content. I know of one company who did this, for their employees.
  • Biz Skills – All the content is already mapped. Genius. And yet, another surprise that no one else is pre-doing this, which could be done with the 3rd party content in the vendor’s marketplace. Mapping content to job role/skill is time consuming, and in some cases handled by aother stakeholder. If the vendor does it ahead of time, that’s a huge win IMO. With Biz Skills, they will add/remove, if you desire – and it is included. Time consumption goes bye-bye. And that other stakeholder? They can stay on the sidelines.
  • Thinking out of the box. There are always early adopters in this industry, and those who take a risk, and see what happens – sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. But for far too long, it has been the same ol same. Over and over and over again. I’m seeing finally, a change. It is more of a ripple, then fledged wave, but more vendors are trying to think of new ways – beyond the “learning experience”. A few are well-known, many should be known, but are not – due to marketing- and yes, those that are on the horizon.

Bottom Line

The hits and misses for 2022.

One final miss, though is that way too many people continue to blast out RFPs, without first looking at the system (schedule the demo), and on the other side, way too many vnedors want to do a setup call, before you can see the demo. Here’s a thought. Schedule the demo, and discuss the needs/etc. during the demo. A setup call is a waste of time. If that is your angle, then have the buyer send over their use cases. Review, and follow-up, prior to the demo.

It can be an informal demo, just here is the highlights, we can do a more formal demo, after this or this or this.

A picture tells a 1,000 words as they say. Not you talking about something I can’t see.

Final Note – This post is dedicated to my late friend, Todd Lindeman, who passed away, right before his 56th birthday. I was there in those final minutes. I won’t forget that.

Nor him.

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