Top 10 Learning Systems for 2023

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What is about top 10 lists? Besides the fact that when you seek out the “best whatever” you can be inundated with top lists, all of which are affiliate links (the tiny words, “we may receive a commission” – which says in reality, “if you buy any, we have an affiliate link attached to it, and we make money”. I never trust those things, and sadly, they are now appearing in major publications giving them extra credence they are legit. The NY Times, uses Wirecutter, which states the commission angle, but equally has who looked at this, and what is their background and such. I have found some nice things via it, but also do a comparison.

Rule of thumb when looking at top 10 lists, if all of the links go to Amazon, then it isn’t a site to trust.

The good news here, is that a) none of these are commission links, nor any monies changed hands whatsoever, b) none go to Amazon, c) this is 100% independent and again, I always recommend doing your due diligence. What I am looking at and analyzing may not be what you are seeking or exploring or considering based on your criteria. My crib notes (which contains only a part of the entire analysis, hence “crib notes”) can be found here.

Interesting tidbits for this year’s top 10 for 2023

  • Country Representation – For some reason, there are folks who think I am focused specifically on the U.S. or have a U.S. slant. Truth be told, I never consider where the system is based (HQ). If they are worthy of the Top 10, they are worthy of it. This year’s top 10 are from Canada, Denmark (two in fact), Italy, England, United States and Israel.
  • Target audience focus – Employee-focused is gaining traction – this means the system is heavily tilted or focused on employees only (if you want to use the system for customer education/training, you can – after all you are the client. A vendor won’t say “no, you can’t”), Combo still plays high here, and there are a couple that are customer education driven – focus. One vendor is changing their focus in 2023 – you get to learn about here first!
  • Pricing – I base this on 1,000 users this year; and this is list price – not a negotiated deal, nor extras, or professional services or a bumper sticker you want as part of the deal. The ratings ($- Affordable, $$- Average, $$$- Above Average, $$$$ – Pricey). The majority of vendors in the industry slide into the $$ to $$$ area. What I am seeing, is that vendors as a whole in the industry in the mid-market range – 1,000 to 2,500 users are still listing high prices. It will be interesting to see with the recession, if they will drop. As of right now, that doesn’t seem the case, even though many target L&D, which is being cut from companies or downsized. Ditto with HR, Training and yes – marketing, which there are plenty of systems that slide over there – as i.e. Marketing oversees the system.
  • If the vendor is in FindAnLMS.com, it will be noted as (FAL). The goal of FindAnLMS is to have the best systems in the world, NexGen systems and systems that are new or you may never have heard of. In just the past year, we added several systems. Of the Top 10, one vendor is not in FindAnLMS. And it was not a requirement to be considered for top 10, let alone top 20, let alone top 75 and so forth.
  • You may love a system that isn’t in the top 10, or loath a system that is in the top 10 – Again, I must stress, I am looking at it with 15 variables for criteria. Are there vendors in the top 10, whose support is average or below average (IMO and yes, there are vendors who know it themselves) – the answer is yes. Are there clients of said systems who dislike them for whatever reason, but stay on them anyway? Yes. The reason is simple – they do not want to look for another system, due to the process. Now is that a good reason? No. That would be like knowing your car is a lemon and you hate it, but purchase another one, from the same manufacturer because you don’t want to go thru the process and considering a new brand.
  • Screenshots – this will appear when I publish this blog and the other (11 to 20) in January. It will appear in the Learning Library.
  • Rankings go from 10 to 1. A different spin to the 11-20, you will whether the vendor targets L&D or Training. As usual, Combo means that the vendor goes targets employees and customer education. Usually tends to skew towards employees, however one vendor, Docebo, their system has more customer education clients than employees, but not enough to hit the threshold of 80%. If the system has or is near 80% or higher with employee focused, they are listed as “Employee”. If they are 85% or ideally 90% or higher, they focus on customer-education. The systems that are customer-education here, are above the 90% threshold. Combo dominates the market.

The Top 10

One final note, there are some vendors in this list that will have a few bits of insight, others that go much further. No reason why, that is how I rock. I will try to do a Pro/Weakness that needs improvement angle (not con per se) and do it as a three-to-three ratio, but some may be more Pro and less Weakness. No system is perfect, everything can be improved. Except Pepsi. Coke learned this the hard way – New Coke anyone?

#10

Juno Journey ($$ to $$$), (FAL) (L&D) (Employees)

Pros

  • Very modern UI/UX, administration side is strong, metrics/analytics are quite good
  • Skill capabilities are in the upper Tier, with a few rolling in 2023 (for the industry, which again as a whole is at infant level, expect this to rise dramatically in 2023)
  • Really great with manager, admin pluses such as the QR code to track attendance status (e.g., no show, cancelled, attended) of all types of training (e.g. instructor led, online, virtual)
  • Curation, Playlists and Machine Learning hit a home run.

Weaknesses

  • No mobile app. It is 2022, okay the end of it, what is taking so long? They are not the only vendor that doesn’t have a mobile app, but even with those vendors, it is a consternation. Oh, there is a vendor out there (not JJ) that only supports iOS. Yep, don’t go Android it only has 70% market share.
  • While the UI/UX is very slick, modern, etc. – the latest version with some features around it, didn’t make much sense to me. Sure, the functionality is there, but a couple of adds and how they presented it, didn’t work for me. And yes, I told them.
  • Lacks the ability to schedule and e-mail reports. This is pretty much a standard feature nowadays and has been for quite a period of time. With a system that hits power with lots of great in functionality, missing this piece, again, was odd.

#9 (Is that the magic number? Sorry my Schoolrock recall is a bit fuzzy – Schoolrock for folks outside of the states was a dominate cartoon in the 70’s. I’m just a bill, is the best one IMO. Should have won an Emmy).

NovoEd ($$ to $$$) (Both, but skews towards employees), (Combo, but skews towards employees). I think it can work with customer education/partner training if you launch it right, and associations too.

Pros

  • The closes to a full cohort-based learning platform in the industry. Super close in fact (based on my specs in the cohort-based learning post)
  • UI/UX on learner side is quite good. Learners will love this. I did.
  • Metrics are solid. Lots to like here
  • Functionality tied around cohort-based learning is on the wow factor. Again if you are seeking a cohort-based learning system for your learners, this is the dominant player – and meets that. If you are not seeking that, then, this isn’t for you. I feel head over heels for it. Deserves a Hallmark card.

Weaknesses

  • Admin side needs a fix – this is in the works, but it doesn’t align in terms of UI/UX to the Learner side
  • For cohort-based learning angle, way too many people can be in a community
  • While I like the metrics as a whole, it is missing items that really could tell me via segmentation what is really working. I will add, that from cohort-based learning standpoint with other systems, is isn’t there either. And metrics in the learning system space in general, does a poor job when it comes to really telling your learning story, which trust me you want.
  • Lacks ADA508 or similar

#8 (What is that liquid in a magic 8-ball? Be honest, you have thought about this too)

Pluralsight ($$$$) (Both, but because it is tech skills focused, more focused on L&D) (Combo, skews employees)

Pros

  • The Rolls Royce of UI/UX for the learner. The dark theme isn’t for everyone, but this just screams “WOW”. From the boot camps, to prep testing, to well, across the board.
  • The Ferrari of UI/UX for metrics. Every system should have this level of metrics, data visualization, and specifics around the data. It tells you the learning story.
  • Functionality and capabilities around learning tech skills – this packs a whallop of what a learner can do, including a sim angle – which is a must for learning tech skills.
  • Skill capabilities are in the upper tier
  • This system is tech skills only
  • Mobile app with on/off synch.

Weaknesses

  • Does not support ADA508 or similar – They are not the only vendor that doesn’t but again, it is about to be 2023.
  • Admin side capabilities is a mixed bag. For example, the admin cannot set multiple levels of approval. The UI/UX is very nice, but not at the Learner or Metrics UI/UX.
  • Cannot track CEU/CPD which to me would be of use for a system that is tech skills oriented. Perhaps I need to have so many CEU/CPD for a specific role or objective. They are not the only vendor that doesn’t do this. I wish they would though.

#7 (The most common lucky number, across the world. I didn’t look up why that is, I was too busy reading the Wall Street Journal)

A TIE – Which means both vendors had the same total number of points. I went alphabetical order here

Absorb LMS ($$ to $$$) (FAL) (Both L&D and Training and Marketing too) (Combo)

Pros

  • UI/UX for Learner and Administrator is good. Learner side especially, lots to like here
  • Overall, functionality scored high in my template
  • Their add-on course authoring tool, is fantastic – I recommend adding it
  • The add-on modules Engage, Analyze, Amplify are great. With Amplify you get a lot of courses/content made by Absorb for free. I loved that

Weaknesses

  • Lower Tier for Skills. Again, the majority of vendors are at the infant stage. Absorb is slightly above that. I expect more skill capabilities for 2023, based on my conversations with them – you can expect that too
  • Too many add-ons; this should be a learning suite which is Learn, Create, Engage and Analyze) as one package. Many vendors spin the argument that “well, the client says they do not need it right now, so we let them choose down the road”. Here is a thought. You can always turn-off what you do not need at the present time. When you buy a system, you must look three years down the road, not right now. Too many folks look today. Wrong decision.
  • Metrics out of the box are weak. I find this with way too many vendors in the industry today, it is actually the majority. What some vendors are doing is offering the stronger metrics that you want and need as an add-on (i.e. additional fee). For many folks, these metrics will suffice. But if you want the better, frankly stronger that tells your learning story, you must get Analyze. It impressed me, right away.

#7 Eurekos ($) (FAL) (Customers/Partners/Franchises) (Customer Education)

Pros

  • #2 Customer Education System for 2022, and going into 2023
  • Affordable, but very strong functionality for customer education – proof that you can have your cake and it eat it too. A lot of folks think low priced means cheap system. I can tell you this is definitely not the case.
  • UI/UX Learner side is nice, Admin side is good, metrics are good
  • Constantly adding more capabilities, that are logical to the customer ed space
  • Has a mobile app with on/off synch
  • Support is elite

Weaknesses

  • Skills – Customer-Education Systems understandably are not going to hit upper tier for skills, but because of the Combo systems they need to add enough. They have some skill capabilities, but I think they need just a few more, due to competing against Combo.
  • I’d like to see an improvement in metrics, again, there is enough there to start out, but data visualization needs an update, and more segmentation
  • Admin side UX is solid, I’d like to see a bit more, tweaked up if you will – Still, for the majority of folks the Admin side will be fine and doable.

#6 (The number reminds me of the middle child. They seem to get the short end of the stick. I blame the government)

Another TIE

D2L ($$ to $$$), (FAL), (Both) (Combo)

Pros

  • This is a super robust learning system – that a lot of folks are unaware of – Strong functionality for customer education/partner training/associations and solid for L&D
  • Total Corporate here – which is good, because way too many folks think D2L is only EdTech. Those days are gone. Corporate dominates!
  • Offers the “Bongo Learning” solution as an add-on, but the price point is extremely low. Bongo is ideal for role-playing, scenario-based, skills assessment with metrics, virtual classroom, mentoring – one of my favorite solutions in the e-learning space.
  • Upper tier for Skills capabilities (there are a couple of weaknesses though, still for my template, and the industry, upper tier is there)
  • Mobile app – with on/off synch, and wow you can do a lot here including SMS notifications
  • Going to Launch Performance+ (it’s an add-on, looks really nice, and you can see some amazing metrics on the mobile). I list it as a plus, if you are into the performance angle. It is an add-on, which in this case makes sense. But, it could be a weakness, depending on how it is positioned, whereas vendors adding performance can be on a slippery slope (blog post on this in Jan 2023

Weaknesses

  • UI/UX Learner side – it needs a refresh. Ditto on the Admin side. There are areas within the system that have the refresh modern look, but still work to do
  • Authoring tool – parts are included – and those are strong, but an add-on called Creator+ is extra
  • On the skills side – Skills Development (on my template) is zero – which means you can’t upload your own skills taxonomy, nor does the system use a 3rd party skills solution (many vendors do).

The Other at #6

Docebo ($$ to $$$ – Depends on the add-ons) (FAL) (Both) (Combo)

Pros

  • Modern UI/UX on the Learner side, Admin side is ok
  • Functionality strong overall – for my template, they score in the upper tier, but there is a couple of weaknesses
  • Skills is mid-tier (Better than most vendors in the skills functionality)
  • You will want DCS – (Discovery, Coach and Share), which is an add-on to Learn – it does the content curation (which is excellent), playlists and “coaching” – which to me is okay, the rest is good
  • Overall, I like the system, but as you will seek in the weakness area, they ….
  • Content marketplace (it’s the GO1 offering – again, you pay for the content. They can bundle, or you can go Premium and get all the GO1 courses/content)

Weaknesses

  • Add-on delight here. Way too many IMO – but they angle with you may not need it now, or the client doesn’t want it, so you can buy later. Add-ons are DCS (you need Learn), Learner Impacts (which has way better analytics that come with the system), Learning Analytics – which is the elite level of analytics, and definitely tells the learning story – but Docebo charges for the metrics that are not part of the solution, so if you want to tie into Salesforce with LA, you are charged), Docebo Connect (API to API angle – I like there, there are more vendors going there, still big fan), Docebo Flow (yuck. Ignore), Docebo Create – this is not an authoring tool that you think, ignore)
  • Workforce Development in my template, is below average, thus if you are angling for Performance with L&D, be aware of its limitations
  • Analytics out of the box, i.e., come with the system, are okay, okay, underwhelming.
  • Extended Enterprise is an add-on

Feel free, to take a break, because we are about to go into the Top Five.

Top Five

The last Tie

#5 (So I paid for the best Verizon package with speed. Why do I get 4G in many areas? I surmise you probably, if you have Verizon, see the same issue. I should get a refund)

Biz Skills ($ to $$) (FAL) (L&D) (Employees)

  • First vendor to fully map content to job roles to skills – it comes all set in the system, so you do not have to do it. If you need to add additional they will help you. Trust me it rocks.
  • UI/UX on Learner and Admin side is fantastic. Data visualization for metrics is wonderful
  • Skills no surprise, are upper tier
  • Functionality is solid
  • Really dig this system
  • Blog – Product Review coming in early Q1, 2023
  • BizAcademy – Their cohort-based learning with “Experts” and “Coaches” launches in Jan. It is an add-on at the moment.

Weaknesses

  • Would like to see them show the data that ties the content to the skills from the standpoint of top and bottom (so far, nobody in the industry has truly accomplished this, with data. Often it is top skills, and top content) – I’d love to see segmentation with top roles selected, and or not selected
  • More metrics – I’m greedy, there is enough there to satisfy a lot folks, but to me, a few more would definitely enhance
  • Workforce development is so-so (using my template)

Fuse ($$ to $$$), (FAL) (Both) (Combo)

Pros

  • Solid UI/UX on the Learner side
  • Utilizes communities in such a way, that it could easily be turned into cohorts if some modifications are made, still it is not for everyone – everything is driven within the communities
  • Analytics and Metrics are outstanding and come with the system. Data visualization rocks. Many vendors could learn how to tap into this approach, and see it is doable.
  • It’s all about knowledge sharing here, content curation, search exploration and some NexGen feature sets
  • Mobile app is good, on/off synch

New Positioning in 2023

  • Push training and pull – it’s about knowledge and communications achieved through three processes – Apply, Solve, Change – Learning plays a key role too. Think of it thru a flow of work – organizational approach for customer education and internal.
  • New capabilities coming include Design Studio, Course+, Campaigns, Smart Feeds, Knowledge Intelligence, and a browser extension

Weaknesses

  • Concerns apply to organizational performance, as it is easy to drop into the slippery slope (a blog on what are the trends for OP/Performance is coming in Jan – once you see it, you’ll retain it)
  • The Admin side needs a refresh for UI/UX
  • Knowledge sharing is great, and with Peer to Peer rolling in 2023, user-generated content must be in full swing, the question will come down to whether it is about mentoring or coaching – they are not the same thing

#4 (Anyone who has ever done musical chairs, knows that fourth means you are out. This could be a good thing or a bummer. I’d like to thank myself landing in the 3rd seat for some event, despite Ms. Perez, clearly wanting the person who landed in the fourth seat. In fifth grade.)

Degreed ($$$ to $$$$) (FAL) (L&D) (Combo, albeit skewed towards employees heavily)

Pros

  • Skills, curation, playlists are their strengths, and for folks who think LXP is 3rd party content marketplace and curation, well, yeah, they have that too (they just don’t call it an LXP, and rightfully so)
  • Metrics sort of a tell a story, Degreed Intelligence rocks (but it is an add-on). Guidebooks hits a home run (but it is in Degreed Intelligence). DI is the stronger metrics solution, then what comes out of the box
  • Very large content marketplace. The only one bigger is from Odilo.
  • Cohort-based learning is going to be play a role with the system in 2023
  • As they said in 2001- space odyssey, something wonderful is coming in 2023 with Degreed – which should eliminate the perception that the system is only a resources collection or resource container
  • Opportunities is great, but it is another add-on

Weaknesses

  • Two great capabilities, but both are add-ons. Since more vendors in the learning system space are adding “job opportunities” (which could be jobs within the company OR projects per se) as part of the system, I recommend Degreed follows suit.
  • If you are trying to match functionality to say a LMS, or even some learning platforms, it won’t be there with Degreed. They do have functionality, some nice stuff in fact, but doesn’t match up to many LMSs or learning platforms.

#3 (Try giving an accolade to a co-worker using only three words in a phrase)

Cornerstone LMS ($$ to $$$) (FAL) (L&D) (Combo, skews heavy towards employees, really heavy)

Pros

  • The skills capabilities within the system are elite – still the best in the industry – and the UI/UX for it, is vastly improved
  • They have individual metric widgets things for each learner – kind of hard to explain, but the UI/UX is wonderful
  • UI/UX on the learner side is the best it is has ever been in the system
  • Workforce development is strong
  • Content anytime is their third-party marketplace. They can do bundles or go with the “all you can access” content angle.
  • Always slides into my upper tier for NexGen, which proves to those who say Legacy LMSs are outdated and lack this or that. Sorry Charlie Tuna, it just isn’t true.

Weaknesses

  • Outsources implementation and integration to partners. They are not the only vendor who does this, Docebo is another one, but not knowing who you are going to get is like playing poker in the Old West. You are either up against Doc Holiday or Ben, the Bartender. There is only one Cornerstone Partner I recommend, Bluewater (they also are a partner with Docebo, and other vendors). So if you go with Cornerstone, you tell them, you want Bluewater. Oh, and you want Bluewater for your support. Trust me.
  • The UI/UX on the Admin side is a mixed bag, some good, some needs a refresh. Can be cumbersome for a few.
  • Metrics out of the box, UI wise is dated. I see this “Excel 2000” look a lot – with a lot of systems, and I mean A LOT. For a company like Cornerstone, there is no reason to keep seeing that. Needs a refresh, which I believe is in the works.
  • You can use the system for customer education, but they charge an additional fee for “extended enterprise” – why?
  • Lacks a strong or even solid mentoring component

Additional Note – The ranking does not include EdCast. While EdCast if added to the Cornerstone LMS is a nice plus, integration and what you can do, it is still an add-on, and for me, I found that the Cornerstone LMS is more that sufficient. It also does not include Saba nor SumTotal. Oh, and they sell the Cornerstone LMS under the acronym of CSX or something like that – which is not mentioned on their web site.

The Top Two

#2 (They often say “runner-up” which I guess sounds better than #2 or finishing second. I mean if it five teams, and you finish second, that isn’t good. However, if you finish second out of 1,000 systems, I’d say, that’s GREAT)

Learn Amp ($$), (FAL) (L&D) (Employees)

Pros

  • UI/UX on the Learner and Admin side – it is a bit different that the usual stuff, which is good
  • Skills module very good – from data visualization that will tell you the necessary learning story to Skills frequency chart, top skills and top skills with a specific role or topic
  • Escalation policies within the system for compliance and regulatory
  • Cohorts tapped into specific communities and feeds coming in Q1 2023, I’ve seen it, solid
  • Metrics are overall solid
  • While the metrics as noted above are good, they have yet to offer personalized, whereas you (admin, manager, person overseeing L&D) can have the data viewed in columns or widgets in their own way – (very few vendors do this, but I think it is a great idea if it comes to fruition)

Coming in 2023 (just a few presented)

  • What they call “homepage” widgets that will tap into various systems such as HRIS – this will be on the admin side
  • Content curation
  • Learners will be able to identify if “events – i.e. webinars/seminars” that you are considering, is something they would attend or not. It’s a good premise.
  • Maybe a mobile app

Weaknesses

  • Content curation that is personalized , let alone can be pulled down from the internet is not there today, thankfully this is coming sometime in 2023
  • Add-ons, the modules angle – which for their system doesn’t benefit IMO. Skills today is an add-on, although I have told them to include it for free, and they are seriously considering it;
  • Content curation in general – big weak spot for them; they have some stuff, but not at the level it should be for them – the UI/UX needs to be a big role here
  • Mobile app, they don’t have one – again, doesn’t make any sense in late 2022, let alone 2023.

#1 (The Best of the Best. I am pretty confident that when someone says #1 out of 1,000 systems, people pay attention)

Thought Industries ($$ to $$$), (FAL), (Training), (Customer education/partner training, B2B, Associations)

Pros

  • Helium – A major game changer in the industry, headless technology (a term you will see with other vendors quite a bit, but what they are generally pitching is not actually headless technology – Helium though is) – Headless technology means that you separate the front-end from the back-end, and thus give the client full control of what the front-end should look/appear as, and you choose the platforms you want the content to appear and consume. Details about “Helium and developer site HERE“, utilizes a platform stack – GraphQL, React, Tailwind, and MDX. Helium is 100% free. I’ve seen it, and yowsa it is awesome. But you definitely need developers – who know how to code. TI has some scripts you can just place and roll, and a template, however, I recommend going the dev team angle. – TI plans to include a dev marketplace in 2023
  • Panoramas – Very impressive, this is for each tenant – you can do quite a bit here
  • UI/UX on the Learner and Admin side is really good.
  • Metrics are good overall
  • #1 Learning System for Customer Education in 2022

Weaknesses

  • While the metrics are overall good, they need to add more tied around the financial angle for customer education/partner training even associations. Many folks sell content, webinars/seminars, etc. – as such extracting key data tied to content, including what isn’t working (i.e. low buying) would be extremely relevant. Just as knowing what folks are buying. I’d add having some type of data trend line on pricing too – what price works and what doesn’t – this is a trend line nobody is doing today in the industry, but trust me, I did a lot of customer education/training, and having that data – which I had to do myself was essential. I’d also add some type of pricing as it relates to markups and margin; think of it as – the admin or whomever types in the actual cost of the content, then their target price, and clicks a button – it shows the revenue differential or not, and what type of markup and profit margin. Way too many people with customer education/partner training/associations have no idea on how to do this, they do not calculate the actual cost, and just randomly pick pricing. I geneated nearly 1M USD, in nine months, at price points that followed a blue ocean strategy. No vendor is doing this – i.e. type of calculation.
  • No mobile app – a big miss. TI instead offers all the SDK and other files that the vendor can use to create their own mobile app. But only a select folks can do this. Their competitors – TI, many have a mobile app, and can white-label it (for a fee). The client adage exists here, but just because the client doesn’t ask for it, doesn’t mean they won’t use it.

Bottom Line

There you go. The Top 10 learning systems for 2023. To compare them further, bounce on over to Findanlms.com (nearly all are on there), and visit them by clicking their names – to learn more, reach out, and just look around.

Remember that “Enterprise” means whatever the vendor wants it to mean – hence my post on “Enterprise“.

This post will be available on my Learning Library – combined with the 11-20 rankings, after the new year. Feel free to download, offline or read online.

Lastly, I want to personally thank everyone who reads this blog, whether they do so via e-mail, and share it with others, or on the web site.

I am so ever grateful and honored.

Thank you, for your comments via social media including LinkedIn. The e-mails, seeing me in person and chatting, and within the comments of this blog.

I’ll see you in 2023.

E-Learning 24/7

Please note – there will not be a blog post next week.

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