Happy post Valentine’s Day or as many refer to it, Happy Card Company who created this billion-dollar industry. We can thank Coca-Cola for helping to create the image of Santa Claus, to this day! Yep, the world back then was in perfect harmony – according to Coke.
Holidays, okay, the amount of money dropped on Valentine’s Day, always surprises me. Chocolate heart shaped things. Teddy Bears. Peeps (My favorite, the person who created them, was a genius). Expensive dinners at restaurants you normally wouldn’t go to. Nice meals. And the list goes on. Nowadays I think that the gig is up, and everyone realizes the scam. Actually, that isn’t true. Another surprise.
Surprises in E-Learning
One of the biggest surprises, is that so many folks are unaware that e-learning was an umbrella term, as I noted in the History of the LMS post. Today? Vendors use it to refer to online courses/content. On top of that, they misspell it – the term is e-learning. It has always been e-learning. Vendors who use it? eLearning or elearning. That surprise isn’t so alarming that we should call out the cupids to jump off the cards and launch arrows.
Some of my favorite surprises in 2023, okay, have continued for many years, and still are rocking it, include:
- Rapid Content Authoring Tools – that have been reduced down, to be nothing more than slides where you can stick images/items in, and lots of templates. I know why this is being done, because so many folks do not know instructional design, and many have no interest in learning some of the basics, or even if they did, due to budget constraints or just boss arrogance, they can’t go and learn somewhere. WYSWIG (What You See is What You Get) is extremely popular – especially with learning systems’ authoring tools. The ol WYSWIG isn’t new, it has been around even in the 90s. Anyway, RCAT’s which changed the industry dramatically, opening course development to anyone, should have created early-on a solution better suited for folks with instructional design backgrounds OR people who wanted to start at the basics, but could eventually go further up. Today, Storyline offers both avenues, dominKnow does too, and the list goes on. However, there are authoring tool vendors, who still think PowerPoint can be an authoring solution. Shame on them. No peeps for you.
- E-Learning tools that people haven’t utilized in their own online learning and training. I’m not referring to VR, or AR or MetaVerse (which all require a bit more, and the VR out of the box authoring tools, and not fully VR), I’m talking about offerings such as Bongo, which taps into video skills assessments, scenario-based learning, coaching/mentoring and more; or that solution which converts any podcast into a visual learning experience (their name escapes me, blame my concussion) or Audiate, which Techsmith sells on top of Camtasia, that is a very cool solution. The moment I saw what it could do, I’m thinking, why isn’t everyone tapping this. Part of the issue is that Techsmith, isn’t great at pushing it beyond their web site, and the other issue is folks are unaware. It has a lot of potential, to go even further. And yeah, it doesn’t require any skill sets, which folks will say, “well RCAT’s don’t either, and you griped about that”, but if you have some audio skill sets, such as editing and using waveforms, plus understand the nuances of taking Camtasia to a whole new level, then yeah, you need some skills – especially with the Camtasia power. The downside? It’s expensive – i.e. Audiate, ditto with Camtasia.
- Other vendors taking a look at Anders Pink and seeing how they can create a solution that goes even further and do more with curation of content, even via bookmark extensions – in other words a mashup, along with a few other touches. Look this industry is a lemming industry (minus what Disney actually did, which still gives me nightmares – okay where is my Chocolate Hershey Kisses?), and if they see something that works, which can be replicated, it will happen. Just like NFL offenses!
- Mentoring solutions could be the next big thing to go into multiple channels, but I’m still surprised on how many vendors believe coaching and mentoring are the same thing. They are not. Coaching is focusing on a skill – hence I am coaching you on leadership. Mentoring is focused on the entire person. Trust me, you want the latter. I currently mentor a couple of folks on the business side. It is very rewarding.
- Vendors who are not paying attention to the wordage or name of their solution/system/tool. I see this at trade shows, where the wording is quite visible, and a quick walk by, which many people do, will see the word or words, as something else, that is rated R. I will still remember the vendor whose name was Shift! (it was or still is an authoring tool). Every time, I saw the word, I saw something else. Seriously, nobody else realized this? At a trade show, DevLearn, there was a vendor who had a phrase, with some words that followed suit. They didn’t realize it, until I pointed it out. Then there are vendors like Intellum, who referred to themselves as EdTech, ignoring that edtech means K-12 and higher education. Their marketing person said, well we provide customer education, so we are edtech. No, you are not. Speaking of which
- EdTech used by vendors focusing on the corporate space or used in press releases or by so-called experts, that you see on the net. The term never meant anything besides educational technology, and the higher education/K-12 space. Yet, time and time again, I still see it. Even today, by learning system vendors on the corporate side. E-mail means electronic mail, it doesn’t mean sending it by snail mail (postal). Nobody would ever think it means anything except electronic mail. So, why would someone think EdTech means customer or association education?
- Lastly, on the surprise side, are vendors whose names are either difficult to spell or say. If you have to spell out the name, to find it on the web, that’s an issue. The same thing, with trying to pronounce it, and then obliterating it. There are vendors are fine with this enunciation spin. Docebo for example, is pronounced as (DOE-Che-BO) – there are an Italian company. Many people say (DOE-Chee-BO) or (DO-C-Bo). Schoox on the other hand, slides under – try to spell us – which unless you are aware of the system and know how to spell it. I repeatedly get folks asking me how to spell it. The vendor is aware of this and is fine with it. They explained to me, why they refer to their company with this term, which okay, whatever. Then there is Agylia. I like the system but every time I see it I think Argyle. And try to spell it, when you are using a search engine. The name of your system, or solution, should be easy to spell and remember. That’s marketing 101. Especially if it is one word – or two max. (on the consumer side – Nike, Coors, Budweiser, Macy’s, Walmart, and the list goes on). It is funny that so many solutions/systems push the repetition reinforcement angle, to recall, yet seem to have forgotten that, when it comes to naming themselves.
Surprises on Clients
Learning System vendors, and okay, the majority of e-learning solutions, love to provide either publicly via their web site or privately thru their pitches to prospects, a list of “clients”. Big names are definitely shown. Sometimes they appear by vertical/industry, other times, just tossed around. Personally, I am totally fine with that. However, transparency is a whole other issue, and despite vendors’ salespeople and c-level execs telling me they are very transparent, they only become that if you ask them about said client or that client. Even then, I find that there are salespeople who don’t know the answer to such basics as, “are you the only learning system with that client?” “If not, what department/division are you in?” Did any of these clients, purchase X number of seats (similar to what you are seeking, so let’s say 500).”
I love it when a vendor will either say, “you need to sign an NDA” for that information, even though they are publicly showing it – especially at a trade show. Another is, “we will need to get back to you on that,” and then, you will never see that information. I wrote on LinkedIn, that you should give them 48 hrs during a business day to find out. Honestly, though it should take them about 30 minutes, if they use a CRM, that collects such basic data – and I haven’t seen one that doesn’t.
I would ask if that client were a current or past client. I continue to find vendors, who post on their web site, “clients” list a few, and then fail to state whether that is a current or past client. When you see “clients” you would think, “current”, and yet, time and time again, I will find out that client seen on a pitch view isn’t a current client.
It’s just clarity here, which is why I strongly recommend you ask a vendor when they show you that list, whether the client is current or past. It is true that large companies, heck even mid-size ones may have multiple learning systems. So, it is possible, that both vendors are in one company, or that the company purchased the learning system, and never installed it (it happens), and thus the vendor doesn’t know – supposedly if they have launched it (of course, they would know, but that is another story).
Other surprises include
- Continuance of learning system vendors who think L&D is it. I just dealt with this, on two calls this week. Each only said L&D, yet each were available to companies who targeted customers. Plus, even a large company, may have multiple departments for learning, one being L&D, and the other being “Training”. What is the solution here? I thought what if people who are in training started to boycott vendors who only said L&D when they spoke with them? Perhaps that would change the cycle of L&D only. Nothing against L&D here, but think this way – if you were L&D, and way too many learning system vendors only said “Training” as the only learning in town, would you be a bit irked?
- Ditto on the LMS. There are other types of learning systems out there, and yet, I see this with PE/Growth Equity, individual investors, and even other learning system vendors. They mention only LMS. Ignoring learning platforms – which is a large segment, what is left of LXP, and other learning systems that have coined names that nobody searches for or says in a room, “let’s buy an employee engagement platform.”
- Long Presentation Decks. Oh, this is getting awful. Every vendor who makes a pitch to tell you more about their learning system (regardless of the type, and learning ops is the latest, for those curious), love to provide a slide deck. So, you have a 60-minute window to see the solution, which is the key reason you are on the call. 15 minutes is the presentation deck or 20 minutes. Now, you have 45 or 40 minutes. And that is assuming you say nothing, while the demo is being shown. Since people tend to ask questions, the time dwindles. Which results in Speed Racer the demo version, and areas that are missed or lightly covered. In an age where time is pressed as limited, vendor decks are getting worse. Here is an idea. Since you – the salesperson or whomever is reading the slide deck, that I and others can see, just send the deck ahead of time. That’s right, a day before the presentation. Then if I have questions, from the deck I have viewed, I can ask them, while you are showing me the demo. I know, it is a new concept here, but it works. In this scenario, you can still find out if the client is current or not, just by e-mailing the salesperson, so all those client questions can be answered, by said salesperson. A time saver. For those CEOs, CROs and so on, who say, “we created this marketing piece, to benefit our customers (prospects) and to tell a story, “Ask yourself, do you enjoy it when you attend a seminar, and the presenter just reads off the slide deck? Again, I am not buying a system based on the slide deck. It is the system or the content or the e-learning solution that I want to see, that is the reason for the call.
Some people love to be surprised. To be caught off guard, to enjoy the thrill of it. They are the same people who probably love surprise birthday parties.
However, even those folks never like the drive-thru surprise, when your meal isn’t in there, the drink is wrong, or some other faux-pas has occurred. Nor do they like, the additional charges of mystery at the bottom of a bill, that some restaurants take-on, and which requires you to ask.
That’s something we all have in common.
Yet I still look, and hope that this system, or this e-learning solution, or this content or this whatever for online learning will surprise me.
Most of the time, it ends up underwhelming, despite the hype,
But every once in a while,
The X really surprises me.
And when that happens,
I know that this surprise,
Could be a difference maker,
Perhaps even a