People love product reviews, okay some people. I find that vendors either love them or send out their uh love via disagreements. I guess I won’t be on their holiday list this year. Rats.
For an out of the box thinker, as I am, I decided to try something new. Maybe it works, maybe not, but at least, you will gain some insight and perspective.
This is a post covering two learning systems. Next week, I will be doing a product review only on BizAcademy, an impressive system around experts, with cohort-based learning at its core.
Please note, that these reviews are high-level product reviews – but with plant-based meat to them (I do not eat meat, hence plant-based). The ones that are so in-depth, that for some folks, it is a cure for insomnia. Which I accept, I mean, a cure is a cure. Then again, there are a lot of tomes out there, 500 words or more that will cure this. Ever tried to read a scientific journal? Snooze fest.
Cognota – which is learning operations, I found had some items that to me, and then that I found, were missing. This is far different than what you think of with a learning system, however it does slide in there. The UI/UX is different than what you think of a learning system, and therefore, don’t be thinking, oh, I will compare this with X system – that is an LMS, or the LXP, or whatever – unless it is another learning operations systems.
Lucy.ai, is equally impressive, but it does have a couple of areas, that I felt were misses. That said, they use Generative AI within their platform, which I love.
Lucy.ai is a learning system that uses Generative AI, a combination of the GPT-4 (the newest from OpenAI) and custom frameworks, models and other items, that were built by Lucy.ai.
There are a lot of big wins here, but equally a couple of misses and why – for example, the discussion board.
The learning system includes not just a search capability around your own content – which is housed on the platform, but also collaboration and discovery.
When it comes to search and discovery, I think one area that Lucy.ai missed the boat is the inability to scan the internet and bring back content (free) and not yours, that is tied directly to that question. Fuse, for example, a learning system can do that. Thus, the fact Lucy.ai, can’t, when tapping into generative AI, is a minus in my book. Again, they disagree.
Lucy.ai Home Screen
I also am not a fan of the discussion board piece. Why? It’s 2023, and there are learning system vendors who are removing it – I see a discussion board as reactive and not pro-active.
With Lucy.ai – it’s your own content, and therefore it is only as good as how much content you have in the platform. It sorts of reminded me of a SharePoint experience, from the content angle. This is even true with the chatbot responses that appear within Lucy.ai. Lucy.ai who has been working with OpenAI (the folks behind GPT-4, and ChatGPT, among other offerings), uses X in their system.
You can type in any questions, and the chatbot will respond with the answer. However, unlike what you see with say ChatGPT or GPT-4, and many other generative AI offerings, it will not scan the internet and bring back the response.
Rather it scans your content (which you have uploaded), fellow learners’ responses to questions on the discussion board, or even anything on the discussion board, any 3rd party content you have purchased (example: LinkedIn Learning, Harvard Business Publishing) and return with the answer.
Here is an example, that many people think of when it comes to generative AI (and only, sadly, the general public that is):
I like though, that you can see the person’s face, when asking the question. I haven’t seen that with any offering to date, within a learning system, that includes generative AI.
Key Components of Lucy.ai
- Search – The core IMO, where you can ask questions to Lucy.ai and it brings back results based on that – however, in a second (below) you will see what I find disappointing, thus it is nice, but misses.
- Feedback as they refer to it, I prefer “Educate.” – This is where you – the learner can help fine tune Lucy’s responses, but agreeing or disagreeing, with a thumbs up or down. GPT-4 does this, although it goes a step further by seeking what it missed – i.e. you provide details.
- Save – Within the system, the learner can save what they see are the best answers. This is a nice plus, because the learner can go back and review, without having to repeat.
- Collaborate – This is with your team.
- Discovery and Explore – Lucy searches out materials, content from your team and other sources, uploaded into the platform (your content) and any other sources you have purchased – 3rd-party content that is tied into the platform, and integrations where you house content.
- Help – A great feature, that I surmise is not widely used. Help angles, with this one, where you can ask Lucy and it will provide the responses; assume that the learner recognizes they need help with using the system. I tend to find with technology offerings, people just jump in, never go to a FAQ or HELP or Knowledge Base, unless the frustration level is so big, they go for it. Or they give up, and bolt.
For this post, I am only going to show the Search and Discovery angle specifically around the output, from your question to Lucy.
Search and Discovery
You type in a question, Lucy.ai goes right to the area(s) of the content you have uploaded highlighting the text OR if you have a video, right to the video. Sounds ideal right?
- However, it just doesn’t focus on that specific line of text – think sentence or paragraph NOR does it show you only that part of the video that provides the answer.
- It shows you still the whole thing. That’s right let’s say the question tied to a video is a total of 30 seconds in the video. That is perfect – and hits the premise. But it doesn’t just pull that clip or point only to that, nope you still see the entire video, and can keep on going. Other systems can do that, but this is supposed to break the norm, so shouldn’t it just be that clip that appears with the response, rather than “here it is,” and hey, you can watch the rest of the video too. Why would I want to do that?
- The same applies to text. It does point to that specific area where the answer is, but you can still see the entire document or materials. Again, why? I only want to know that specific answer based on my question – and that is what should happen. Not, here it is, and oh, you can still read all the materials. Again, why do I want to do that? What’s the benefit? If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t ask it a question, I’d just read the entire document.
In the demo, I thought a good example, was where they went had some reports uploaded, then asked the question, and then it went to say the reports – that had the answer(s) and went right there. But, again, the rest of the report was visible.
To me, this doesn’t seem to be an advantage, rather a minus. You can connect Lucy.ai to third party/integrations such as LinkedIn Learning (content), HR systems, BI tools, survey tools, even SharePoint. Could you integrate with a learning system, probably, I didn’t see that though. And before you think okay, if I have LinkedIn Learning this is going to go right to the video of the content or chapter, and I will only see that, the answer is no. You do see that, but again, you see the rest of the TOC, and the rest of the video modules, and the video itself, even if the response is in 40 seconds of the video.
Overall, Lucy.ai taps into generative AI where it makes sense, although there are other types of generative AI that it doesn’t use, which to me, it should. I’m not talking about surfing the net, bringing back content for the learner, which not even Bard or ChatGPT in browsers can do; I am referring to the many other Generative AI offerings out there, that are ideal for learners, and will benefit learners/students, even your customers – that are learners.
What is Cognota? It is a system specifically for learning operations. Do I place it under the learning systems? Absolutely, just as I would for a training management solution, where it is all about scheduling sessions.
Learning Operations isn’t new, but prior to Cognota, it has a poor track record. They were clunky, not user-friendly, and lacked enough information and data to be of value. This is why, you rarely see them anymore. A second factor, today, is that there are learning systems, that have added bits of learning ops, not enough to make it work, and even project management like offerings (they all look like a project management tool, using Gantt) as an add-on.
Learning Operations, which oversees the operations of your L&D department (and yes, it is heavily focused around L&D), is aimed at very large Enterprises (25,000 or more). Could you go with it at 10,000 or even 5,000? Sure, but I wouldn’t go lower, although an L&D department and say, 1,000 could use it, and find it of some benefit. If you have 100,000 plus learners? That is the ideal client.
Screenshots for this offering, and thus a better explanation than just text, is the route here to go. They are not in any particular order, but you will get a real sense of what this, and how it appears. Text will cover what you see.
First off, Cognota focuses as a whole on some key areas.
- Project management component (the screenshot you see below is a perfect example)
- Programs – Screenshot below – again, a component of project management – they refer to them as programs overall, then projects – you can see how many you have, the status, progress, and by priority. You can create your own name for the program, description, what projects are tied to said program, what are the objectives, and who owns what.
- Tasks – Who is tasked with what, who owns what – again, sort or a project management piece, with some things you will recognize, some not
- In the screen below, you also see a timeline, with the duration, and progress, as well as the programs listed and who owns what. I like this visualization, it is clear, concise and color coded.
- Project Board – Reminds me of Trellio (a product I liked), and again adds clarity – it is a nice twist to the way of folks who have project mgt components in their learning systems, that look frankly, awful. Cognota definitely does not.
- Analytics – The monster to learning operations – you need metrics, data, and so forth. This to me, is the biggest win of the platform – because as you know, metrics tell the real story – for learning, for operations and so forth. Way too many learning systems fail miserably at that; Cognota does not.
Love it, simply as that. I like the filtering angle and search. Okay, some details around this – you can see what folks are working on in the developmental stages, and where they are in the program. You can customize the project board – another win for me.
Analytics – Hold on to your hat here. I wonder is it a fedora?
This screen shows the request type, business unit, who owns what, status – all filters btw. You can see what requests were approved or declined, in-review, response ratio (another win) and requests by. I did wish the requests by graphic was a bit clearer, as trend lines such as these, can be confusing to some folks. Of course, this screen changes based on the filters you select. In the above screen, it is showing by “intake”. You can switch to “Projects,” too.
See below to get a sense. Please note you can tell this came directly from the vendor’s marketing piece, but I didn’t have a project screen to show you, so I asked them to send one over. This means, that is not my writing on the screen.
Budget Screen – Look learning/training are often noted by higher ups, and people who don’t get the value of it, as financial drains. This screen tells you the real story. From a learning standpoint, the highlight for me, is the cost per learner screen. I wish other vendors who have something like this – because when good ol’ C-level suite person starts to gripe about ROI, and money drain – you can show this screen and go, “Na-Na-Na, here it is buckeroo!” (Don’t do this)
With learning operations, you need a budget screen with the breakdowns. I’ve seen vendor management platforms (yes, they exist) for the learning space, and am often surprised how poor of a job they do with budgetary data. Cognota is not a vendor management solution (thankfully), and scores huge points for their screen. Somebody could look at this and get a clear understanding of what they are seeing.
The above screen is another tied around budget. This time for learning strategy and the costs for each. Again, I like this – but I can see how it would be convoluted, confusing and cumbersome for some folks. There is too much on one screen. I’d prefer picking a program or a few, and seeing that with that specific data OR go into cost per learner around each program. This is far different than what appears above.
I’m unsure if you can change the colors here – the mint green is difficult to see, and some of the columns are challenging too, especially with financial data. I’d love to see stronger data visualization here as well. Nevertheless, it’s a good first start.
Cognota is an outstanding learning operations system. But as noted earlier, I’m not seeing it for SMB. Could it go mid-market (1,000 to 5,000), absolutely. However, as you can see, this really points to what I earlier mentioned Large to Very Large enterprise.
Two product reviews, one post.
Enjoy the read.
By the way, the icon for this post? Created by Image Creator – powered by Dall-E (Yep, Generative AI)