This isn’t going to be a pleasant post for some. I am going to get comments that are “How dare you,” “Who else can I ask,” “Just seeking input and what business is it of yours,” and other favorable, err, unfavorable statements.
Some people are going to be irritated. There will be CEOs from some learning system vendors espousing their perspectives. Ditto on others – from “experts” to heads of L&D, Training, and other divisions. There will be those who think I wrote this for “views” or “clicks.”
The Truth is that I am not writing it for views or clicks. I am writing it because I suspect many of you look at these questions and wonder why. Equally, some vendors will think, is this the best way to inquire? Lastly, I hope that many people who want to purchase an LMS, a Learning Platform, an LXP, or whatever learning solution for employees, customers, members, and so on will understand why this post is relevant and necessary.
The Oreo Dilemma
If you haven’t heard, many people are saying that the makers of Oreo are reducing the amount of cream per cookie, especially with the double stuff. Folks are posting pictures. And a subreddit thread on it. I had heard about the Oreo issue by reading Reddit and stumbling upon it – and no, I wasn’t looking for cookie insight.
I admit I was fascinated. I read the comments, validating this to be accurate and showing why. True connoisseurs of Oreos – as in eating them daily, presented their images and statements around it.
The thread caught the media’s attention, was written about, and the folks who make Oreos had to respond. Of course, they denied it.
Here, on the subreddit around the creme issue, were legit experts. Proof with the images. Folks who eat Oreos every day. One guy explained how he sees it when he dips it into milk. As someone who once ate those Double Stuff cookies, I saw firsthand and agreed that the creme level was off and low.
I trusted their judgments simply because there was proof that each respondent knew about the whole Oreo experience and was an expert on the cookies.
There wasn’t a response about other types of cookies, although one person recommended switching to Hydrox, which makes similar types of creme-stuffed cookies.
Nor were there folks just responding for the sake of responding with variance statements that seemed out of left field, without any knowledge or insight into the Oreo Creme scene.
The Unaware Pattern
There isn’t a day that goes by, at least what I see on my thread, where someone is asking a question/about an LMS, learning platform, or LXP. I use the term “learning systems” because there are so many types; thus, asking just about one type doesn’t help you. You may be thinking of an LMS but will say learning platform, and then the retorts come flying in on systems that are LMSs, not a learning platform (albeit, most LPs have the basic feature sets of an LMS).
And here is where the first problem comes up when people ask or seek feedback on a learning system. You need to know the type, and there are A LOT of people who are unaware of the various types or presume to know, say, about an LXP but are ill-informed – because vendors pitch one thing on what an LXP is, and in reality, it isn’t an LXP. I do not blame anyone who makes these presumptions – because the industry does a bad job, especially marketing truthfulness – I believe some vendors have no clue, so anything flies.
Thus, if you lack accurate insight about that specific type – and genuinely know the ins and outs, pushing out a perspective that someone may concur with – and they are not experts about it, again, no fault of their own, what you get is a pattern, of retorts – that serves no one.
What is the best?
I am sure you have seen plenty of these questions. “What is the best LMS?”, “We need a learning platform for our employees; who do you recommend?” “We need a learning platform for our customers; who is the best?”.
Think about this for a second. How many learning systems can you name without looking anything up? How many do you recall because you have read about them due to marketing, someone noted them in a thread, or you remember seeing them at a trade show?
How many can you name right now that had all the functionality you needed, met specifically your use case, and most importantly, your budget? How many can you remember were duds? How many can you say that they met everything we needed, but we didn’t like the salesperson, or customer support or something else? How many can you tell someone, anyone, which systems you looked at or considered without due diligence were forward-thinking? How many do you know that someone at a trade show, an event, or a thread who used or is currently using that system hates it and tells you why they do?
Now ask yourself, are you confident that you could provide a specific comment on the best learning platform, or LMS, LXP, or whatever type of learning system?
How many learning systems, do you think, are out there in the world that are not Moodle or open source or built by some custom shop using Moodle or whatever as a base?
Based on my research, there are more than 1,450 systems today, not including China, where it is hard to get that information for various reasons. If you strip out only systems for K-12 and Higher Education (which way too many vendors think EdTech means corporate or is a universal term – and it isn’t. For the record, the word means “Educational Technology”), the numbers drop by around 300 or so, without saying open source, or Moodle which can go both ways, albeit it was initially built for education.
I try my best to remove the custom shops, but it is challenging because there are those who not only resell a system or two (that are not customized) but build off of Moodle. Then there are vendors that you think are learning system providers but, in reality, are resellers. This happens often, especially in countries and continents where the vendor is interested in and wants a footprint – for example, Africa or Brazil.
The numbers change often. Some people think anyone can build a learning platform – not true – and thus, you are just relying on whatever. Building and then adding functionality tied to the latest, plus adding course standards and maintaining and updating, isn’t simple nor something that two people in a garage can do. I mean, they can do some things, but wow, it usually is pretty awful.
Marketing plays a massive role in this industry. You can be truly fantastic, but if nobody knows who you are – how many customers you will land and how many that align with you, are you going to miss out on – and that is the key here. I’ll be honest: most vendors in this space are awful at marketing.
Then, some vendors have affiliate marketing programs. This can do wonders for a vendor, lead-wise, and people – folks seeking systems are unaware. Try it out by asking the best LMS – and using a search engine. I did it this morning, and my top results – were vendors who paid = “sponsored” and a directory that Gartner owns – that shows up as sponsored, too.
The following selection was Forbes. Who knew they were experts. The writers – neither in our industry nor from L&D or Training backgrounds, let alone experts in anything related to learning systems, presented the information. They have a Q and A, which includes what is an LMS. Their response is wrong.
Yep, I am trusting them. Take a look at that list of vendors. How many are Enterprise – which, BTW is for Corporate? On the Cypher Learning one, a con is the lack of features for academics. Well, uh, why are they in Enterprise again? There is no mention of “we may get a commission” here, so I can’t validate them as an affiliate marketer. But it is a weird list.
Further down the web page, you start seeing a trend. Take a look at the vendors these sites list. You will notice quickly what I am referring to. Then, take a look at who wrote this.
How many are legit experts in the space?
If you type in “What is the Best LMS” in Bing Copilot, you will also see that trend, as I noted before. The “sources” are – Forbes and Moodle. Awesome.
ChatGPT? Seven of the ten vendors were in Education; the others? Adobe Captivate Prime (which is no longer the name they call it), Talent LMS, and LearnDash. No surprise on the name thing – the data sets for ChatGPT are from 2021.
Thus, I went to GPT-4, now called Chat Plus (re-brand). The information is the latest, thanks to having Bing within the engine itself. Perhaps it will generate something other than the Copilot response. Nope. SAP Litmos was there (no longer within SAP), and our buddies Captivate Prime and Talent LMS.
The point here is that these so-called “trusted sources” shouldn’t be trusted. Thus, someone on LinkedIn who is basing their decision perspective could be using these tools, along with reading affiliate marketing programs OR ones that list some other nonsense, which is a form of content marketing.
I understand because we rely too much on the Internet, which has become lots of junk that requires you to go deep into the pages to find what you are looking for. Too much content marketing is taking place, leaving the individual – potential buyer, relying on loads of yuck to be informed.
Then there are sites like “Trust Radius” and similar ilk, which show comments of people who may be hired by vendors to post. I have received offers for a gift card to post statements on a system I never used simply because I sought more information through the vendor’s demo request. How nice.
And with Generative-AI programs, the comments angle can be sped up with lots of erroneous love and likes.
Once again, if I rely on said information for my insight, well, I may very well be unaware of all that stuff.
It’s like assuming the dictionary you are reading is from a reputable expert and then noticing it says, “From Reggie, whose experience is a fiction writer for a travel publication.” And you still think it is reputable.
I see these types of questions too. What is your perspective on X? Then watch the info roll in. I see a lot of traditional LMS statements – whereas people think it is just for uploading courses – they cite course management and wait for it, formal learning. 100% not true. That Learning Platform you think rocks? Let me guess: you use it for “course management,” analytics, formal learning, and perhaps informal. All of which you can do with an LMS, even back in 2000.
Assuming that a system is new and, thus, not some old fuddy-duddy is wrong. There are systems today that are 10 to 15 years old and are strong players. A lot of people love Docebo. The system has been around for more than a decade. Nobody, though, says it is traditional. And it’s an LMS.
Moodle? More than 20 years old. Nobody says “traditional.”
The LXP scene is an utter joke. The only legit LXP vendors (those that meet all the capabilities from day one, and continue to do it, and yes expand) number around six. The two biggest are Degreed (the first one out on the market) and EdCast. Juno Journey has a full-blown LXP in their system, an employee development platform – aka as an LMS or Learning Platform, depending on your perspective. The majority who espouse they have an LXP in their system? It’s all over the map. Way too many think it is just a playlist or channel. Others note skills only. I see a combo of the above two and that’s it. Uh, you need content partners and a list of other items.
Nevertheless, it sounds good on paper and their website.
Then, some people refer to every system as a learning platform. OK, but an LP is all over the map. So, not all fit into one category or the idea that it is all for one. Nobody would say “ice cream” and include sorbet and gelato.
This happens quite a bit on the vendor side, whereas they say L&D, forgetting the other key player – Training. Everyone who is in L&D or Training knows is not the same thing. Nor have the same modality.
When the perspective piece comes in, I have seen people basing their decision-making on those perspectives. It is a comment food fight, with many agreements on certain retorts and several disagreements. Viewpoints are essential; they make the “human touch” virtually seem real, but as with anything, it is just a perspective, a thought – not something that you should base your decision-making on – unless that perspective is intertwined with a legit expert who has been in the industry a long of enough time, that they are someone you should place into the “good bucket” as you conduct your search.
And the search here is where we are at. Which leads to
The worst. I have seen vendors respond – specifically, salespeople, marketing folks, and even higher-level executives – CEOs who either hide where they work – or never mention in their response that they work at XTA. Those who list that they work at that specific company – in their profile are probably aware that very few people will see it in the lines upon the response. It is there in tiny letters.
If you want to say your system can do all that or twist it to where the question is about Y, you bash or politely rotate it to align with your system; that is your call. But honestly, you should note that I work at XTA, and we offer something like that, but we do ABC to make it achieve results.
Yet, over and over again, I do not see that.
This post isn’t about shaming rather it is about understanding. It is recognizing that relying on folks who are not legit experts should be just for reading and gathering perspectives. It shouldn’t be the “truth,” and thus, what you extract from that.
For example, I consider myself an expert when it comes to Gen-AI and Learning Tech/Learning Systems and, yes, L&D and Training. For Gen-AI within a learning system, I can see what is possible, what should be added, and what is low-hanging fruit (which vendors overall are doing). Ditto with what people need to be aware of when it comes to Gen-AI and your company – from the L&D and Training. If you want to buy a learning system with Gen-AI, I can give you the right questions, the insight you seek, and so forth.
On the vendor side, I would trust just a few folks who have impressed me so far (adding Gen-AI to a system isn’t universal, nor should it be. This isn’t just rolling it out without extensive knowledge, not just having some person who has an AI background – because the probability they know learning and training and, thus, what is or is not needed is low.
If you see something from Graham Glass, CEO and Founder of Cypher Learning – knows the Gen-AI in-depth for learning platforms (his term), which would include an LMS, etc. Our chat was honestly refreshing because chatting with someone who knows that level of Gen-AI with learning systems and learning tech – and generally at a level that is the same as yours (or higher), just rocks. What he has planned for his system next year, assuming it happens, really could be amazing – the “bucket three,” as he refers to it, could be earth-shattering for our space – I kid you not. I heard about it this morning and was “Wow, wow, wow,” because bucket three aligned with something I have been talking and writing about that would be a game-changer for Gen-AI and learning systems. Graham plans to push the boundary even further, which I love.
I also found Chris Edwards and Scott Peacock from Docebo as two other experts to listen to if they post.
Always remember that seeing other people’s comments and ideas isn’t bad. It is a need nowadays—a must.
To read. To add your thoughts. To discuss.
Not to buy
Something that will cost a lot of money and impact what you do – day in and day out.
The only one you can rely on – is the legit expert.
Or someone who recognized that Oreo cookies are reducing their cream.
Because they eat them every single day.