1. This is so true. I don’t understand how anyone would expect to be engaged if just watching a very non-active, non-engaging training. Remember the talking head in high-school or college. No different, it just happens on a computer screen.

    David Jacobs

  2. Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this list, these are some great questions. The one about off-the-shelf courses made me laugh, definitely if they don’t know the lingo you should be afraid!


  4. Interesting that you tweaked the content from Rosetta rather than tweaking the LMS. Would it not make more sense to tweak the LMS to be more tolerant in accepting SCORM generally so that you don’t spend time tweaking every single time you purchase third-party courses? Particularly if the LMS says it never has interoperability problems. Hold their feet to the fire to ensure that’s true. We see far too many companies that don’t hold their LMS vendors accountable for what they promise, _especially_ when it comes to interoperability and SCORM.

    1. Absolutely. LMS and LCMS vendors must be held accountable. When end users go to look at a vendor they must ask (I strongly recommend it) if the vendor has had or current has interoperability challenges with any off the shelf content or format – i.e. swf for example. If they say they never have, as I mention, I strongly doubt it. That said, what I believe hurts our industry as well, is off the shelf vendors who tell people that their content never has any interoperability issues with LMS systems. (Not all off the shelf vendors say this mind you). So you need to ask the off the shelf vendor the interoperability question, since they won’t offer it up front to you.

  5. What a useful post!!!
    I really hadn’t thought about a couple of the features you mentioned. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  6. Good article…
    Alot of HR people aren’t tech savvy, and sometimes IT just does not have the patience to work with other groups. If there’s a sandbox where they can upload sample data and extract reports prior to purchasing, it would probably save lots of headache. This article provides a good overview of questions to ask.

  7. Good list. I worked in one of those larger companies where support (and everything else) was $$$$ and the frustration customers had over this was a constant issue. That’s why I left and I’m building a new LMS… hopefully there’s a better way!

    Support is really important to us, so I’m really glad to see this post, which I’ve bookmarked.

    This is exactly the kind of thing we’re interested in – what key features do people want in a low cost cloud based lms.

  8. As a specialist in the corporate e-learning market as an independent producer of learning modules, I have to say the insight in this article is absolutely magnificent. I am anxious to see the continued expansion of these complex issues in the market place.

  9. In the enterprise (non consumer) space, the device most likely carried will be a smartphone since it is considered an essential communications tool for mobile knowledge workers and provides access to voice communications, email, calendar/scheduling and, increasingly, corporate information or systems via available apps. These devices are getting better and better too – at CTIA this week several more smartphones with 4+ inch, 800×480 hi res displays were introduced and while the format is still small, the experience is certainly workable for accessing both learning and eReader-style content in all the favors you’ve cited. Finally, mlearning is not something that everyone is going to get or want to do/participate in either – like so many other tech-related things, a good 40% of equipped mobile workers will appreciate its value and actively participate, another 30% will give it a go from time to time, and the remaining 30% will never see the point. Viva la difference!

  10. Thank you for telling it like it is. There is so much hype around Moodle in the ed sector, but for every Pro there is a Con. Simply stated, the UI is utterly horrible for administrators, teachers, and end users. This is supposed to be changed in 2.0, but I would imagine that would require an entire rewrite. We’ll see.

    True, it’s free. But as we all learned in economics–there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It costs to have personnel to administer the system. If you want to run a robust setup with 100s of simultaneous users then that will cost you as well. There are just a lot of factors involved that most people don’t take into account when they run with Moodle.

    1. Even if you pay for an LMS, you have to pay someone to maintain it. I’ve never understood the “no free lunch” argument. It is one of those axiomatic statements that is supposed to end the conversation or give someone something to stand on. The software is free, that doesn’t mean it will run by itself. If you purchase an LMS, would you not have someone maintain it?

      I’ve been using Moodle for two years and have never had to write a single line of code or use a single custom SQL statement to get Moodle to work. I simply took time to look at the interface, see what the options are and try it. I could have purchased support from an organization or have gone to training on how to use moodle. That’s the same process I would do with a commercial application.

      1. Actually that is not true. The vast majority of LMS or learning platform vendors will take care of your issues, fix problems, etc. without any hassle. Many vendors are now offering at least the first year of support for free, inc. tech support.

        Sure there are systems out there that frankly their support and service are the worst, but there are many who do an outstanding job.

        Lets not forget that for companies who implement Moodle or other open source solutions, when there is an issue, they have to have people who can help end users and solve tech issues – i.e. u need a help desk. You don’t with a commercial system. Equally, updates and fixes happen automatically, not so with Moodle.

        While you are an expert in Moodle, the vast number of people who implement and use it are not.

  11. Thank you for the definition of MOODLE…I keep hearing this buzz word in the industry, but did not truly understand it until I read your Blog. Great insight.

    I will definitely think before I recommend the MOODLE aspect, while it sounds perfect, you identified the true horrors one faces with it.


  12. I believe the real question here is, does your organization need an LMS? I have been working with companies to select and implement LMS’ for almost 10 years now and the one constant is that technology is not going to solve the real issues inside the training department.

    The real issues revolve around alignment of training to business objectives and content. Until the alignment and content issues are clear no LMS is going to solve the problem.

    From a functionality standpoint so many people want the bells and whisles but the question remains, do you really need all that extra stuff or are you only going to use 30% of the functionality of an LMS anyway. That is where you are taking my thought process in this discussion.

    Thanks for getting it started. Look forward to continued conversations.

  13. Great post Craig.

    One other thing that we generally advise our customers for an apple to apple comparison is to check for hardware requirement of the LMS, i.e. what kind and how many servers would be required for different kind of concurrency loads.

    This may not be a factor in small installations, but can have a huge impact on Total Cost of Ownership for medium to large sized installations.

    Thanks again.

  14. Craig — Thanks for another great post! So glad to see some attention given again to the value of effective asynchronous WBT, and how to achieve it.

    I did pause when I read your comment that certification preparation is an exception to the non-linear approach… It seems to me that someone obtains certification by passing a test, rather than demonstrating they’ve covered X amount of content (clicked through a specified number of screens, for example).

    So if it all comes down to passing the test, why not let the learners zip right to the quiz sections of the lessons or modules if they want to see how well they already know the content?

    Or — better yet — offer a pre-test that determines the content they must see and content they have the option of by-passing, because of what they answered correctly or not?

    I’m a follower of Dr. Ruth Clark, who asserts that learners aren’t distinguished by “styles of learning” (hearing, seeing, etc.), but by levels of experience: every learner comes to a set of content with a different level of familiarity.

    In the case of certifications, a learner could have been practicing in the field for many years but has just decided to take the certificaiton exam. He or she has much more experience than someone very new to the material, so being able to see how ready they are for the test (and directing them to any content they need to refresh) is probably the best learning environment you could create for them.

    What do you think?

    1. You are absolutely right. However, there are many corporate side of folks who want that extra issue due to compliance training – audit trials – so that is where the certification comes into play. Personally, I’m a fan of jumping around, and ditching tests and using practice – SBLs, because that is what works.

      Sure, pre-assessments can be done to assess – but then it gets back to the whole goal of WBT. If I want to jump around, what is the advantage of a pre-assessment? That said, one way to move that about..is to have a pre assessment prior to them going into multiple courses on that subject, if you have multiple levels – say beginner, intermediary and advanced. Then the assessment can identify what course to select.

      I have seen people do a pre-assessment for the course, to identify areas of strength and improvement, so the end user knows what to focus on. Some people love that. In the end it comes down to subject matter. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Craig — Thanks for clarifying. Reading your comment made me realize how unfortunate it is that so many certifications and licensures are based on test results (Q&A about knowledge) rather than practice (demonstration of learned skills). I’m with you — testing really isn’t an effective measure in many cases, but — as you say — audit trails are required.

    Associations that offer certifications feel a deep responsibility to get it right so when they say that the audiologist or other professional has been “certified” a particular set of skills have been confirmed in the learner. Audit trails are important, but are just part of the story (unlike corporations, which often just want to be able to hold up proof that X number of employees sat through harassment or OSHA or other training).

    Transitioning certifications and recertifications (renewals) from ILT to WBT has been a slow and gradual process — for all the reasons you mention.

    Thanks again for providing your insight on this, Craig!

  16. Hi Craig,

    Thank you for reviewing our Mindflash.com beta product! Your feedback is really helpful. Glad you found that the product is easy to use, requires no tech skills, uploads content quickly and makes adding quizzes simple. Our goal is to produce the simplest and most effective Training Management System for in-house trainers seeking an easier way to create online courses and track trainee results. Good to hear that we’re hitting those marks.

    I agree with many of your critiques, as well. Please do keep an eye on us, as we’re releasing improvements to the product every four weeks. You’ll see non-Linear navigation, clarity on the file types we support (PowerPoint, Word, PDF, and dozens of Video formats) and several other items on your wish-list in the coming months. To your question re Trainer’s photos and emails: we’ve included this feature based on feedback from Trainers we interviewed in our product research. They take great pride in their work and told us they want to be personally associated with their content. Our current beta users have not expressed concern, likely because the product is intended for in-house training. The Trainer has complete control over who has access to the course.

    I personally invite your readers to try our free, private beta product and share their feedback with us, as well. Sign up is at: http://beta.mindflash.com/?ad=elearning247

    Thanks again, Craig.

    Donna Wells

  17. What a rich rapid e-learning suit!
    I have some thoughts on your article:
    1. For the assessment tool, there is less question types to choose, and it will be more attractive for students to add multimedia-images, videos, audio, flsh animation, etc.
    Well, I have always used one software-Wondershare QuizCreator .
    We, teachers can insert the quiz made into the course as flash format, students like it.
    Also, I can upload the quiz to web to let students do and then collect the results with mail.

  18. Thank you for this post. I am currently evaluating LMS options for my employer and this is really helpful.

  19. What you just decribed seems to be reasonable except the fact that a laptop with 3G/4G enabled or with the wireless on-the-go feature can also afford all you have just decribed. I do not see the big difference in the core of the laptop and the tablet. Also, in general, a medium-size laptop can perform better than a tablet in terms of course authring and multimedia creation.

    1. A couple of points.

      1. I am not saying the market for laptops will disappear, what I am saying that tablets are here to say and is a new market that is only going to continue to grow. People started with cell phones and masses still have them, but smart phones are a growing market – and m-learning is going there. A laptop with all the bells and whistles is not cheap and right now, it depends on what type of laptop you get to perform the multimedia objectives you want and yes, content authoring.

      2. Content authoring in terms of rapid e-learning is right now on computer based – desktop or laptop. However there is a vendor who is developing html5 course content authoring, which thus can be developed on a tablet. One LMS vendor is working on a content authoring tool built within their LMS, thus it is on the cloud. SCORM cloud enables you build courses within the cloud – fully SCORM 2004 certified and launch from anywhere. So, the ability to build courses does not have to stay on a laptop or desktop. Additionally, with open source capabilities which tablets have, you could build courses with open source solutions – today.

      3. Lastly, yeah you can have the maximum laptop cabilities you are mentioning and the wieght that goes with it, but if my salespeople are in the field, do you want them to be logging around with a laptop or a tablet, which depending on what you get is less in weight? Nowadays a lot of folks use RIM or Iphones or other smart phones off site in the field, more so than walking around with a laptop. Remember desktops were the main norm and laptops were expensive (and they still are, again on what you purchase). Books were first and still exist, but e-readers are a growing segment. It is only natural to realize that tablets will grow as well. Vendors need to realize this, that end users – consumers and yes, there are companies that are purchasing them and the market will not disappear. They will have to adapt and the easiest way to do it for the masses, it to develop content authoring tools with multimedia options in the cloud.

  20. Very interesting article, but two critical plug ins need to be available for formal education practices – Flash Player and Java. These are both required for the existing investments that companies have already made in the web based courses. I work for a large company that has over 700 SCORM courses active and has invested tons in these. Apple clearly isn’t that concerned about this market.

    1. 1. Excluding the Ipad, all the other tablets will support Flash and java. They all support HTML5, which considering that courses can now be built in a “cloud” with one vendor doing it and it is not a LMS, with SCORM 2004, it would make logical sense for a rapid e-learning authoring tool vendor to offer the same thing – enabling end users to build in a cloud, lest the assume that no other vendor will follow suit – and we have seen throughout the business world, many companies in various sectors who failed to adapt. What is to say, you can not offer two versions for end users – build on your desktop and in the “cloud”.

      2. Based on the knowledge that there is a rapid e-learning authoring vendor working on the ability to create courses in HTML5 and thus be able to be seen and work within the solution, indicates otherwise, regarding your statement. Back in the late 90’s and into early 2000-2001, the same “java” issue occurred between Netscape and IE, with Microsoft not support java due to a battle with Sun. Courses were able to be created, albeit you had to create two versions – one for Netscape the other for IE, and build into the courses a “browser sniffer” to identify which one would be seen based on the end user’s browser.

      If a LMS vendor with a built in course authoring tool can enable their end users to build courses in their solution for the Ipad and other tablets, then it is possible.

      Just my three cents. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the insight, and equally appreciate you reading my blog.

  21. You don’t mention the actual price, and neither do they. It annoys me personally whenever a company forces me to contact their sales department merely to find out one basic piece of information that I need BEFORE I know whether or not I want to contact them. If you believe in your pricing model, why be coy about it? Competitors can easily discover it anyway.

    Unless they’re very reasonable indeed, I can already accomplish a lot of this with the extremely inexpensive Zoho platform and apps.

  22. Hi Brian,

    I’m happy to answer your price question. On average, the setup fee ranges between 15-30k, but it depends upon client needs as identified in the sales process.

    Should you have any more questions, I’m happy to answer them. Please email me at susan at mzinga dot com.


  23. Good post!

    What you call a “learning portal”, I call an “Informal Learning Environment” or ILE (http://tinyurl.com/informal-ILE), and I think it’s an excellent idea to manage it via a CMS.

    It would be fine to leave it at that for an open learning community or CoP, but employers need to record competence too. That’s what the LMS does well.

    So, a company needs both an ILE and an LMS: the former to support learning, the latter to manage assessment.

  24. You might want to also add PENS as one of your Elearning specific APIs. Not nearly as popular as SCORM/AICC – but provides a nice standard to allow course development tools to send packages directly to an LMS. (Full Disclosure -> we use this with our LMS and LCMS vendor)

  25. You talk about API support in the LMS, but what about the enterpise LMS-API. The street has to be two way where the social media engine may be getting data from the LMS.

    1. True. But an API is not social media. It is a programming interface, that is used with social media solutions or other offerings. For example, you can use create an API for a SCORM Player.

  26. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  27. I just stumbled across your blog and am so happy that I did, you’ve got some great information here, and alot of solid advice.

    Thanks for the info.

  28. Great blog post! Nice breakdown of the industry tools and their strengths/weaknesses.

    LinkedIn groups about e-learning are awash with posts asking “Which is the best tool to create e-learning?”.
    I might save this link and dump it into the next several I see to short-circuit the inevitable futile debate that follows.

  29. Nice article. I do have a comments about AICC though. I believe that the AICC-B (the Javascript API) was used as the starting point for the communication method for SCORM. AICC also gives you the option to keep your content separate from the LMS server. It also gives you the choice to submit your information over a secure HTTPS connection. SCORM can do this as well but not without some additional server-sde scripts that not all LMS vendors supply.

    Though I do admit that if provided the choice, I would rather use SCORM versus AICC, I still believe that AICC has and plays a vital role in delivering quality WBT.

  30. Great post! We have built a Social Learning Environment at the University of Florida, College of Ed. using open source apps. It is not stand alone, as we are extending the capabilities of our current LMS by integrating the features of social media. We do believe online social learning is the future (or present for that matter) of elearning.

  31. Great to see a discussion on social learning! We are a cloud based LMS that is SCORM 2004 and has basic authoring/ content collaboration . Our approach is to have stuff like user ratings, expert collaboration but with a focus on recommending specific content based on their preferences, tags, group membership, location and job title. Like Netflix/ Amazon in terms of content recommendation.

    I think the main reason many LMS vendors don’t embrace social learning as much as you would think is that it isn’t in their core skillset. Honestly, I’m really not sure they should either. I’m seeing 3rd party social applications are filling the bill for this very well. For example with Open id ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenID) you can have a single-sign-on experience with Facebook for example and with specific APIs ( http://developers.facebook.com/) you can embed training into your Facebook page so there’s no need to recreate the entire Facebook experience within an LMS. The company UDUTU – http://www.udutu.com/products-myudutu.html does this well. The same holds true for Linkedin and other social sites. The user interaction experience seems to favor using the best tool for the job: Gmail for some things, twitter for others, Linkedin, Facebook. I don’t think LMS vendors want to try and build/ replicate all these when there’s no barrier for a user to use these tools at the same time.

  32. With respect to Global Markets, there’s another aspect that trainers and elearning developers overlook (or are completely unaware of)…the need for culturally appropriate instructional design! Not just translation of words or localization of images, etc., but truly addressing learning styles and preferernces of learners in targeted cultures/countries. Andrea

  33. Great Points! As an LMS vendor it’s tempting to generate as much data about the person/ company interested in your product. Especially if they want a trial. But we’ve found it better to let them sign-up for a full trial LMS community with only their email. We give them 30 days and then check back if they want to continue but that’s it.

    The pricing argument is valid. Although we’re seeing customers wanting pricing based on just bandwidth and storage, not per seat.

    1. * “Unlimited users” appearing with more LMS/LCMS vendors – slow growth, but it is growing
      * Buckets/Packages of seats has always existed in the industry – remains the most popular approach in the industry, for those interested about LMS seats, you may find the articles under my menu “Must Reads”
      * I surmise that some people who find great benefit of paying for storage over a pay per user, in the LMS/LCMS market, are probably unaware of the above two bullet points

      Thank you though for your comments!

  34. Craig — Great post! Just linked to it from the aLearning Blog. This should be required reading for all vendors and their potential customers. Thanks for sharing what you’ve observed in your research!

  35. Craig, very nice review. Please, keep up with good work – I like your blog. Thank you.

  36. Hi

    Can anyone help me with below questions

    1) How much man hour you need to develop one module in any LMS if i want to add custom module specific to my requirement (ex. Plateau, sumtotal, saba)?
    2) What is the effort required?
    3) What is the skill set required?

    Your answers will be very helpful.

  37. Super useful article (and I’m a vendor!). I like people who actually care about e-learning not becoming just another pile of buzzwords.

    Keep on us, and don’t let up.

  38. Craig,

    I appreciate your advice suggesting web based platforms for online tutoring including blackboard. Is there anything like that?

    Thank you very much,


  39. Great article (as always) Craig! Loved the VCR/DVR analogy. As I was reading this review I remembered what we talked about “student” vs. “learner”… I am going to get that corrected asap. You make such a valid point. Happy Halloween!

  40. Fantastic article – the lack of a hands-off demo option is not only true of LMS vendors – it’s common across all software industries. I wonder what your readers think of a model based on contact hours. This would be a SaaS LMS with a small monthly or annual base fee and a cost based on hours delivered. Video and other temporal media would be charged per learner, and assessments would have a fixed rate. Hopefully this would tie the cost to a metric that means something to a learning organization as opposed to gigabytes or seats.

  41. I understand and agree that Moodle takes some administrative effort to get humming (though depending on how you manage it the levels vary from minimal to extraordinary); what I’m not sold on is the customization bit. Once installed, Moodle does work “out of the box” generally and the most important administrative tools are controlled through quick check boxes or drop down menus (and are well documented online if users need the added support/help).

    Is there an LMS out there that does not require a minimal level of setup but provides the same features? Edmodo is probably the simplest LMS I know, but it’s capabilities are more limited than what many view as modern LMSs.

    I’m curious to know what LMS you’re working with now and if you know of any others that truly can be called “turnkey” and…perhaps what your definition of “turnkey” is (as most LMSs will still require course resources to be created, which is, imho, hardly turnkey).

    1. Turnkey does not mean course resources. What it means, is that once it is installed whether it be on your own server or if it is SAAS (and in that case, turned on), it is ready to go. Customization is not needed, albeit, typically you can skin it, and some vendors offer some customization – which they the vendor will do – (not the end user – nor the end user having to locate a programmer on their end) – either at no/charge (many small dog vendors, will do this) or charge.

      To your specific points:

      Many small dog vendors are now providing customer service and tech support at no charge to their end users. Others charge for tech support. Training on the product, depends on the vendor, with some offering it for free.

      Thus the client (end user) does not need to have their own tech support on hand, unless the issue relates to their own computers i.e. OS issues, etc. – and sometimes, here is the irony, some vendors for small things like this – actually will help the client. Last time, I looked with Moodle this does not happen.

      Yes, paid LMSs are not open source system. If you want to add APIs at some point – if your vendor supports it you can. You can do the same thing with mashups and open source – again your vendor has to support it. And I am seeing an increase in doing this.

      Personally, I disagree with your out of the box premise. What you can do is so limited, it is minimal. Someone who wants a strong LMS, will want to do some major customization more so than Moodle does right out of the box – i.e. right off the shelf.

      Moodle is not a turnkey solution, i.e. download and whalla its a full blown system. It just isn’t. However, there are plenty of LMSs that offer full blown and lots of features, right out of the box.

      If you want to say that Moodle right out of the box is equal to say any paid LMS, I can mention with its features (and I’m not referring to one that requires modules, nor one that is at a price point, beyond 12K, for everything), then that is fine. But, I seriously doubt it and have not seen that to be the case.

      With a paid LMS, you can have ZERO tech skills – depending on which one you purchase (over 90%). You cannot have ZERO tech skills with an open source LMS – if you want it to do anything.

      There are over 245 LMSs in the marketplace – paid ones.. some of which actually sit on a Moodle framework – the difference, they have significant programmers, capabilities and capital.

      I love open source solutions and LMSs, btw, but people should be aware that it is not a turnkey solution without some sort of customization to really make it zing.

      Moodle is like an ERP solution. Customization is needed depending on the organization and what you want done to it. If I am a company, I am going to want some things different then what a higher ed place has or K-6.

  42. I don’t cook out of the box and nor do I train out of the box. So, even when offered a “turnkey” – it just simply isn’t.

    Many clients are neither MIT nor Oracle. Small businesses may see elearning as a fast way to improve business or, grudgingly, as a cheap and fast way to comply with regulations.

    Either way, clients (and learners) outside the education realm seem to find it hard to see (and pay) for more than what they imagine is a slam bam website or blog equivalent (which they believe anybody can make… for better or worse).

    The specifics of back-end better and worse are good points, Craig. Thanks for re-posting this.

  43. Some interesting ideas, but I’m not sure about the kitchen-sink approach towards the end of the article. Star Office tried that (before it was bought by Sun and turned into OpenOffice.org) and it nearly killed it. People don’t need their e-mail integrated into their LMS; they already have perfectly workable e-mail plus a messaging system in their LMS (which sends copies to their e-mail).

    OTOH, real-time collaborative document creation with simultaneous voice-chat – now THAT would be something.

    1. This is true, if they have an open source LMS, where they can put anything into it with open source code or APIs, but from a corporate standpoint, there is not a system that has an integrated e-mail system.

      Secondly, when Star Office existed, Gmail did not. Sure, there was internet e-mail, but it companies were not moving away from MS Outlook to Gmail, which today they are. All size of companies, by the way are.

      You do not need, nor am I saying that all the things I’m listing under innovate should be in a LMS, rather here is a feature you can integrate or add.

      And, if you add it, it should be free. No charge, not partnered with someone else, as it exists in the paid LMSs, who 99% of them, partner with a web conferencing vendor under the premise that it is free, when in actually the end user has to pay for a license.

      Thank you for the comments.

  44. Well, eight months have passed since the iPad hit the market. What a great device for delivery of e/m learning!
    A couple of years ago we began experimenting with Google Development Tools and HTML 5 standards.
    HTML 5 is definitely powerful enough to support deliver of fully animated PowerPoint slides synchronized with video, speakers notes, asides, samples, etc. and provide the tools required to communicate with most LMSs.

  45. As always great stuff!

    With Social Learning, learning moves beyond a mandatory experience to an experience that engages learners. Learning becomes an experience people seek out because it enables them to achieve their work objectives and accelerate their aspirations. This is compatible with the mobile and lightweight LMS trends you forecast.

    So what about 2012?

    David Koehn
    Director of Product Strategy
    Saba People Learning
    t: @davidkoehn
    in: linkedin.com/in/davidkoehn
    yt: youtube.com/sabasociallearning

  46. Interesting read…some good info here. So outside of the HTML5 realm, do you have any opinion of rapid authoring tools such as Smart Builder, Atlantic Link, Lectora, etc…do you see these as forward thinking or are they already becoming antiquity?

    Damien Garber
    Vice President of Marketing
    LandMark ASP Solutions

    1. The RCAT market as a whole is far from over. It is going to get bigger. Not because as a whole – they are amazing, but rather they fulfill a function, that is needed in the marketplace.
      Keys for future success in 2011 and beyond that I see – long term – more SAAS (rather than desktop), enabling code to be given to people creating the courses (believe it or not, not everyone is creating them for their own employer, some actually are hired to create them for someone else – a concept that seems to be forgotten with RCAT vendors), offer more advanced features – for advanced technical users, so your options are for beginners, intermediate and you have advanced functionality – real robust; you are SAAS based; and allow who ever is creating the course to have the code at the end. The irony here is that besides the open source vendors – such as CourseLab who is free; Rapid Intake’s Unison (a paid product) enables people who create courses in their SAAS product, to have the flash code, and they do not have to build courses again in their product. It is a smart move. Especially with open source solutions out there.

  47. Hi Craig,

    I very much appreciate your blog and our Accord LMS has benefited from incorporating many of your suggestions.

    Thanks so much,

  48. I do agree with 95% of what the author has noted in this article; however, I want to take a moment to shed some light on those additional costs associated with LMS courses and testing.

    In my experience, the most challenging issue is with AICC/SCORM compliance tracking, scoring, etc. Typically, the contractor does not have ANY access to the actual LMS during critical testing points in the development cycle. The assumption that all LMS-published courses just magically work in every LMS on every Client’s network and infrastructure is NOT TRUE. Either the manifest file or other information passed to the LMS must be modified and this is part of the testing phase to ensure the course works. Where it gets costly for the contractor is when we are assigned an ‘LMS Admin’ on the Client side who is supposed to help us with any issues, but is not at all knowledgeable about the data passed to and from the LMS, doesn’t know what to look for, and makes it very difficult to pinpoint issues with the course if/when problems arose.

    9 times out of 10, it was customization on the Client side (firewall, software, ports, etc.) that we could not account for in our course design and the LMS contact was either not accessible or knowledgeable about these variables which made it costly during the LMS testing phase. So one word of caution for both Clients and contractors, make sure you have the right people available and talking to each other when it comes to LMS testing. You’ll often need serious ‘back end’ support from both sides – not just the guy who loads up courses in the LMS telling you ‘it doesn’t work’.

  49. Great post! I don’t think the LMS could Die because it is the one telling factor that measures results in e-Learning. Even if you are just reviewing who has taken and/or passed a specific course.

    I like the on-demand solutions personally. They offer unlimited users and online hosting, no maintenance or installation required, easy Administrator set up and configuration to add users and courses, and a manageable monthly fee.

    I would be curious to hear others opinions on this topic. But once again, I do not believe the LMS could ever Die. :-}

  50. Did you look at Rapid Intake’s debut of their mobile content authoring tool at TK11? It looked impressive to me that they are creating so a single course can be accessed on the PC, smart phone and/or tablet.

    1. I did. Very nice product. Gives a lot of capabilities for a rapid content authoring tool. They are very innovative for their space. The real strength of the mlearning studio product as I see it, will be with the tablets, much more so than smart phone, only because the tablet has such bigger possibilities. The elearning studio is equally nice, but it is really their Unison and ProForm products re-packaged. The mlearning studio is new.

  51. Great post on a variety of different aspects regarding the elearning community. I myself find it very interesting that while LMS was rumored to be dead (in favor of mobile learning, etc.), but apparently the platforms are making a strong comeback among vendors and producers (I hesitantly call it a comeback, since there were never ACTUALLY phased out). I am excited to see all the innovations and transformation in the industry.

  52. Hi Craig,
    As designers of learning activities and games in the physical world, we left the ‘passive’ e-learning-on-a-computer-screen to toehrs, in order to focus on a more rich learning environment. However I agree that the arrival of tablets (and smart phones to a lesser extent) and the technologies you mentione offer real opportunities for collaborative and engaging learning.

  53. Good list, as always. I used most of your techniques and learned a lot along the way. Thanks.

    If I may add:

    If the product is what you want but the first-call sales person is not, ask for someone else.

    When you are ready to say “yes,” ask for a conference with the person you will be working with once you sign.

    While tech solutions are terrifically important, the human side hasn’t diminished.

    Thanks, Craig.

    1. It depends on what you are looking for.

      If you want advanced content authoring tool capabilities, beyond basics, there are a few out there.

      If you want a quick convert to Flash, with PPT but still have a TOC, and other features – there are a nice list.

      If you need or want, HTML5 as a capability, there are a couple that work.

      I like Rapid Intake’s mlearning studio because it offers HTML5, and the 100% SAAS based content authoring tool, which I think they now call eLearning Studio online is excellent. It offers features and functionality from basic to advanced, including the ability to keep the flash code.

      1. Just to be sure, do you have any potential conflicts of interest regarding your recommendations?

      2. No. I do not do pay for play or quid pro quo or anything like that. In fact, my clients know that I do not do product reviews on them, and when I have a client that I might state in a blog, I clearly state in the blog, that they are a client. There is full transparency here. In fact, I had Absorb as a client for 1.5yrs, but services were fulfilled and they are no longer client. That said, I really like their solution and have since 2009, before they were ever a client of mine.

        I am 100% completely independent and will stay that way. Heck, I have had clients – current and past – who I have not listed in a best of class, etc. And, if someone – a buyer hires me and asks for example, about a vendor, who is a client, I am always upfront with them – and tell them they are a client, and then will tell them, the good, and if applicable – poor things or issues I have with the solution. Again, full transparency. I believe that is only way you can best serve your buyers and the readers of the blog. It is another reason why I do not allow advertising of any sort on the blog. Zip, Nada.

  54. Thanks for the insightful post. I’m particularly interested in the growth of mobile – and all the ways elearning development will have to adapt to changing circumstances.

    Also, congrats on the blog redesign! It looks great.

  55. Craig, thanks for your complimentary words about OpenSesame! We’re hopeful that our marketplace will continue to drive innovation in the elearning sector while making selecting, purchasing and deploying content easier for training managers. We’re always interested in feedback and suggestions, as well.


  56. Craig,

    I liked your comment on how vendors are starting to charge for free bees especially with so much new happening in the LMS world, users have started to take so much for granted. Users expect to pay for new innovations and technology, not for features that were already a part of LMS.

  57. Thank you Craig for this comprehensive list of social media tools with compelling value added propositions for more traditional eLearning technologies. Indeed the time for excuses is over! Social media is dramatically changing the way people communicate in the workspace, inevitably impacting corporate Learning strategies. I truly appreciate your call to action for all vendors to embrace what social media has to offer and provide integration to platforms that have reached a level of maturity and penetration that cannot be overlooked any longer.
    The biggest challenge today is probably the overload of information and options available. With all the tools and sites out there, where and how do you get started integrating social media? What is the best process to select the appropriate tools and create a “roadmap to social learning”?

    Prioritizing what you want out of social media is critical prior to jumping in!
    It would be interesting to provide a forum for an exchange of experiences and best practices on social media integration from a vendor point of view leading to developing useful guidelines for all in the industry.

  58. Nice listing of technolgies, but would answer the premise of your post with a question.

    What business problems are SL technology trying to solve?

    For example, how does collaborting on a PPT amongst 20 workers add to the bottom line, improve customer server or offer some other significant enough benefit to warrant changing existing processes/behaviors?

    Ultimately, that is the point.

  59. Great article. I am looking for a service that can host and sell my courses (they all do that) but allowing me to sell the course directly on my own website. Can you recommend any? Opensesame seems to have what I need but I want to sell from my own website through a plugin/html code and then the service takes care of everything in the background. Thanks

  60. Interesting point of view however I don’t think it is fair nor do I understand your need to criticize our industries decision not to listen to the “wise” words and direction of Apple to further invest in the continued Appification of the web. We don’t all wish to recreate what already works perfectly just so that we can have an app so Apple can make money off of us.

    For an app to be done it has to make sense from the company building it and how the users will benefit. Ask yourself, would you really take a full elearning course on a smartphone? If so why? Who would? Why would they? The lack of native elearning apps really shouldn’t surprise us, we all feel that full course delivery on a smartphone is less than ideal. Think about it, if i have a phone full of cool fun apps and some time to kill… do you really think i’m going to open that elearning app and take some courseware on my own time? No i’m going to play a game, work out a puzzle or some other playful activity. If i’m at work, then why would i kill my battery taking elearning on my smartphone when i can just use my work computer to take the elearning that my company wants me to take?

    We are all working to analyse and understand the benefit, the value and the fit for learning in your pocket. And when i say we i mean vendors and customers. Don’t get me wrong there is huge value and potential for mLearning, just don’t think it needs an app for that!

    Our company started designing native apps for playback of our published courses. Some early prototypes were shared with some of our partners and clients. What we found, the reality, content authoring tools are at the mercy of the gatekeeper to training, the LMS. Without the LMS using/embracing/integrating our App, there wasn’t a way to get the content out. LMS vendors know this and they want to own it, so the ball is in their court. As such we chose to work with LMS vendors to make sure our content works in their native apps. Some of them have Apps out now like OnPoint Digital and recently SumTotal/GeoLearning and others we are working with are on their way too.

    And then the iPad…. So if you have a perfectly functional SaaS authoring system why would you rebuild a minified feature less native app when users could login using the browser and have the full app? Where is the investment sense to rebuild an already functional app on all the major devices? There are so many restrictions, limitations and problems with native apps on any device when it comes to authoring systems. Building one doesn’t seem smart or strategic when the one in the browser works already (assuming your RCAT isn’t built in Flash). You say “what if i don’t have a An internet connection”, well then enjoy some peace and quiet. If you are in mission Critical, gotta build some elearning, but i don’t have a connection to the internet situation, you have some larger issues. I travel all over and I rarely experience a “No connection” situation outside of being at a large conference venue or a Bates type Motel. In those cases most of us are far too busy with the world around us to worry about anything more than keeping up with company communications.

    Here’s an example of native iPad fail and why it isn’t ready for full apps. Apple, the masters they are, can’t even do it right with their iWork iPad(note they have no iPhone versions) suite, fail, fail, fail on all three apps. yea they work but they support um 1% of their desktop version and for the most part are useless outside of simple text edits and have a really difficult user experience with file management. And they incorrectly convert and open a lot of PowerPoint files, poor font support and the autocorrect is horrible. Etc…

    Facebook has a great smartphone app, why because it is needed to address the user experience. but there isn’t an iPad version, why? As Mark said “there is, it’s called Safari”. The iPad for a web app doesn’t always require native when there is no value to the vendor or customer.

    When a vendor in this space claims they are mobile it really means something different today than it did say 3+ years ago. It mostly translates to “we work on mobile browsers”, “we work with smaller resolutions” and “we don’t require Flash”. Which to be honest, thanks to Apple is really what customers are asking when they say do you work on Mobile devices.

    PS. Nice work on restyling your blog.

    1. 1. I agree that smartphones are not and have always stated – never will be, the solution to mobile learning. I also have stated numerous times in the past, the exact statement, “of why would you want to take a course” on a smartphone. They were listed because there are companies who have their systems – and advertise as such – as smartphone enabled, but not tablet.

      2. Initial projections by the end of the year, were 85 new tablets (on top of the 30 plus from 2010) in the market. However, numbers are indicating they will be higher. This article focuses on the iPad, but does mention Android and other OS. The Honeycomb 3.0 OS is a major competitor to iOS. Regardless, the apps can apply across all tablet OS

      3. Tablets are the fastest growing mobile market. It is projected alone that by the end of this year, over 20 million people will have and be using a tablet. I don’t know about you, but I think this is a pretty good size, especially since the consumer slate tablets (which these are), started really in 2010, although rugged tablets and some slates have been in existence for more than 3 years.

      4. With the exception to the iPad/iPad2 and right now Xoom (but it will change), all the other tablets accept Flash and HTML5. Regardless of what you think of HTML5, Adobe clearly sees that it is going to be big, because they offer and you can download an HTML5 extension kit for CS5. Today, you can already locate sites in HTML5, and any browser worth its weight has a sniffer (if you will) that can identify if the site is in HTML5 or Flash, and will switch, so that people can see it. Personally, I believe HTML5 is significantly better than Flash.

      5. No offense to Facebook, but I see no point to it. This is the same company, who believes – and would do it if they could get away with it – no privacy for the end users, so as long as it makes a buck for them.

      6. The 2nd most popular browser behind Safari, is Atomic. I use it and frankly it has more features than Safari. 360 is another new browser, that says you can view Flash on the iPad, because it has added an open source program within it. There is also Skyfire, which enables end users to view flash videos on the iPad and other mobile devices too.

      7. I am not a 100% lover of Apple, but I think they got it right with the iPad and its successor the iPad2. And the market agrees. That said, if I was to purchase an android device, I would wait until the summer, as vendors such as the new larger version of the Galaxy and Vizio appears.

      8. I respect your opinion, as a vendor, that you perceive I am criticizing the market. It is not criticizing it is identifying the possibilities.

      9. I have been in this industry since it began in the late 90’s, and have vendors as clients. I have seen great great products that failed to survive in the market – because they were so far ahead of the curve (Playback!). I hope that companies today, that are ahead of the curve, make it, because they see where the market needs to go. The funny thing here, is that even 5 months ago, there were vendors who told me, they were staying out the mobile learning space for tablets, because they didn’t see the value in it.

      10. IMO, the best mobile learning product I have seen is K-Tango made by CertPoint. It is a Point of Sale, extended enterprise mobile learning system. 100% mobile platform that is a standalone from their LMS. It is already in Europe and will launch in the U.S. soon. They have a native app for the iPad for it. It really is an incredible product. So, there are vendors out there who see it and get it, and they should be recognized for it as scuh.

  61. Craig,
    I just found your blog while searching for info on LMS pricing models. Although you didn’t quit hit on my issue and thoroughly enjoyed reading it and will again. It is time to renew with my hosted LMS provider and they are forcing a built in increase year-over-year with a multi-year contract. Wow… I didn’t see that one coming. Anyway, great job.

    1. Yes, they have to. But, here is the catch, what they need to do is create apps for tablets, not smartphones. No one, wants to zing into a LMS and take a course or whatever on a smartphone.

      Key to success: offline/online synch for the LMS. As you know, people want self-contained, they do not want to go into an app and then have to click a link to go to the web site. A on/off switch if you will, would be the route to go, so I can download a few courses, take them on my own time and then synch the app with the LMS, when I have the ability to do so.

  62. Hi Craig,

    We are SERIOUSLY thinking of pricing our LMS by bandwidth only based on all the reasons you list in this post. Lately, we are getting many clients saying, “we don’t know how many users/ customers we’ll get, can you charge by usage?” We blogged about this dilemna here: http://www.feathercap.net/41811/

    I think the per seat/ license will end soon regardless.

  63. I am looking forward to evaluate Moodle for our LMS requirements.

    Can you please through some light? What you suggest which you think answers to the most questions you have mentioned above?


  64. Thanks for the review. Odd that language options do not include Spanish.
    I wonder if it would have been faster had you been using it in Europe. For a product with global reach, that should not be an issue.

  65. I just can’t say enough great things about DropBox, Google Apps and all the cloud tools I rely on every day. It has totally changed the way I work, made me more agile in focusing on the actual task at hand, rather than organizing information and access. It’s made a huge difference. I shudder to think about the amount of time I used to spend organizing file hierarchies!

  66. Great article Craig! I’m right there with you on the pitfalls. I’m not all about letting learners upload documents. I would just setup a blank site and remove the lists/functionality that isn’t pertinent.

    From my prospective I really think there is value in the Wiki, Blog and more importantly the Team Discussion features, as well as 3rd party components like Bamboo Knowledge Base.


  67. Craig, do you have plans to speak at upcoming conferences re: successful selection, implementation, and adoption of a platform to fit your LMS AND informal learning needs? I get your points above and feel other learners need to better understand that they need to gather internal requirements before being swayed by vendors or people from other groups saying “SharePoint [Moodle, Saba, Plateau, an spreadsheet] worked for us, you should try that!”. It’s as misleading as diet or finance information.

    I’d be interested in attending if you do plan to speak as a) I enjoyed your post and b) our consulting firm is heavily involved in the space currently.

    1. Yes. I will be speaking at DevCon in Salt Lake City on June 15th, on how to build the ultimate LMS with APIs, then will be speaking on a couple of panel webinars this summer, and will be speaking in Moscow, Russia at the eLearn Expo. I also write for Learning Circuits magazine published by ASTD, “tech tools”, it appears every other month, and I will be writing for an Australian elearning magazine, starting late summer. I also advise vendors in the elearning space and companies, biz, orgs who are interested in e-learning too. Hopefully, we can meet sometime at some conference and I greatly appreciate the comments. On a side note, I have a Linkedin group, where I try to post daily on a variety of things. The topics, etc. are shorter.

  68. Craig

    Thought provoking article. My first reaction was that you are being anti-SharePoint, but then realized that you were perhaps just being balanced! Advantages of SharePoint for social learning are stronger if you already use it for other things in your company. And also SharePoint and its data has a long term future, whereas other products are more uncertain.

    Your post prompted me to write my own in response, see http://blog.sharepointlearn.com/2011/05/18/sharepoint-for-social-learning-hero-or-villain/.

    Thank you!

    1. When it comes to products, I always am honest, unbiased and fair. Some ppl just love it, but some jump into it without realizing the pros and cons of it, especially the cons. They do it, I believe because they hear about it, it has a nice “buzz” to it, and as a vendor who sold it said, and I think it was very honest and cool that they did, unless you are currently using or have used SharePoint in the past, you should not just go into it and get a LMS, so as said it makes sense to follow that line with it as a social learning platform. Great feedback, though.

      1. Craig

        Thanks, look forward to reading your future posts. Genuinely we need more analysts who say it as they see it.


  69. Craig

    Interesting post and makes a lot of sense.

    One point though on AICC. At Questionmark, we support AICC, SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004. But the advantage of AICC is that it’s more robust and secure by going server to server rather than via the client browser. For assessments, where robustness, integrity and security are important, AICC is strong. So there are good reasons to use AICC rather than SCORM if your LMS supports it – many of our large customers use AICC to call us rather than SCORM.

    Hope this helps

    John Kleeman, Questionmark

  70. Craig, this is a nice service to those of us who are interested in selecting a webinar service and of use too for people who have already made their selection to know their options. I’ve saved it into a Word doc as it’s something I’ll want to reference soon. I look forward to the second installment!

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  71. hi….great post..can you give me details about the depth and breadth of the survey?


    1. Agreed – this would certainly add some context. Is this 20 or 20,000 respondants? Are they LMS administrators, buyers, end-users? Are they US-based, Global?

      1. They were e-learning end users and vendors. I can say vendors did respond, because I had a few respondents email me, and a few were vendors, and not just LMS.

        Were they mobile learning or social learning? Can’t say, because I did not ask what area of e-learning they were or if they were LMS only folks. I did not see relevance in that inquiry, because the questions were not all focused on learning platforms.

        Thank you.

  72. Please give some information about which LMSes that have been mentioned in your survey.

    Modern learning platforms have the capability to meet several of the features you miss such as online storage and embedding of rich content.

    In addition it is possible to connect to excellent 3rd party tools via APIs. Example, it is no problem for an online game to be integrated with a learning platform so that the teacher can utilize games in the teaching- and learning context. This is more a matter if the online game developers are interested in creating rich integrations with the learning platform and then lower the threshold for the teachers to include online games in their lesson/course planning. I think that few teachers are using online games in teaching because the games do not give teachers useful information about student outcomes or results. It is difficult to justify the use of games in education if you can not prove that games have a useful function in relation to the planned learning outcomes. If the games can help teachers to assess students’ skills, they can also be helpful for the planning of future teaching sessions, included differentiated teaching.

    I have one question to you predictions to Content Authoring Tools in the next two years:
    Do you think a majority of teachers will prefer to build courses on an iPad and not on a computer?
    And why?

    1. One note: itsLearning is a learning platform vendor, targeting the education – primary, secondary and higher education market. The platform does offer a robust set of features, and offers “up to 7GB” of free online storage through the Google email account – and that account does not have advertising. . The solution comes with cloud email – u choose either Google or Microsoft.

      Frankly, I am glad to see a learning platform, include some very cool features

      It should also be noted, that you can do the same thing with your GMail account and you can get 7GB of free online storage. The product is called Gspace, and by clicking its name, you can go to the site. It has easy to use directions, you need Firefox though.

      In response to your question:

      With APIs and Mashups any system today, whether commercial or free, virtually anything you can think of – can be built, especially with Mashups (but not everything..yet, the technology.
      just isn’t there yet, for a user experience).

      In response to your last question: From the education market their biggest challenge will tie to open source systems and Blackboard. Since both lines are very big in that market.

      But if I can create a course, utilizing all the features and capabilities of an iPad/iPad2 and other tablets, which not even the best touchscreen standalone desktop can do, why not? I still hear naysayers about people building courses in “the cloud” and how no one would do that or why would they want to.

      Let’s remember, that when you are looking at the tablet market and its users, a great chunk is coming from that space vs. corporate. So, if I can create at wherever, and then with off/online synch why wouldn’t I? Especially if my school’s network speed is awful and my home is running 40MBs stream.

  73. Who was surveyed? I’d like to server the demographic where 40% have tablets …

    1. e-learning end users who could access the survey link via my E-Learning 24/7 linkedin group and several other e-learning linkedin groups incl. ELearning Guild, eLearning Companies, ELearning 2.0, etc.

      I honestly thought it would be higher, so from my perspective I was surprised. Why should it be a surprise that people are purchasing and using tablets, and believe it or not, there are more brands out there than just iPad/iPad2. Tablets is the number two fastest growing mobile device market, some vendors are coming out with multiple tablets at the same time, i.e. 3 sizes by one vendor, and thus the initial projection of 85 tablets flooding the market by the end of the year is way off. IT is exploding.

      I recall one person telling me that they are using tablets in the construction industry, so why should the numbers be surprising?

      One other thing to think about it – buyers and suppliers could and did respond to this survey, so it is likely some of those respondents work at the same e-learning companies who do not offer it.

    1. Before tablets the m-learning market was not growing as quick as one might think, however Post iPad launch it is moving faster then social learning adoption.

      There is a demand and people are using it, and the hyper growth speed of m-learning is, IMO, a direct result of that.

      And let’s not forget, that the survey respondents were e-learning end users. Forrester’s data was not from our industry, plus for those projections what was their methodology? Did they do cluster sampling or another method of sampling and what variables?

  74. I just figure if 40% of people are using Tablets, I might have seen more … I’m pretty sure I’ve been looking hard. Plus Forrester research has a bit more credence than your average blogger.

  75. Craig – on the social learning part of your post, where do you draw the distinction between “collaborative learning” and “social learning” (and i hope that’s not just the integration of a learner profile page and wall to post on or the inclusion of a twitter feed or chat box)?

    I believe the discussion has been raised (and is being raised) quite a bit, but there’s social collaboration, water-cooler type stuff, and there’s collaborative learning spaces fostering ways of keeping a subject area or content or a particular course relevant and current or helping to encourage meaningful discussion in a protected and searchable space within the learning infrastructure. I’m curious (within the frank nature of this post) where you see the trend in “social learning” evolving through the initial networking aspects and moving to more valuable collaboration, crowd-sourcing, and other learning-enhancing activities (vs. potentially detracting ‘social networking’ activities).

    1. Richard,

      Right now, I’d say at least one year out, there are vendors doing some very cool things using various social media types, but it is not enough to say “wow, they are finally getting it” and pushing it for that matter.

      One issue is that you have vendors pitch “collaborative learning” , but a chat room is not it, nor is having the person use Google Docs (although that is a cool feature). So it is confusing people, and hurting the real social learning experience, which is in itself the problem. People just are all over the place on what it is, as though they forgot that in order to have it, you have to use social media types to make it work.

      By utilizing these various types of social media (and some argue mashups are a type of social media) Social Learning is a collaborative learning experience between multiple sets of end users (employees, customers, both, whatever) that traverses location, maximizes engagement (and can enhance it with interactivity) and is fun- otherwise they won’t stick around. Oh, and of course, UI has to be well executed and easy to use.

      You can add other powerhouse components – tablets, Kinect technology, interactive via TV (stream), airplay with a tablet (cool if you have ever seen it), AR, etc.

      So until the majority of LMS vendors figure that out, many ppl will see what they see today – a social boring experience.

  76. I think there are vendors who are listening to what their clients (customers) want and these clients are not the end-users or learners.

    1. I agree. But if the vendor is an e-learning vendor, then the people using it are either current customers and thus end users or potential customers – i.e. end users. The term end users, would be anyone that uses a system. It is a general term, so a company buys a system – but the people – employees, customers or both, use the system – hence they are end users.

      Same thing with education/academia – end users.

      Yes, they are learners – but from a tech standpoint, anyone who uses any type of software solution, whether it be SaaS or desktop, regardless if it is e-learning or not, the tech companies internally call them end users. People who work with the solution at these companies (vendors) who work in customer service or tech support – end users.

      Even when I was a Training Director, internally to my staff I called them end users. Yes, they were learners – employees and customers, and it was stated publicly as such, but they used the solution – thus end users.

      BTW, when a vendor says “seats” that is a person, one password, one user name. You call them learners, they pitch learners – but as seats. As you can see the term “user name”. They do not say “learner name”.

  77. Craig, most of what I’m reading here is what you aren’t seeing or don’t like… what vendor is “getting it” in your opinion or what applications are available today that we should be looking at?

    1. I wouldn’t say don’t like. Rather, I am calling out vendors who could develop these solutions, but choose not to. The goal is make people and vendors aware, to show the possibilities and see that respondents from e-learning, from all over the world are seeking these features.

      As for the vendors themselves, if you take a look at my LMS directory, you will see based on the comments, what features many of the vendors offer, and you will see who is getting it.

  78. Great post, Craig. Times are changing fast, often between contract development, signing and launch. As a result, the developers must choose a process and go with it.
    Does this mean all tools are obsolete by launch? Or that contracts should include update options (adding to cost when competitors who are bidding may not be so correct or honest)? How do you sell a client on the fact that things are changing so fast that yesterday’s development is truly yesterday?
    And…reality check…if the learning is good does it make a difference?
    What are those of us in the field to do?

    1. Actually they have two versions.

      The first version is Free – http://courselab.com/db/cle/root_id/download/doc.html – and you can also see that on the home page. As it notes, it is not a trial, not a demo and is full featured.

      2. HTML5 is superior to Flash, and yes while browsers will act differently on it, it is because of the video codecs, which at this time are not universal. Of course if you are not using video, then this is irrelevant. Equally, the end user does not have to worry, because the codecs are already built in.

      Please read my post on HTML5 which identifies the codecs, as well as the reasons it is superior to Flash.

      If you want to gauge just a small example of its power – check out Wilderness Adventure by the Arcade Fire. It uses geolocation – a feature that Flash does not offer. I recommend Chrome.

      HTML5 is less buggy then Flash, open source – so you can do quite a bit with it, accepts APIs – Flash doesn’t, 40% less resources hog, geolocation – which will become of significance with m-learning and some features people may want to include (BTW, one content authoring tool vendor has geolocation as part of its feature set), and many other benefits.

      Oh, and you do not have to download a plug-in or updates for HTML5, unlike you do with Flash, which as you know can cause headaches for some end users, because with some of the newer courses, Flash 8 or higher is required, and many businesses do not keep up with the latest.

      1. HTML5 isn’t inferior or superior to Flash. They can fulfill the same purposes but they are not necessarily intended for the same purposes. It’s foolish to make this comparison. And the variance in behavior in HTML5 isn’t entirely due to video codecs. It may interest you to know that much of the corporate and government world, as well as the the academic world is stuck in older browsers. HTML5 won’t work at all. Flash will and will be a superior choice in these instances for similar goals for many years to come.

        HTML5 is also not less buggy than Flash. And Flash isn’t necessarily closed source (the player is, the format is not). The “bugginess” is largely up to the person coding the interaction. If you think switching to HTML5 will change that…

        Flash will continue to have niche uses even after HTML5 gains full momentum, regardless of partisan rhetoric.

        You may not need to download a player or plug-in for HTML5. Instead… an entirely new browser for a standard that isn’t even finished yet.

        I get that HTML5 is pretty hot. I love the new capabilities it will offer when it’s finished and when my customer base is ready for it. But I don’t get this HTML5 vs Flash argument. It’s shallow, petty, and stupid. It rings of ignorance.

      2. Hmm, funny Amazon launched its newest solution for the Kindle in HTML5. Adobe is creating a product specifically for HTML5, rather than just having a kit you can use with CS5 and it continues to grow.

        Bottom Line:

        No matter how much info you provided to someone about its superiority over Flash, if you love Flash you will dismiss it and offer counters, regardless of the data. But, read the hundreds of web sites out there, not written by Apple or initially pro HTML5 and you will see the same things that I have been mentioning, for a while – at the end of the day, HTML5 will be superior to Flash.

  79. I can see that you’ve read and taken to heart Steve Jobs’ thoughts about Flash and HTML5…

    HTML5 is hopefully going to be a big leap forwards for the HTML standard once it actually becomes a standard (Reccommendation next year?), but you could probably be a bit more openminded about the shortcomings of HTML 5 due to the fact that it’s not yet a standard and still is “work in progress”:
    1. HTML5 is NOT a standard as of yet, won’t be for some time. Old version of HTML is umpteen years old, and different browsers STILL handle HTML code in different ways.

    2. Different browsers are implementing different parts of HTML5 in different ways, so support will vary. Will be great when they all share a common implementation of the coming full standard… sometime in the future.

    3. Updating – yep, you’re correct.. no need to update plugins any more! Instead, you have to upgrade the BROWSER itself as support for HTML5 is expanded. Large companies do not normally keep current with the latest versions of browsers. Loads of companies are still running on IE6 because it’s a major undertaking to upgrade the browser. This will ofc be no problem once everyone are on later version of the browsers. Google on the other hand went as far as to integrate Flash into Chrome.. so no need to download plugins any more, and everything is updated automatically.

    4. Flash in it’s latest incarnations support all the mobile functionalities you could wish for, like e.g. accessing mobile devices’ GPS positioning system.

    5. Don’t know where you get the “ressources hog” from and that HTML5 should use “40% less ressources”? This was certainly true with old versions of Flash, but it’s not any more. Apple was complaining for some time that Flash used too much ressources and CPU.. due to hardware-acceleration not being supported on the Macs because Apple wouldn’t allow it… With the new versions of Flash, where hardware acceleration is supported, this is no longer an issue. And Flash will soon support hardware accelerated 3D directly too, important for games and other interesting applications. Also, a lot of complaints was made that “websites with Flash load too slowly and consume too much ressources”.. yes of course they did.. try making a website in HTML5 having 10-15 advanced animated banners etc. running at the same time and see what happens to ressources and loading time. It is an issue of extraordinarily bad web-design trying to create pages like this.

    6. The only platform today where Flash really is an issue, is iOS devices because Apple does not ALLOW Flash to run in the browser. Flash still runs on these devices as Adobe AIR apps, but then you have to download them from Apples Appstore…. Flash runs on Android, WebOS, RIM QNX, with WP7 and others hopefully soon to come as well. The sad thing about this is that the first video EVER I saw of a mobile device running Flash was of an iPhone running Flash.

    7. New Cloud-based browser technologies will eliminate a lot of the issues releated to these differing technologies. The Skyfire browser allows youy to run basic Flash, like e.g. videos on your iOS device. Today, e.g. iSwifter allows you to run fully interactive Flash like games etc. on the iPad. OnLive is also a coming cloud service here, allowing you to run Flash, Silverlight, HTML5 etc. on any device like e.g. pads of all types.

    We’re all hoping for a brighter future with technologies making life easier.. today we see a “war” between the different technology-leaders with Apple on one side and “the rest of the world” on the other when it comes to the issue of Flash on mobile devices. And I think it’s all about business models, not what’s best for the users.

  80. Regardless of the whistles, LMS reporting has to be accurate, good, broad and specific to the client. Otherwise, why not just have a website or whatever?
    Help is amazingly important – for the client and the learner. Tell me at the start how I ask for changes.
    Backend support must be good, clear and fast.
    Any bugs and updates must go through complete quality control. I don’t want to do your work nor risk my contract.
    Teach me how to do what I can on my own. Charge me for teaching if you must.
    Keep the bells and whistles coming. I can sell on to client – if not now, certainly “tomorrow.”

    Thanks, Craig.

  81. I wish I’d written that!

    Agree with all your points Craig. Many of these, particularly the first one on useability, need to be tattooed on every LMS developer’s arm.

    Will you be at DevLearn?

      1. Folks get tricked by “tricking” out their LMS; when in reality, no one can navigate the thing.

        LMS adopters must learn how to adequately scale up their systems.

  82. Sounds like fun! I’m not sure if you’ll be able to make it fair though. Articulate and iSpring are plugins to PPT. Many of the “things” that you do in Articulate and iSpring are actually PPT features. Will your contestants know PPT?

    Also, it’s not easy to pickup Captivate cold and build content. Although I’m not even sure they’d try and say that they are as “rapid” as other tools.

    I wonder what your competition would be like with experts in each tool? Either way I look forward to seeing/hearing what happens.

  83. You hit it right on Craig. We just finished usability studies for our current system and then for new systems. It’s funny the little things most systems don’t think about.

  84. Hi Craig, excellent piece indeed, and your argument is very well made. In the UK e-learning represents no more than 10% (yes 10%) of corporate L&D spend, and the understanding levels of many decision makers are still very low. This is further compounded by the myths and often mischief propagated by the ILT deliverers.

    The e-learning industry is also a victim of its own desire (often inadvertent) to make solutions more complex than they need to be, and follow “lemming like” many of the latest fads, when as you say at one level the whole thing is stuck…….!

  85. Craig:

    My lucky day! This afternoon’s surfing yielded E-Learning 24/7 and your thought-provoking Impossible Dream posting. It added a new perspective on my experiences with conventional onsite teaching, computer-assisted onsite teaching and fully online teaching. I’m a big fan of Joel Barker’s paradigm work and all three of these modes are part of the ILT paradigm. On-demand WBT however, seems to be a paradigm shift because it meets his key criterion that all the rules go back to zero when a paradigm shifts. Thanks for your clarity on the self-limiting nature of ILT in its various forms.

    Mary T.

  86. I couldn’t agree with you more Craig.  This is exactly where we came from when deciding to start a business around eLearning software.

    Luckily I think we’re about to see an inflection point in the attention and importance these areas are given by vendors. Usability, customer support, customisation and extensilibty are all areas we spend a lot of time thinking about, and we’re not alone – other companies such as Instructure are raising the standards in these areas as well.

    We started building our LMS because of these exact issues, and the frustration we felt that the big players weren’t doing anything to fix it.

    In short – I agree, and thankfully believe a change is around the corner, from a number of new entrants.

  87. Hi Craig

    Thanks for the Blog. It is interesting to read others views and to view different statistical information which I would say comes from where you are working within the e-learning space.

    I work within the Vocational Educational (VET) sector within Australia and find our success rates within contact delivery compared with e-Learn delivery without any face to face content would lean towards a greater success rate within the face to face delivery. This success rate runs at around 70%.

    Admittedly we are in and always will be within a continuous improvement process with both modes of delivery with the hope that participation and in particular completion rates will always continue to improve. The balance of interactivity and budget constraints will always be a challenge to us.

    Face to Face type delivery with many of my areas is becoming a more blended mode that looks at picking up the best of both worlds.

    Certainly my student numbers within the face to face and blended modes of delivery are showing a decline and an increase of enrollment within fully online modes of delivery with the practical considerations being performed and assessed within the workplace. I would in the main attribute this to our 4% unemployment rate rather than just a preference change though.

    Due to our high employment levels e- Learning gives students an ability to study and work a full time occupation at the same time.

    I think the consumer will end up shaping the preference and we will always see a number preferring the contact of Face to Face delivery. Time will tell.

  88. Craig,

    I need to create an online course which trains a new employee in what to say, and not say, about our product.

    I want all new employees to take the course without a need for an instructor e.g. the new employee logs on to a site, selects the course, takes the course, is tested for knowledge and certified as having successfully passed the course.

    Can you advise me as to a couple of offerings which I can pursue?


    1. Stewart,

      What you are talking about is an asynchronous based course, which is what WBT is supposed to be. It is self-contained and everything is there, inc. scenarios, etc.

      To create a course such that for yourself, you will need a course authoring tool. There are over 115 vendors out there that make solutions. You can find a directory of them on this site, under Directories.

      That said, here is a list of my favs for course authoring tools

      Rapid Intake – Unison
      Kookabura Studios – Professional Presenter X
      Composica – Composica 4.0

      And for a freebie:

  89. I totally agree with your comments regarding ipads.

    In addition to lack of flash availability on the iPad, HTML allows such fabulous layout functionality between different platforms. As a flash developer for many years it is nice to have stronger text layout functionality.

    I also agree that there is a real need for tools to develop courses for tablets.

  90. Can’t wait to hear about the other 10 technologies you believe will have an impact.

    I agree that social learning is troubling, particularly when it’s not built into a larger program that takes place off-line. I’d be interested to see another post particularly about your thoughts on good models of social learning.

    1. Great post. Agree with mobilelearningadvocate, I would like to see an article on what you consider good models of social learning.

      My experience is that social learning (supported by technology) is still very much growing and developing in organisations. I have been reading articles by Jane Hart around ‘working smarter’. Whilst social media is key to enabling connections and knowledge sharing for some orgs FB, Twitter or other sites are block due to company policy. Orgs of this nature are having to buy platforms and tools that replicate that sort of functionality. Even with the tools it is still I believe influenced by the culture of an organisation to harness this type of social learning and whether it is recognised and encouraged as learning at all. Orgs such as mine are very much at the start of this journey. Roll on 2013.

  91. Craig:

    With respect to your article I offer these comments based on 15 years of experience in onsite university classroom teaching (the latter part of it incorporating computer-based class work) and 7 years on online university teaching, I would observe that online teaching is in no way a paradigm shift; it is simply a different delivery system. In my experience the main differences are that onsite teaching gives professors freedom to approach the topic as they wish, which online learning does not. Professors from a common course shell designed by someone else who has to adhere to a set of prevailing content standards. Second, online teaching offers students asynchronous access but on a draconian work schedule. That also affects professors. Third, in my experience students in onsite and online courses are not fundamentally different. About 20 percent just take up space, 60 percent are partially engaged and the remaining 20 percent are energized, engaged and a joy to teach.

    Looking forward to your posts from Russia. Have a great time and bring back many new insights.

    Mary T.

    1. I think you misunderstood the premise.

      From my perspective to state that ILT and WBTs only difference is the delivery mechanism, I politely disagree. Rather I would say that ILT and SBL are similar (for the most part), with the exception being delivery mechanism, while SBL and ABL are quite different, from a structure standpoint, development standpoint, features standpoint, adaptive learning standpoint and overall capabilities standpoint.

      Regarding the ILT vs SBL angle, if you are an awful teacher or professor in the classroom, it is not going to change because you are heading a SBL course/class. The same goes with being a great teacher/instructor. But, I believe there is more flexibility for ABL then an ILT or SBL class.

      Rather than having multiple deliverable formats for online courses, why not just one? For me, it makes sense that it is asynchronous based learning.

      But, I hear what you are saying, and I do greatly appreciate the comments.

      Very good stuff.

  92. Excellent explanation Craig. I don’t recall ever seeing someone compare and contrast SBL and ABL, thanks for sharing!

  93. Hi Craig – great post… sorry I’m coming to it late.

    Coincidentally I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic lately… as I’m currently building SBL for an accredited school of professional psychology after having begun my ID career building ABL for a large retail corporation.

    From that perspective, I don’t disagree with your assessment of SBL’s “failures”… but maybe “vulnerabilities” is a fairer, less fatalistic term. I have worked with a number of excellent instructors who do fulfill their end of the bargain, and (like Dr. Mary Thompson said above) a learner’s intrinsic motivation is always a potential barrier, regardless of the shape of the learning experience.

    Are you proposing that degree-focused academic programs (“education” vs. “training”) would benefit from removing the human instructor and going full-ABL? That’s a pretty radical vision – though I know there have been many critics of the traditional education system (e.g., Roger Schank), maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned and would miss the structured mentoring and network-building that good instructor-led classes can provide, whether on-ground or online. And I’d say you’re right that the adoption of ABL in academia is fighting uphill against 200 years of traditional pedagogy. Fortunately for me, the graduate school that I work for is considered a professional school and follows a “scholar/practitioner” model, meaning that the instructors are all actively practicing professionals in some area of psychology, and the goal is to make coursework as relevant as possible to professional practice.

    But the institution has responsibilities to its accrediting body in order to keep its accreditation, and these requirements mean that the school needs to broadly teach a core of competencies, vs. customizing curriculum for students’ specific learning gaps. You’re right that teaching a classful of students all at once prevents a course from being as targeted and efficient as “if you can test out, you’re free to go,” but I feel there are other benefits to it that compensate, related to the development of a “community of learners,” the beginnings of a professional community, and the opportunity for students more advanced in one area to learn by serving as peer mentors. Also, our courses provide asynchronous discussion threads and “instructor’s choice” assignments (e.g., case studies from his/her own experience) that allow for different styles, emphases, and topical relevance. These allow the voice of the instructor to come through in a way that may resonate with students more than static, pre-built ABL content.

    Of course, I freely admit that I and my institution need to get more creative with our approach to curriculum if we want to take full advantage of e- and mLearning, and I _would_ love to see academia embrace the use of ABL techniques… but I still believe that a “live” instructor/facilitator/mentor – when properly skilled – offers some critical benefits that ABL by itself can’t provide.

  94. Great review! Thanks for sharing the good and the bad. Very helpful.

    If Saba Social is a “middle of the road” solution for social learning/collaborative platforms, what do you feel are stronger? Which ones are more “top of the road”?

  95. It is a readable and informative information. I read lot by e-learning what also thinking that it will take help form the tutor to read anything now the idea changed . it will me a lot. Thanx for sharing the article.

    1. Hi Craig….thanks for a great article, having been in the industry myself since the mid 90’5, mostly with LMS vendors, I cannot agree more with your statement about RFP’s…..complete time wasters for both sides. Creating scenario’s around your requirements and having the vendor prove out the system workflow is a much cleaner way for all.

  96. Excellent article, Craig. I think one of the main fears about using WBT is that some students may need additional help or assistance with the material. In a ILT environment they have the benefit of an instructor and other students to work through the material. Traditional LMS systems historically have never given a real classroom type environment. However, in the advent of social media, there are now social LMS systems like Interactyx (http://www.interactyx.com) which infuse collaboration with WBT. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Social LMS platforms.

  97. Award numbers and categories here are nothing compared to wine.

    Despite the huge amount of wine from scores of countries and the huge number of competitions, awards make a difference to the:
    Consumer (who can tout the wine at the table; award impact varies by country)
    Retailer (who uses the award to sell the wine)
    Producer (who often may get placement with a distributor/importer as a result.)

    The reality is awards are sales tools – whether from the producers, the sellers or the oh so important client (client needs to convince those who say “yes” or “no” that they are making the right decision…). Unlike wine, consumers are not part of the mix.

    We have you to let us know if those who get awards are worthwhile. Thank you.

  98. Here is another competition: the MEDEA Awards: only 4 (+1) awards to give away,
    1 for User-Generated Educational Media,
    1 for Professionally Produced Educational Media,
    1 for European Collaboration Educational Media,
    1 for Educational Media Promoting Volunteering
    (optionally 1 MEDEA Jury Special Award)
    Too late to participate this year, but next year you can: http://www.medea-awards.com
    On the same website also lots of links to interesting showcases. Winners for 2011 will be announced at the Media and Learning Conference Nov 24 and 25 Brussels

  99. Hello Craig,

    What a great article ..thank you so much for putting up all pain areas ( and solutions ) all together. I am going through bad experience while searching for a right LMS product for my company. Some vendors ask money for running as POC , some says you have to pay for every other add-on ( feature).

    I am sure you guide me in choosing a right product (it should be mature, cost effective, easy to install and maintain, made for corporate etc) for my company .

    Basically we are trying to find a SharePoint based solution but open for any other solution also if it fulfills our requirement and fit in our budget. I have gone through many companies who claim to be based on SharePoint server but they really dont have features which are available on stand alone products.

    Please respond if we can workout something.

    Umesh Mishra

    1. Thank you for your comments.

      IMO the best solution for SharePoint, is a vendor who specifically makes a SharePoint LMS. The vendor is Competentum, and the solution is ShareKnowledge. The product is very easy to use, which is huge. I was very impressed with the solution. They were the first to implement SharePoint’s latest version.

  100. Hi Craig,

    What do you think about a vendor who gives you 2 options, 1) to demo the system with a salesperson 1:1 (pretty typical) or 2) asks you to sign an NDA and gives you 15 days with the system and a few courses to play around with – to see the breath of what it can do? Do you think #2 is better, I would think so long as instructions are received with it this would be better for a potential buyer since they don’t have to talk to anyone…unless they want to continue the conversation at a later date.


    1. Totally against the NDA. Makes no sense. Any vendor worth their salt, will stick in a couple of courses for you to play around with. The key is you have to ask them to do so. That is what people forget to do. Or ask them if u can upload one of your courses, another great way to test out the system.

    2. I know vendors who do the NDA, thankfully it is only a couple, but why would u sign one? For those that use the angle, they are at a competitive disadvantage. What is funny, is I have seen one of these vendors who requires this thing, but still puts screen shots on their web site with the “share” it spin. Talk about making no sense.

  101. Great bit of insight from a buyer’s perspective. The hard sales driven approach is one way, but I don’t think it has to be the only way.

    Sales people should be enablers, if they’re making things difficult then maybe there’s something not quite right (or something to hide). There seems to be too much pressure to generate leads and maintain a CRM to meet targets and all that old school engine room sales team goings on.

    If you want a demo, I think it should be on your terms, and done without delay or fuss. And certainly without smokescreens. Setting up a desktop share combined with phone or Skype for a demo is easy and there are no excuses for creating more hurdles when the technology is there that overcomes them.

    If it’s being made difficult, then it’s because that’s the way the vendor has purposefully set it up. Ignorance is no excuse either if you’re in the tech business.


  102. Hi, Craig! There are no tools that full advantage of the HTML5 spec, but in my HTML5 authoring tools session at DevLearn, I shared five authoring tools that publish to HTML and take advantage of the new parts of the spec to some degree: ToolBook, Lectora, Claro, mLearning Studio, and Luminosity Studio.

    That’s in addition to Articulate Storyline (still in beta, and I haven’t tried the HTML5 support yet) and the upcoming version of Studio, as well as Captivate’s still-in-beta converter. Someone mentioned Knowledge Presenter in the session as well, though I haven’t yet tried it.

    And that’s in addition to tools that aren’t necessarily “elearning” development tools, such as Dreamweaver. The landscape still isn’t nearly where I’d like it to be, but it’s gotten dramatically better over the past year.


    1. Correct. Five. It is listed on my updated directory, which will be launched later this week. I don’t know I said four. Typo.

      That said, true, none take full advantage of the HTML5 spec, but I would argue that unless someone is using an HTML5 development kit, that is going to be the case. I do feel that the Rapid Intake and Claro are the closest. Lectora, I have been underwhelmed with, and Toolbook and Luminosity are solid.

      I would concur on the landscape, especially considering that browsers did not start showing their latest versions for stronger support with HTML5 until late 2010, so all things consider – it is pretty impressive to have five.

      Knowledge Presenter does not output to HTML5. Actually the product that would have a shot at it is Professional X, a great tool, but does not output to HTML5.

      Thanks for the comments!


      1. Well, I guess there technically are more, but none that I give a lot of air time to. I give Raptivity props for being one of the first to market with HTML5 output, but since I don’t particularly like much of their design (instructional or graphic), the output matters much less.

        Very true that we’re not going to get tools that take full advantage of the spec — nor do we need to, I would argue. See below reply to Ryan. The real issue right now is that we don’t have tools that work as rapidly as we’re accustomed to, that output all of the things we want to do in HTML5, with interactivity intact. I’m starting to see some tool vendors advertise output to HTML5 when in fact, it’s just output to video. Very misleading.

      2. Actually Raptivity’s product is a packet of templates, not an authoring tool. Secondly, according to an expert in HTML5 I know, it is not 100% HTML5.

    2. Judy, in regards to taking full advantage of the HTML 5 spec, there are 2 things worth pointing out.

      1) The spec itself isn’t complete and is still subject to some change. Case in point, the recent controversy over the element.
      2) I don’t think there’s a browser on the market right now that takes advantage of the full HTML5 spec, although support for that along with CSS 3 and other advanced web technologies (local storage, web workers, etc.) is growing.

      1. Both of those things are true, Ryan. My comment didn’t have a lot of subtlety, so I’ll try to expand a bit here. There is no elearning authoring tool on the market today that takes advantage of as much of the spec as 90% of elearning requires, and most of *those* things are well within the established parts of the spec.

        That’s not a criticism per se, but it’s something that I try to make my audiences aware of. We’re always looking for the one tool that will solve all (or most) of our development issues, but the fact is that we’re at an early stage of the game. As much as I’d like to recommend a tool that is as powerful as ToolBook or Lectora, as easy to use as Claro or Articulate Studio, and yet creates output that plays well on modern browsers and iOS and degrades for older browsers… it just doesn’t exist yet.

      2. There is another vendor who outputs to HTML5. Digitec Interactive’s Knowledge Direct authoring tool outputs to HTML5. However, in order to use the authoring tool, at this time, you have to purchase the LMS.

    1. Uh, Android already supports HTML5 pretty well, at least as well as most other current browsers. In fact, as it’s a webkit browser, it uses the same rendering engine as Safari.

      The message of the announcement is not surprising, merely the timing. As an e-learning developer, I see this as a bit of a headache, if only because there are many things which Flash made easy which are much harder to do in HTML5. Try coding up a page which plays multiple audio files sequentially for example, it can be done, but requires a mess of Javascript *and* if you want to support FireFox requires you to encode your audio in multiple formats. I had hoped tools would be more mature before this day came.

      1. True, but from an iPad standpoint and thus iOS, this is a huge deal. Since the iPad/iPad2 dominate the tablet space, and in the education sector – is the primary product school districts, schools and governments are selecting as the tool to their students, its implications cannot be dismissed.

        Vendors as a whole have focused on Flash more so then HTML5 for the iPad market, and as you know, all tablets actually will work and support HTML5, but its the Apple iOS that is the key.

  103. Craig, your assessment of Raptivity as “not an authoring tool” is right on. They sell it as one, but it is indeed a template package. That’s a pretty fine line in our industry these days!

  104. Craig,
    I agree totaly with your remarks about Linearity and with die “classic” “training management” perspective – I think more “social” orientated E-Learning formats (like MOOC oder open Online Courses) are doing interesting research.
    Do you know specific tools for this kind of E-Learning?

    Greetings from Germany!

    Heiko Idensen

  105. This is a great list Craig. I got to try out the Rapid Intake mLearning in beta nad it was a really great tool. The upcoming Articulate Storyline tool is going to be a wow as well though. Lectora is also looking to step up their game these days with Snap & Snap Empower. Bottom line, there are a LOT of tools for developers these days compared to 5 years ago.

  106. Nice post. Our experience is that there is no single tool that is best. You need to use the one that make the most sense for the task at hand. We have used Articulate, Rapid Intake, Lectora, as well as building in Flash if needed. I also agree that Storyline has some great WOW factor as well.

    1. That is one of the challenges with a RCAT. Hence, some on this list are perfect for both newbies and advanced e-learning developers.

      With the global economy as it is today, it is now more then ever, that people find one tool and use it across the board. I’m a big fan of 3rd party authoring tools over a LMS/LCMS that has a built in authoring tool.

  107. I have to agree with Craig. As an educator myself I use the ipad in my classroom and wouldn’t know how to properly adapt to this change. If I can’t then I can’t expect my students to.

  108. Good article Craig. I am interested in your opinion on Absorb vs the big dogs. Is there anything that the big dogs do that Absorb does not (or won’t in the next 6 months)? I understand that Absorbs mobile functionality and social learning is a bit weak now, but the roadmap suggests that this should not be an issue by Q2 next year. Have a I missed something or are you getting almost the same as the big dogs for half the price with Absorb? If you have the inclination, I would love to hear your opinion on the Pros and Cons of Saba, SumTotal, Cornerstone, Success Factors, Taleo, and Absorb. From my basic investigation, these seem to be the main players.

  109. So how are you going to build simulations in HTML5? And are you worried that in the history of HTML, there has never been a standard between browsers. So what works on IE6 doesn’t work on Firefox. Or what works on Safari doesn’t render the same on Chrome. If you’re not worried about these things, you should be.

    1. There are tools out there. From an authoring standpoint – which is the key point of this post, RCATs are coming out with output and build in HTML5. All the latest browsers have increased their support for HTML5, and the W3C has stated that their goal is by 2023 for all web sites, to use HTML5. As for standards, you can make the same argument for any of the standards used in e-learning, SCORM 2004 4th edition (is very rarely used), AICC, PENS, IEEE, etc.

      As for older versions of browsers, the same can be said for Flash. IE6 does not support the later versions of Flash. It is interesting to note, that in the next version of IE, they have dumped Flash support.

      If you have an older browser or one that does not support HTML5 or are using a device that does not support HTML5 (and btw, all the tablets do), then it has a sniffer – so it will auto display what the browser does support. This is similar to 2000, when Netscape supported Java and Microsoft did not – during the Sun battle.

      The power of HTML5 as it relates to e-learning is with the mobile learning, specifically tablet space. Tablets are the drivers for m-learning, not smartphones.

  110. Maybe you haven’t seen the HTML 5 output from Captivate, which is really the leading simulation creation tool out there. It’s buggy, and frankly, if they were looking to encourage those of us who produce eLearning, they did the opposite by posting it on the net. If you know of other simulation creation tools that output to HTML5 and the output is usable, please let me know, because I’ll start using it tomorrow. And I mean that sincerely, not snarkily.

    In terms of standards and browser support, you’ve actually illustrated one of my problems with HTML5, when you say “Please use Chrome, as it does not do justice on IE, FF or Safari.”

    And Microsoft hasn’t really dumped Flash support. What they have done is hedge their bets:

    “As part of a series of Windows 8-related announcements at this week’s Build developer conference, the company announced that its upcoming operating system will ship with two versions of Internet Explorer 10: one will be an iteration of the traditional desktop browser, complete with plug-in support, while the other will run in the tile-based Metro interface Gamasutra…”

    So two versions. One with, and one without.

    Sorry if I seem defensive about all of this. But it’s because I’m on calls ever day where clients are asking about training on iPads, and my answer is, you can either have a straight HTML course with some graphics and videos, but no synched audio or interactive simulations, or you can have video. Right now, keeping cost and time in mind, those are your only two realistic options. HTML5 aside from drag and drop, and the video tag just doesn’t offer the functionality.

    1. Captivate doesn’t have an output for HTML5. The best product from HTML5 output is Claro, look at them. Lectora isn’t a true HTML5 output. Although Toolbook has.

      It is a small growing space..considering that nobody had one in 2010, the early stages look promising. The best option for people who want killer HTML5 output is to seek out a custom dev. shop – more so than a RCAT, but if you r seeking a RCAT the ones out there offer solid opps.

  111. A big thanks goes to you for sharing this post, Mr.weiss 🙂
    I appreciate you hard work for writing this wonderful post 🙂
    Thank you very much once again.

  112. Thank you for this positive timeline Craig. It will help my teacher/trainer colleagues and college administration to move boldly into new ways forward for degrees and technical training for the maritime world.

  113. I have been a middle school classroom teacher for the last 14 years, teaching reading/LA/math/science/social studies in grades 6-8. I have many technology users skills, and frequently implement technology apps into my lessons. I would love to make the move into teaching online classes but am at a lost as to where to look for these jobs. Does anyone have any suggestions where I can find online teaching jobs?

    Thank you for you assistance.

  114. I’ve used Raptivity for years and I have to say your review is generous. This product is confusing and extremely buggy, not to mention very expensive and has poor customer support, even in the activation stage. If you only knew the frustration, you’d not just give them an identity crisis, you’d flat out tell people to run away. Fast.

  115. As a tradeshow professional I would suggest you have a game plan before you ever arrive at a show. Most show organizers have exhibitor lists and product categories (cross linked to exhibitors) listed on the show web site befor you go on-site. Many shows today provide floorplans on a pre-show bsasis so you can prepare a route-list around the show for your primary exhibitor-targets in advance of attending the show. Being able to cover your primary rout-list as you enter the show will increase your overall efficiency and lower your confusion.

    Your comments on exhibitors are well taken. Too often they are not well disciplined about how to be appropriate and successful. Also many times they complain about a show to you in person at the show when they have no information about their levels of success until they follow-up the show leads after the show.

    For your client recommendation be sure they have a game plan in mind about who they want to reach and sell. ALSO, have them do extensive pre-show marketing to invite their customers and prospects. A show does not know who your clients want to see…AND your clients can’t be lazy marketers and not do the pre-show work. the best tradesow exhibiting results go to exhibitors who take a very professional approach and this means aggressive pre-show marketing and exhaustive post-show follow-up.

  116. Hi Craig,

    Some great points. The problem as we head to HTML5 and want to store our content in a truly cloud structure is that generating XML streams which is what SCORM calls for just doesn’t work. As a vendor, if you truly want to deliver content around the world using a content delivery network such as Amazon S3/ cloudfront, you cannot have it as a SCORM course. The way SCORM works you need to have a server actively parsing XML back and forth. Again, doesn’t work in a cloud environment. HTML5 also eliminates the hassles of authoring since video tags, interaction can be easily edited. Tracking or replicating what SCORM does is trivial. We are reaching a perfect storm of HTML5 and Cloud. SCORM will not survive.

  117. Craig,

    I enjoyed your article and shared it. We definitely need more HTML5 authoring tools. I find the PowerPoint-to-Flash authoring tools to be quite cumbersome and difficult to maintain. I’m looking forward to Apple’s announcement later today and hope we’ll soon have some easier authoring tools that will support mobile solutions.

  118. Scott,

    You probably want to check out Craig’s top ten list – there are a few tools there that probably meet your needs today.

  119. Thanks Craig. Good post. You ask why is Flash still hot. On the desktop browser, it is still the only viable solution for cross browser compatibility. Our mLearning Studio, HTML5 solution is targeted at mobile devices, but we still publish to Flash on desktop because HTML5-compatible browsers still only make up a fraction of the market share. Moreover, Flash is much more secure on desktop browsers. HTML5 is wide open (a good and bad thing). Thanks for staying on top of the RCAT market. Good stuff.

  120. I love Panapto! You can also capture multiple sources at the same time – like PPT, desktop, internet etc. You can add attachments after the fact. We are using it to record instructor-led training (audio, PPT and screen) – you can schedule the recording in advance. We found that it makes it a little less intimidating than recording video – plus the instructors move around! We are also using it for lunch-and-learns. SMEs are recording sessions at their desk. We did create some internal instructions – how to structure the presentations and standards to keep a similar look-and-feel.

  121. Hi Craig,

    Thanks for an interesting post. What other conferences do you recommend when it comes to elearning (we are looking for a new LMS and elearning tools for our school)?

  122. I all of the rejoicing above everyone forgot to mention one thing, Apple devices should NOT HAVE blocked flash content. That is both illegal and egoistic.

  123. Nice post Craig. Agree with you on all points.

    Apart from Moodle syndrome, i would like to point out ‘Blackboard’ syndrome as well.

    Every one in LMS industry somehow tries to copy Blackboard, and hence they make mistake by copying their errors/not so good features as well.
    I have recently learned, universities are switching to other LMS after using Blackboard for 10s of years.
    And they have some genuine reason for doing that (other than price).

    1. I absolutely agree. Blackboard is an overrated system, that has been dominating the education market for so long, people have forgotten that there are other systems out there that is equal to if not better then BB.

  124. Hi Craig,
    I haven’t attended many conferences, so your breakdown of this one was helpful for me to gauge where I’d like to go in the future. I went to DevLearn last year and really enjoyed it. Lots of vendors there, but also lots of good informational sessions.

  125. Craig,

    Thanks for your thorough review. I didn’t realize how far along the product has come! As a former BlueVolter, I must admit I’m a tad biased but I think your assessment is fair.

    Regarding your concern with the completion requirement for earning $BlueBucks rewards, consider these three benefits:

    1. Equally weighs sponsor and learner goals

    2. Encourages better instructional design of courses

    3. Courses can be zinged into and out of pre- and post-completion

    I’m enjoying your reviews…keep ’em coming!

  126. This survey makes for very interesting reading!
    As many of my customers are businesses rather than institutions it comes as no surprise that reporting is high on the list of requirements. ad hoc solutions go some way to solving the problem, but it would be great to see integration with true BI tools in the future. (I have also experienced the “export the database” suggestion – very frustrating!)

  127. Thanks for this survey.

    I was wondering how many people participate to it, and the % of EMEA ones. Available information?

  128. Your analysis is excellent, Craig. Anyone looking for the best training options should make this report a priority. Am not surprised product training is important though companies, especially in service industries or small businesses, may find it difficult (at their peril) to accept the cost.

  129. Thanks for posting the survey results. I would be curious about the job titles of the folks (or at least the department) that are responding to the survey. In addition, it is interesting data showing the split interest between personal and professional development and Talent Management. I’m wondering the percentage of the respondents that are solely focused on learning.

  130. As the use of internet is growing the trend of e learning has also grown or become popular. There is an increased demand for online courses. Also there are online classes conducted. Thanks for providing this post as this will help the institutions, teachers and trainers to opt it.

  131. Selecting the right type of learning management system is very important. As said by you the difference between corporate and education must be first recognized. Thanks for providing this post. It will really be helpful in selection of LMS.

  132. Online learning is fast becoming the medium of choice for training providers and government in Australia. It is recognised for its convenience and greater reach. The content is what now needs to be developed to be able to replace traditional classroom studies.

  133. Nice post. It would be even better if this site featured stand demos of these features so that users can get a clean look at the code. Please add a demo section containing a working implementation plus an explanation of the code.Buying and taking that plugin of html5 media player and integrating it into WP is really good for beginers

  134. Excellent article Craig. Just one small correction: You haven’t seen anything new from Articulate since *2008.* Studio 2009 actually went live in September 2008 – and it may not get upgraded in 2012 since Storyline is now their priority. I love Articulate, but their engineering department doesn’t seem to embrace that “rapid development” philosophy. 😉

    1. I’m in the beta group for Storyline, which IMO is geared towards e-learning developers. It is still in test mode and they are working on HTML5 output. There is no doubt that a lot of people will end up buying the product – name recognition in the authoring tool market goes a long way.

      I have seen the latest version of Studio. It is still in the end a PowerPoint converter, with you sticking in audio and video clips. You cannot edit the code for the main product, however you can with Engage using HTML kit.

      While they plan a new version of Studio, the date has been pushed back numerous times. This tells me it still has some issues with it.

      This is a solid product, however it is not the best product in the market. It is a rapid content authoring tool that has a ceiling. As an instructional technologist, intstructional designer or e-learning developer you have limitations, which for these folks is a serious flaw.

      People who use Articulate Studio, for the most part use the main component – forget the name right now and Quizmaker. They rarely use Engage, which is too bad and they virtually never used Encode.

      It should have been mentioned in the article that I used Studio in late Dec 2009, and as noted above played around with the full version in 2011.

      Lastly, as far as I’m concerned as long as it says as a desktop solution, despite the overall growth of SaaS – “in the cloud” authoring tools, it will maintain a weakness.

      Yes, it is extremely popular, but I believe a key reason is that many folks are unaware of other rapid content authoring tools that are vastly superior to it. With over 110 authoring tools out there, many people only know about Articulate, Captivate, maybe Allen Interactions, Raptivity – which is more of a template solution.

      Now, I am seeing interest in other products including Rapid Intake and Claro from dominKnow – which is an online authoring system, albeit you can output a SCORM course into your own LMS – and you can do it as well with PENS. If you want a freebie, CourseLab rocks. They do sell a paid version, but the free one offers a lot of oomph and it is SCORM 2004 certified, which a lot of commercial products are not.

  135. Dear Craig,
    thank you for you article! Really insightful, especially for a startup like ours (www.iversity.org).

    The big question is: we have the goods, and much before any other LMS has been able to deliver. Why is it not scaling as much as we are hoping? Perhaps the lack of analytical tools isn’t helping, however, according to your article this a fault in the whole industry.


  136. Craig thanks for the this informative article. Youe articles are very helpful for me to understand the insites of e-learning industry.

    I am struggling to find a nice but cost efective LMS system. Vendors are charging very high price even though compition is very high.

    1. One of the options that is available to you, is having myself work on finding you the right system. I offer this to consumers as service, albeit it is a paid service. You can view my pricing structure on the “consulting services” page, which you can find off my header on the home page.

      1. Hi Craig,

        I have also encountered problems regarding the lack of advanced analytics for most LMSs. What current options are available to receive these analytics from other parties? Thanks.

  137. I work at the Schools of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) in Western Australia. Founded in 1918, SIDE is the centre for distance learning within the Department of Education of Western Australia (DoE). Our school provides quality education for over 3000 students from Pre-primary to year 12 in isolated circumstances in Western Australia and beyond. SIDE provides education for students who, for various reasons, cannot attend classes in a regular school. All learning areas within the Western Australian curriculum are taught to students in all phases of learning, using a combination of synchronous (Centra web-conferencing & Video-conferencing), asynchronous (Moodle) and traditional delivery techniques (Print, CD, phone, email) in order to better engage and motivate students. We have no problems at all in engaging all school-aged students to learn online. The technology is just one part of our success. Our flexibilty in delivery and great teachers allow us to provide a programme completely online that is second to none.

  138. LOL, what I felt started as just another e-learning blog “rank” that almost always gets deleted – actually made a lot of sense to me as a leader in the online corporate learning field.

    Craig summarized the exasperated thoughts that have floated in my head during many online course project planning meetings with “so called experts” and articulated them (much more graciously than I might) in just one post. Good job… if anything you made me laugh today with your closing line “I’m tired of excuses”. Hear hear! Derek

  139. YES! So my search is for an effective authoring tool and a great LMS with e-commerce capability on which to build and house highly effective learner centered web based training. Any answers?

  140. One thing to note, the AICC term is often used to refer to the AICC HACP standard, which while older than SCORM, offers the ability to run easily across web domains. If your LMS is going to pull in third party content from a remote server, AICC HACP support is, in some case, the only option.

  141. I don’t agree that ILT is typically a bunch of boring PowerPoints. If it is, those instructors should go home and not teach.

    How about some positive ideas for what you think WBT should comprise?

    1. Actually what I was saying is that as a result of an ILT background in ref. to the corporate space, WBT has turned into PowerPoint.

      For successful WBT, I’ve written multiple posts on the subject, which in nutshell says it should be interactive and engaging. In 2002, I had a WBT course whereas the learner had to deal with an angry customer. Based on selections, their character on the screen did x or y, and then the other character responded accordingly. It utilized adaptive learning, and enabled the learner to utilize what they learned in each module of the course, which offered a mentor along the way.

      It was ADA 508 compliant, non-linear, and instead of assessments, had real life scenarios as practice sessions at the end of each module.

      The final module was one big scenario. If a person was to take the course in a linear fashion, it could be completed in 50min, with four modules, each which could stand on their own.

      As a former educator, I know full well about successful ILT in the classroom, and as former director of training, the same thing at the corporate space.

      I’m not deriding educators nor trainers with ILT, what I’m pointing to is that people should take the time to learn how to create effective WBT, rather then following the mantra of seeing it as an instructor led approach, which is LINEAR rather then what WBT’s power, which is non-linear. Yes, u can make PPT courses non-linear, but u need to see understand that people in general what courses that apply to them and the real world. Rather then bullets on PPT or a vid clip with someone talking. Honestly, how engaging is that?

  142. I think Andy raises a good point. Bad WBT has not happened directly because of the people who have comeover from an ILT background. The same basic elements that contribute to any good training and learning apply to ILT and WBT. As you mention WIIFM is one of the elements. Actually worse for WBT (or to be more precise from my experience , e-learning) is the number or practitioners coming into it with no training or instructional design background. People for example who may have tools and application expertise, who are then asked to develop some pieces, and then decide to put “instructional designer” on their resume.
    WBT is not inherently non-linear, it is made so by the designer.

    1. Actually, in its original premise, WBT strength is that you can create it to be non-linear. I’m talking about asynchronous courses, not synchronous – which are in themselves linear. The distinction should be noted.

      WBT – key elements for asynchronous learning
      *Access anytime, anywhere, and as often as you want
      = Non-linear. While it is true that people could create linear courses and did years ago, the fact is that “non-linear” is the strength of asynchronous based learning and even 3rd party content off the shelf follows that exact premise. Sure, you can create linear courses if you so choose and people do/did – especially with compliance training, it does not mean that it is the most effective route.

      The whole idea that I do not have to start at the beginning, as I do in ILT or in reading a book, is a key strength to sound asynchronous based learning. If I want to learn about labels, they why should I have to start on how to open a file? I don’t and the reason why? WBT.

      Since I started in the industry in the late 90’s, when true online learning – thus WBT was appearing, the whole premise was behind non-linear within an asynchronous based learning environment. If you look at Authorware or Toolback in 2000 – they were designed to maximize course authoring, with a TOC and drill down subjects – the whole purpose behind that – was the ability to jump around anywhere in the course. Could people go from A to Z in a linear fashion? Absolutely. At the end of the day it is up to the learner to decide how they want to learn inc. their own pace, etc. But- and this is the key – the course was designed to execute the premise of asynchronous based learning – which includes non-linear.

      In reference to the article, it is known that more and more people are coming from either no e-learning background (which is the vast, and totally cool) and that people are coming from an ILT world or as trainers in the classsroom (Corporate side on both fronts). Nothing wrong with that, but there are products out there that do not offer the learner an opportunity to choose between the A to Z approach and the A to D to B to X – “non-linear” approach. I say let the learners decide, not the author – give them the choice, rather then create a linear course in the same manner as you would training someone in a corporate seminar or at a presentation.

      Appreciate the comments..good stuff.

  143. Interesting and really struck a cord. the “I can’t do it”, “I don’t have time”, “I have no technical background”, “This isn’t my job”, is a fair observation and will only be solved by a change of culture in learning in terms of the realisation of the end product impact. Breaking the strangle hold of ILT/PPT mediocraty will take some doing and your final summation really hits the nail on the head. From my own perspective I would like to add to your statement list “I don’t want to fail” with which I would answer, what have you got to lose. Dave in the UK

  144. @Craig, as a whole, I agree with what you are saying. I think that to create compelling content for online learning one needs to stop thinking like a trainer/teacher, and start thinking like an animator or TV show producer. The latter frame of mind really promotes the visual and contextual input of the course, not just the textual, thus creating engaging interactions.
    I disagree, however, with your remarks about PowerPoint. It is still a good way to build courses, but – linking back to the above, one needs to stop thinking “slide with bullet points” and start thinking “let’s create an animation sequence that will illustrate that point”, and “heck, let’s make it funny”.

    @Dave, @David – very good points. None of these are excuses, but certainly in a corporate environment, content development is restricted by time and budget and most people think that they can’t create quality, engaging courses in 3 days. But they can. They just need to think differently. (easier said than done…)

  145. Hi Craig
    Thank you for the informative analysis. What was the total sample size, and where were the respondents sourced from?
    Many thanks

    1. Respondents were from all over the world. Regarding sample size, it was an effective cluster sample, which exceeds what many organizations who seek similar data provided.

  146. ILT and WBT both have a common core: The instructor/designer. Having a dynamic instructor in ILT can captivate (no pun intended) an audience. A well written WBT has the same effect.

    Too many times, budget comes up and upper management orders for the most simple fastest way of creating “training” which eliminates any sort of simulation or animation.

  147. Online certificate in education has opened up new avenues. Participants can build their expertise in integrating health care transition and education. The best part is that participants can take up online courses from one’s own location.These courses give scope for versatility making you fit for varied type of jobs.

  148. Please note: I personally find great benefit in HCMs and the capabilities they provide. This post is how “learning”, which is term I use in e-learning, but in essence is training, is slowly finding its way into HCMs.

    Just as ERPs have a place in today’s business world, so does HCMs and TMs. It’s the learning i.e. LMS, that is of a greater concern to me.

    1. Additional note: In my haste, I had erroneously put that Taleo was acquired by SAP and Oracle acquired SF. In actuality, it is the other way around i.e. Oracle bought Taleo, SAP bought SF. The post has been updated to reflect this change.

      1. Hi Craig,

        My name is Oxana, I’m an MBA student at the Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT. I’m looking for an expert in LMS to provide an insight on some of the plugins available for LMS technology. I’m interested in web content sharing apps in particular, the ones that could possibly be integrated with LMS via bridge. Something similar to blackboard collaborate integration with Pearson LearningStudio. I’m researching this topic for one of my technology commercialization projects. I’m interested to know whether the consultants/enterprise trainers find the online web sharing collaborating environment useful in their e-learning courses. Thank you very much for your help!

  149. Hey Craig,
    As a Social Learning SaaS that is all about cool visualisation (and that can be used via mobile) it sounds like we’re looking OK for the next year 😉


  150. Craig –

    Agree completely about the “learning” vs. “training” issue. “Learning” to me is a development process which enables growth, both to the learner and to the organization. When I was in high school, McDonald’s “trained” me to make french fries from whole potatoes (yes, I’m dating myself), but there wasn’t much learning involved after that. In my mind, one trains to learn a step-by-step process (potatoes into fries), and learns to enable him/her to build upon that basis of knowledge.

    Put another way, “I train to do, I learn to think.”

    Always good to read your blog!


  151. Hey there Craig, nice wrap up, sounds like you may have reached a “noob” in our inside sales group, also curious which other apps allow for viewing of PPTs on iPad (maybe I’m a noob too) and provide an accurate translation (rendering) of fonts, animations, etc. ? Keep up the good work !


  152. Hi Craig. I found you on Linked In and really appreciate your site. I attended the Saba Summit last week in Miami, FL and they have some interesting solutions coming out Q2. In terms of an LMS system, our company is going with Saba LMS from Taleo. I have found Taleo to be cumbersome and Saba appears to resolve some of our big-ticket issues. What are your thoughts on these two systems? Thanks.

    1. Molly,

      It depends on what you are planning to use the systems for – i.e. as a pure LMS or as a Talent Mgt system or a Human Capital management system.

      Taleo was a good call. I like their business edition talent mgt system, but due to their acquisition by Oracle, I’m leery on recommending the product UNLESS you want a HCM. This is based on the comments by Oracle, that they plan to incorporate the component – learning in with their Fusion solution. Plus, the former Learn.com products I was never impressed with.

      Saba – If you selected the system as a HCM, then it is solid. If you purchased it as a LMS, but plan to use the talent management features – then it will be fine. As a pure LMS, there are ones better out there. I say this because i found the product to be somewhat un-user friendly, their Saba Social, which is now i think called Saba People Cloud – definitely has some cool stuff, but it equally faces the same issues that Saba seems to be known for – you can read about Social on my blog.

      I know that in the past Saba had issues with the latest version of Captivate, and it took them awhile to fix it – they did, which is great, compared to another vendor who shall remain nameless.

      Saba IMO – is an overhyped solution, that is not cheap. Some people just absolutely love it, others like myself – do not. Saba sees themselves as a talent mgt solution, and is clearly zinging into the HCM space. If these are things you want, then you will be okay.

  153. What is–alas–always missing from polemics of this type is consideration of the cost/benefit equation. By cost I mean primarily the designer’s time. More interactivity and images translates into more time and thus into fewer slides per hour. When the need for content–immediately–is very high, slides that can be created very quickly generally offer the most benefit for the cost.

  154. Thanks Craig — this certainly helps my own confusion investigating the market recently, and trying to identify a training solution that my company can use to deliver blended (formal/informal) training to customers. Everyone seems to be scampering the other way! I assumed there was more money in the HR/talent management market, and the acquisitions reflect this. I’d really like to read more about who’s covering and committed to the B2B market. Of course my company has its own HR requirements, so a solution that can be delivered both internally and commercially would be ideal.

  155. Yes, a lot of activities are going on to convert talking PPT (ILT) into WBT. Very inspiring and bold article.

  156. Pingback: eLearning 101
    1. Yes. The site makes it difficult to figure out if all the mods are included or is the system a base and then u choose want you want. Plus it seems to be lacking some features that other solutions offer.

  157. Condolences on your father’s passing. The dedication caught me as a wonderfully effective segue to the 101 article. The article is quite insightful, from the perspective of a newcomer looking to find his bearing.

  158. In our institution, we teach music production using modern techniques and software hacks. Our programs are ILT. Majority of our students took WBT courses from other institutions. They felt it wasnt enough and now looking for an ILT alternatives. This could be due to inadequate instructional design and lack of interactivity between instructors and students (LMS constraints?). However, could subjects which are artistic in nature only be taught ILT?

  159. Very well put Craig. As a consultant like yourself I am dealing with LMS vendors all the time and the items you note happen on a regular basis. The most positive experiences I have had with LMS vendors is when they pair an account executive with a solutions consultant, just like the original days of software when you had a sales rep and a sales engineer.

    Vendors that take time to listen get customers and repeat business, those that don’t get no business or a one time customer who is not fulfilled.

    1. Thank u. Funny thing, I’m seeing the poor methods of selling for a few LMS at the show. Same issue with some e-learning vendors too.

  160. Which tool would you recommend for the Mac? Tried Articulate with ad-ons but everything became very slow.

    1. My rapid content authoring tools directory, identifies which vendors work with Mac OS. Another alternative, which is better IMO, is to use a SaaS product that is browser agnostic.

  161. Hi AllIt has been really usfeul to read your comments on e-learning tools. I am seeking comments on a dilemma I have. We are a small training company that want to develop some of our courses into e-learning packages. I find it really hard to obtain sound objective advice. Do I get a company to do this and pay them each year for the licensing and development? Is is feasible for me to learn to do this myself for the very reason Mike mentioned to ensure it is accessible to all and educational sound? If I do get a company to do how much should I pay for the service and what pitfalls should I look out for. Do I have to pay them a fee each year for the authorizing tool. any comments from you guys would be very gratefully recieved

  162. Craig. Just a comment on that I wish the company I am currently contracted to, one of the projects is to implement a SPLMS, read your article before they actually purchased the LMS. They do use Sharepoint and have skills in managing this but it has taken us 9 months to get the LMS up and running in it’s basic state, mainly due to the amount of configuration required and lack of information on how SCORMS and the LMS interact together. We are now struggling with how to get the information out to be passed to our main training repositry. In short it has become a very expensive excercise and if the company had to make the decision again (which I think they may do in the next financial year) they would go for a proven LMS application from a proven vendor

    1. Mark,

      Maybe you should forward the blog article over to them. : )

      Seriously, I see it all the time and its a shame. Once you get into it and realize the issues, problems, etc. is just cascades and the people who lose it – really are the employees (or customers if they enable that route).

      Thank u,


  163. Hi Craig,

    Its a wonderful review. Even I liked gamelearn they seem pretty interesting. Also I was wondering about this new company Piron Corporation. They had this very cute little USB business card which was a very interesting concept and i guess they are into medical learning.

    1. Piron is a multi-faceted e-learningshop. They create custom content and other learning solutions. They also provide consulting services and have a LMS, called Flexiguru. You sign up and take courses on Flexiguru.

  164. As a provider of elearning in Australia, I found your post very informative and relative to online learning in this country. Thanks.

  165. As a very experienced ILT practitioner…I agree with 99 % of your post. Although I still think that ILT will still has a place in practical skills training – but more from the “flipped classroom perspective” ( note my background is aviation and leadership development) .

    As for other skills and knowledge, the more elearning the better, just need the light to go from dim to bright!


  166. Hi Craig,
    I think the debate of classroom learning versus online learning is the wrong debate. You almost hit the nail on the head when you say that the problems relate to the fact that learning and teaching in the Corporate world hasn’t evolved sufficently and is due to a relatively strict process that says Corporate classroom learning involves people who
    Still sit in chairs
    Still use some form of a writing device
    Still use some type of item to write on (the most common is paper)
    Still look to the front of the room – and see at least one person talking (the most common, mind you)
    Still raise their hand (and yes, I know many do not) to ask questions
    Still follow a process

    This isn’t a technology problem, and in fact most Corporate learning needs actually requires group learning, soft skills and behavioural practice, and a host of other ‘rehearsal’ issues that are actually best done with groups of people interacting and learning from each other and a minimal touch from a learning facilitator. There’s no evidence this is done better with e-learning than with live groups – the issue is Corporates increasingly don’t want to spend money getting people together, and can be seduced by video courses or anything else that suggests ‘content’ can be poured into people quickly. Few Corporate training programmes really need this knowledge transfer – its skills application and behavioural change they need. The research on Rich Environments for Active Learning work for example essentially takes what works really well in group learning and applies it to e-learning.

    The issue is we need to improve the capability of those designing and leading Corporate training – they can then embrace the available options that technology can provide. Again good research suggests that that the time spent in any kind of off-the-job training opportunity is less impactful in a corporate setting than what happens before and after that training intevention.

    Now if we look at performance support and mobile learning then that’s a whole new area that technology can grab for itself …

  167. I had the chance to look at the Gamelearn trailers, lovely!, such a great idea. The new wave is to learn having fun.

  168. Great post Craig. Firstly your point that ‘free isn’t really free’ is one I have been hammering on about for quite some time. I would extend this point from just being about systems like Moodle that require hosting and customisation to free Web based LMS systems (such as OpenClass), which also aren’t free as they rely on a monetization plan somewhere on the back end, whether by advertising, introducing a paid version, selling content or building user numbers so the company can be acquired.

    Your ‘trend 2’ – File repository and ‘Trend 4’ – Integrated email are two I feel strongly about and led us to design CourseDirector, an LMS which sits on top of Google Apps, so Google Drive is the file repository and gmail is the email. We’ve banked on the continuing penetration of Google Apps into schools so made our system as light as possible to keep the users in Google Apps.

    Social learning I’m still not sure about so we havent done any development in that direction, apart from integration of Google Groups and Google Chat into courses and I still have yet to see a well executed social integration of an LMS. Mobile as well the jury os still out for me. I see the massive increase in use of mobile devices by students but I still believe (for now) the bulk of their work they are doing on laptop or desktop computers.

    ‘Parent portal’ and ‘mentoring’ I think you are spot on. All in all great article.


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  170. Craig, thanks for the review. A co-worker demo’d this earlier in the week and gave pretty much the same synopsis, pro’s con’s etc. I think with any of the authoring tools some people will assume it is a quick fix to create great eLearning. It does look interesting though. Definitely liking the triggers.

    When you published for HTML5, did you have many animations or transitions between pages/slides? If so, how did it handle the animations, did it still feel pretty seamless?

  171. Thank you for the important distinction on viewing via HTML5 versus truly interacting with/sending user data to the actual course/LMS. There is such buzz/hype around HTML5 and mobile learning, and I agree that in evaluating vendors we must be precise with our language, probing with our questions and detailed in our documentation around their assertaions regarding potential capacities and capabilities. Great post, as always! Thanks for what you do!

  172. Craig,
    This has been a quintessential “Shell Game” with LMS vendors for some time. They obfuscate, misdirect, manipulate prose at will, all in an effort to get in that initial “hook” into a potential client and income stream. I too have high hopes for Tin Can for it’s definitely the way the technology needs to go, I do think however that its success or failure will be driven by us, people in the industry that mandate we need something different and we need it yesterday. It’s only by emphasizing the need for a flexible, broader aspect training and performance management solution that businesses can customize to their specific corporate management mindset, will vendors make a true shift in the right direction. But, as with any manpower/man-year (programming-wise) draining new capability that in their mind is nebulous to implement and monetize, they are going to throw out whatever terms or buzz words hit Their mark with a prospective client (the check’s in the mail times infinity – aka, vaporware), but will not truly make the effort to incorporate, without a clear profit incentive presents itself. it’s going to take some time for true platform change to happen, but I do agree that at the core is us as industry consumers having better defined requirements and more reasonable and grounded expectations of what these systems can accomplish, regardless of delivery medium utilized or targeted learning participant’s platform of choice.

  173. Thanks for the article – really interesting viewpoint and quite agree that it is easy to get caught in the hype when HTML still seems young in the marketplace.

  174. Well e learning is growing and has become important. It is an innovative way of learning and teaching. It is growing in many ways, such as mobile learning, ecommerce and many more. Thanks for sharing this helpful post.

  175. We are looking for an LMS, where on your site could you pull all your reviews so that you rank the LMSs? I am not sure which LMSs are its competitors in this space.

  176. Craig, you make some good points here – one small observation: The IT people you need working on an LMS project need to understand where to go to resolve Network, Load testing, Security (Firewall./Proxy servers, Penetration testing) and Desktop environment issues – that’s not something I would expect a programmer to be able to provide. My succesful implementations have always included an IT Project Manager who makes that all happen.

    1. True, but I am talking about from a vendor. As for the company side, I would find out from the head of the IT department what we had. Then I would tell him what we needed. For example, one company I worked at had the speakers off on all the computers at the company. I had IT turn them on, for each end user.

      I always recommend finding out some additional specs before selecting a system. Again, example: your company uses IE 7 and cannot support anything above Flash 8.

      With the IE, your company cannot add any other browser, otherwise the computers will crash.

      If the vast majority are accessing your LMS from work, then obviously you wouldn’t be able to use certain LMSs.

      However, always remember that research data shows that folks who are not hourly, tend to use the system out of workplace.

      That said, I always knew what our company..as in the places I worked could do and not do. If you are a training exec use that leverage, especially if the company as a whole including the CEO supports and wants a LMS..again the CEO or COO.

      IT doesnt want to do something, I would go to my boss, often the COO and ask for help. Amazingly, IT would do what was needed.

      Then again, as a whole I always made sure to make good friends with the IT director and whoever runs HR…they will become key stakeholders in the LMS or e-learning endeavors.

  177. from the CourseLab website: “the free v2.4 creates output that is best viewed in Internet Explorer; creating cross-browser courses with v2.4 is possible but there are some limitations and special rules to follow.”

    Special rules? How inviting. can’t wait to put up a “best viewed in” icon. in other words, IT IS USELESS!

    1. I’ve actually created and viewed courses in Chrome and Firefox without any issue. On a side note there are LMS vendors who say the same pitch..as in..best viewed in Internet Explorer, even though you can view it in other browsers.

      If the courses are in a LMS that is browser agnostic, you won’t any issues.

  178. Lots of good points! Your comment about Scorm ScoTube definitely hits home. After working with many authoring vendors (who do a whole lot more than video to scorm course) I found myself frustrated that adding a video located on Youtube, a private streaming server, or others, while very possible, was convoluted. Can’t tell you how many customers (as an LMS vendor at the time) I helped add in the right HTML code so they could do this as the out of the box copy and paste options were not there or didn’t work (I’ll refrain on calling them out publicly). I mean it wouldn’t take much to add several “video buttons” that make it easy to add in video coming from a variety of sources. At least some others besides ScoTube have caught on!

  179. Excellent article. After working for a LMS vendor for over four years I’ve noted certain things that are not considered in the sales process.

  180. Hi Craig

    I’ve been using the demo for a week or two and found Storyline to be a fair compromise between something like Articulate (Yuk!) and FLASH. With a little imagination, triggers, layers and javascript you can make it do some quite sexy things quite quickly.

    Once published, I found the output on desktop and Android tablet to have pretty good fidelity. These worked well out of my ScormCloud LMS account.

    I was interested in your experience with the LMS with iPad, however. You seemed to indicate it worked well for you. I published similarly to the way you described, but accessing the material via the LMS on iPad doesn’t work.

    Would you please describe the steps of accessing the published course on the LMS and what happened? E.g. You access the LMS with Safari, launch the course, the mobile player kicks in? I really don’t get how this iPad thing is supposed to work. Sad, as the Android and desktop parts worked like a dream.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.


    1. Pete,

      I tested it within a LMS, and it worked fine, but I did not download/test it from the LMS into the app.

      That said, as noted in the article I found the iPad app to be a major disappointment on multiple fronts.

  181. There are clearly some interesting point here. I especially liked you mentioned parent portals and phone integration: I have never though about these directions of development. Nice article!

  182. Yikes! SoftChalk 7 coupled with BlackBoard Learn is my institutions provided/preferred solution(s). I experience discomfort as I use these “solutions” and you are dancing around the edges of the issue(s) I have with these products. Really, these two products seem to strive to “herd” me and others into a boxed canyon: their boxed canyon. Seems they are less about enabling me and more about forcing me to do things their way. I am not saying I am a maverick, but I want some latitude. I keep thinking, “can’t I roll my own?”

  183. Well thanks for sharing this wonderful post. It is a very useful topic as LMS is become very important and is the best and a helpful way of learning and teaching.

  184. There are many factors which customers need in an LMS. The LMS must be made seeing to all the requirements of the customers and must also be user friendly. Thanks for sharing this post.

  185. Well great thanks for sharing this wonderful post which has many useful points. All the features explained above are really very important and must be user friendly which attracts users.

  186. Wonderful post. Great job putting all of this information together. I will definitely use it as a resource when writing marketing materials and website information. I know our LMS, has many of those differentiating features. I will make sure that they are highlighted in our marketing materials.

  187. Very good blog Craig! I must be thankful to you for providing those screenshots and explaning every bit of it in very short and precise manner.

    I have been using Storyline since last one month and I just loved the fact that same content can be published into Flash and HTML5. Also there are no different packges for every delivery platforms, when you run the content it checks the browser type and accordingly loads the HTML5 or Flash content.

    On the poorer note I would say absence of system variables (properties of your courseware like max pages, current page etc) restricts the ability of a developer from using the tool and as most client requirements evolve around such fatcs! But I am very optimistic regarding this tool and I personally feel that in coming two years this tool would be a need of time!

    I will post more technical aspects of the tool in near future!

    Thanks once again!

  188. Thank you for an extremely useful material on how to choose an LMS! Actually on my mind, not many people search for an LMS solution in such a scrupulous way which is wrong, as after the purchase they regret about the lack of this or that needed feature.
    As for the cost, the must expensive doesn’t mean the most effective at all. Seeking a solution for our medical training school, I came across a cheap Joomla-based LMS soft (joomlalms) having, by the way, almost the full list of features enumerated in this article. I’m going to use their trial to test everything. Hope it will suit me…

  189. Interesting article. Yes I agree there are low cost LMS’s. But for some , what on the surface is ‘low-cost’ usually costs increase over a period.

    1. I did take a look at Knowledge Presenter, but even though it had some nice features I just didn’t find it to be in the top 15. That said, your authoring tool standalone product is quite good.

      (note: the writer Parul works for Knowledge Presenter and had included in their response a pitch about their product. This pitch and the name of the said product were removed)

  190. Great article. We believe the same that a powerful learning management system should be affordable.

  191. Thanks for writing this article. It becomes confusing with so many vendors now entering the marketplace with the ease of SCORM and with the clouds.

    1. Yes. I found the UI to massively lacking and feature set while somewhat impressive, they seemed disinterested in mobile learning, which I found strange, especially since their key focus is education.

  192. Very valid points. Pricey systems can be overkill for many but what did you think of openness and genuine SCORM support with these? We’ve found some lower cost systems are not as open and flexible as they claim, focussing on inbuilt features to tie users in whilst SCORM is an afterthought.

    1. Many of the systems are SCORM compliant. While I would love to see more SCORM 2004, 3rd edition, at least SCORM was there. While it is true that some are proprietary based, the vast are not. Where I did see a lot of proprietary based where the “training mgt” systems(example: Mindflash.com) and some LMS vendors who are really course authoring tools as their key component followed by some minor stuff.

    1. The term “LMS” is misleading in systems like iSpring and others i.e. Articulate. They are not a LMS, rather they are an online authoring system whose authoring tool is the key component. They offer a few reports, minimal analytics.

      If that is what you are seeking then iSpring is fine. The downside to most of these products is that you cannot use any other 3rd party authoring tool but their own. An exception would be Claro, which is a collaborative learning environment.

  193. This was one of the best posts I’ve read in a while. I love the outrage and find it extremely refreshing. Misleading customers, not listening and forgetting who the customer is can be extremely frustrating. Bravo Craig!

  194. Craig,
    This would be funny if it weren’t true… which I’m sure it is. As the owner of an e-learning provider, I would certainly hope that (1) our sales reps would respect the wishes of our prospective clients, (2) our service after the sale would be at least as good if not better than before our clients buy from us, and (3) that every representative of our company would act with honesty and integrity in every situation.

    I’m sorry that you’ve experienced less than excellent service – it reflects badly on all of us in this business.

    1. It does reflect bad on the industry which is a shame. I think part of the problem is the lack of sales training on the part of some vendors. Train folks it is worth it.

    1. I have from a feature standpoint, but I need to take a deeper dive in the product and UI and nav, ease of use, etc. With 450 vendors in the space – global LMS, its impossible to see everyone and with new ones coming into play, you can only do so much – tracking is easy, analysis is easy..deep dives i find not so easy. Vendors want to show me demos – I just want to see the product and take it for a spin. Also I want to be able to hear what is on the roadmap, what is in the works, etc. : )

  195. Before I send this to my “Distance Education Committee”, I have two questions which I believe are relevant for other universities as well. 1. – This entry seems to focus on the K-12 market. Would you rework these grades for a mobile HIGHER ED (BS, MS degrees) market or leave them as they are? 2. – If we only have enough $$ and staff (I am pushing for training librarians not IT to assist faculty) to partner with an e-learning provider who can move our academic degrees to an asynchronous, global platform PLUS Continuing Ed (workforce performance) what provider would come to mind? FYI, ours is a university with 79% of its students and alumni involved in ongoing (lifelong learning) certification (maritime training and power engineering). The best (only?) one I can find is CertpointVLS but I am not sure we can afford them. Then again, two systems may be even less realistic financially. Key here is educating teachers to the difference between course management and learning management systems. Don’t just lift our current pedagogy to a virtual space. let the technology/software transform (evolve) it so a teacher’s (front loaded) voice becomes a situational mentor and it’s architecture each individual student’s path of inquiry and discovery.

    1. 1. This is focused on K-12
      2. A future post will be on vendors focused on higher Ed as their core
      3. My LMS directory lists in the comments area, vendors who target academia/higher Ed
      4. The features u want exist in a higher Ed focused vendor as well as 90% of vendors in the space.
      5. Certpoint is good for a lot of things, but I wouldn’t use them for ur system. You can get a great system for under 25k, and solid systems under 20k. Avoid open source like Moodle. If u want a pseudo freebie focused on higher Ed, look at metacoon, which is n my directory

      6. One of my services is helping consumers – schools, universities, businesses, companies, etc. find the right LMS for them. For more info, please visit my web site at http://www.elearning247.co

  196. Sorry but your comments about Bb are quite simply “wrong”. Bb does indeed offer “Bb Collaborate” which intergrates perfectly into Bb Learn. Yes it’s an “optional extra” but even without that, Bb offers free Virtual Classroom tools and chat tools to allow for asyncronis learning. That rant over, you have also opened by eyes to other systems that I was not aware of and can look into. Thanks. 🙂

    1. In my experience with the product, it is heavily geared towards synchronous based learning. Its capability for true WBT, non-linear courses is IMO nearly non-existent. Sure you can do some things, but compared to other systems in the space, it is extremely far behind.

      In a discussion I had with a salesperson, he told me that they are not really asynch.

  197. Craig… you read my mind and then blogged it! I’ve been delving into LMS research for 2 companies over the last 6 and quite frankly its a minefield of empty lies, promises and systems that can’t deliver what I need. Its refreshing (although sad) that I’m not the only one having this experience. At least I know its them and not me! haha!

  198. Craig,
    Just curious. Any reason why you chose to omit Adobe Captivate from this list of authoring tools? It would certainly seem to have a larger market share than any of the other tools mentioned.

    Also interested to hear your comments on why widgets are now regarded as “cold”.

    1. Cold simply means that they are not being implemented or being seen in the market. It does not mean that they are not of value nor should be implemented – all the cold features – should actually be used.

      Captivate was not included because I don’t see it as best of the best. There are over 120 vendors in the space. As for developers, the product still is targeting the masses – nothing wrong with that mind you. But from a developer standpoint, even an Adobe person once told me that Flash is ideal for developers. That said, it can be used for developers, but many have told me it just isn’t as robust for them.

      1. OK. I’m glad that you see widgets as something that “should” be implemented. But I agree that by and large they still aren’t getting the traction they could in the market. I think the issue is mainly that they are still too hard to develop, and unless developed well, they are also still too hard to use. My company builds and sells some of the most popular widgets for Captivate. But I can earn four to five times better money working on elearning contracts for clients.

        As for Captivate, while you are welcome to an opinion, I find your views somewhat surprising about it. As an experienced e-learning developer (who previously used Flash and other tools) I find Captivate VERY robust, though like all software it still has its faults.

        I find that most people with opinions about Captivate don’t actually use it themselves to develop online courses (or else they used it a long time ago and still retain that view). Sure there are features targeted at the masses (why else would it now be the market leader) but once you scratch the surface a bit more you find features that can ONLY be used by hard-core developers. In fact, one complaint many people make about Captivate is that the learning curve is steep because of this extra power under the hood. So Adobe has tried to cover both ends of the user spectrum, rather than just going for one group.

        Anyway, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about Captivate. Thank you for publishing your blog. I like to keep up with where the LMS market is heading.