jump to navigation

My LMS vendor just got acquired by another company! Now what?! April 28, 2011

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , ,
3 comments

SuccessFactors Acquires PlateauThe landscape of learning management system (LMS) vendors is constantly changing. There have been dozens of acquisitions in the past decade, including a big one this week. This can be a scary time if your organization happens to be using an LMS that gets acquired by or merged with another company. After all, you’ve most likely invested thousands of dollars and many hours getting it set up and configured to work well. So, if your LMS vendor gets acquired by another
company, what should you do? What questions should you ask?

My first piece of advice would be: Just relax. The process of merging two business generally takes a while. You most likely won’t see any overnight changes. Take this time to think through several scenarios and prepare a list of questions for your account representative.

Below is a starter list of questions that you may want to ask. The account rep may not know all of the answers if the news is still fresh, but it’s good to start thinking in these terms. To keep things straight, I’ll use the terms acquirer (the company who is making the purchase) and acquiree (the company who is being purchased).

Question to ask:

  • Why (specifically) was the company acquired?
  • How will the roadmap for the LMS change?
  • Will the underlying technologies change?
  • What products, services, features, etc., of the acquirer will be made available to clients of the acquiree?
  • How will the support model change for the acquiree, if at all?
  • Will the hourly rate change for the acquiree? (ex. For customizations)
  • Will any of your technical or support contacts change?
  • Will there (still?) be an annual conference for the LMS and its users?

I’m sure I left off some questions. What else would you add?

Advertisements

eLearning Thought Leaders: OpenSesame February 9, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Interview.
Tags: , , , , ,
3 comments

OpenSesame.com Buy and Sell eLearningI interviewed the guys at OpenSesame to find out what they are up to and why everyone is talking about the hoodies from DevLearn.

They are changing the way elearning, module-by-module, is bought and sold online.

eLearning Weekly Interview with Josh Blank, SVP/General Manager, and Tom Turnbull, VP/Community Development at Open Sesame

eLW: I go to OpenSesame.com and see that you are the elearning marketplace — what does that mean?

JB:  OpenSesame has a simple mission: Make buying an elearning course as easy as downloading a song from iTunes. We connect elearning buyers and sellers in an easy-to-use online marketplace where developers publish and sell their courses and training managers find the off-the-shelf content they need to create an effective and up-to-date workforce.

For the first time, OpenSesame allows buyers to research, evaluate and purchase courses from a diverse set of publishers in a single location. OpenSesame is also a solution for elearning developers, who can use our marketplace to reach new customers. Developers can sell existing off-the-shelf courses, thereby leveraging work they have already completed, or create new courses specifically for the OpenSesame marketplace.

OpenSesame addresses another elearning pain point by solving the interoperability hurdle. Our technology connects SCORM or AICC courses to any learning management system, enabling developers to focus their attentions on creating great courses instead of resolving technical hurdles.

eLW: An elearning marketplace seems so simple–developers can sell modules and training departments or individuals can buy modules–but the real trick is running the elearning on an LMS, right? Can buyers run the elearning on their LMS?

TT:  Emphatically yes. We are proud that our platform technology enables any course creator to connect any content to any LMS. We’re solving the interoperability problem for course developers and end users, while making diverse courses trackable on a variety of systems.

We rely on the SCORM and AICC standards to act as the bridge between content authoring tools and end users’ learning management systems. When organizations purchase a course from OpenSesame’s marketplace, they upload a license file to their LMS just as they would with any other course content.

eLW: You guys must know a little bit about these LMS things — how did you get started?

JB:  The OpenSesame team has a deep background in the elearning sector. During our 10 years in the elearning business, we realized that the biggest impediment to the growth of elearning was organizations’ inability to easily find, select and deploy high quality elearning content. We decided to found a new company that would act as a platform for these connections.

Between us, we have software, business, design and communications experience driving our development of the OpenSesame marketplace solution for the content conundrum. We believe that in the long term, our open marketplace will make elearning accessible, easy to implement and rewarding for everyone.

eLW: What about social media or integration–are you integration-friendly?

TT:  We believe in collaborating with our technology partners to solve problems and create elegant features for elearning professionals. We offer software developers the opportunity to add value to their elearning products by integrating with the OpenSesame marketplace through a read-write API.

LMS developers can integrate the OpenSesame catalog into their marketplace in two ways. First, developers can enable LMS users to purchase and deploy courses from the OpenSesame marketplace in one step. Our API will enable LMSs to automatically create and configure courses using files and metadata from OpenSesame. Furthermore, LMS developers can enable users to browse the OpenSesame catalog from within the LMS user interface — never needing to visit http://www.OpenSesame.com to access the elearning courses they need.

We are also developing an API for course authoring tools, which will enable developers to build authoring tools that publish courses directly into the OpenSesame marketplace, offering additional income and advertising opportunities to their clients.

eLW: If someone wants to sell elearning on OpenSesame, who should they contact or what should they do?

TT:  We are thrilled to welcome elearning course developers who are sharing their existing elearning courses or perhaps creating new, all-purpose courses on topics where they have created custom courses in the past.

Watch our Getting Started screencast to take a tour of our marketplace. Take the first step towards selling courses by visiting our site and clicking register in the top right corner. Once you have created a user profile, you can upload your course files, set the per-seat and site license prices and enter information about the topic, target audience and learning objectives.

Contact me at tom.turnbull@opensesame.com if you have questions.

eLW: What is something new and tantalizing that you are working on or might roll-out soon?

JB:  A SCORM video player.

We’re making it possible for simple, YouTube style videos to be completed and tracked as SCORM courses in learning management systems.  We’re excited about this for two reasons: First, making videos trackable like elearning courses will lower the barrier of entry for subject matter experts who have experience and information to share but don’t have traditional course design skills.

Second, videos are often the simplest and most straightforward way to illustrate a new idea or concept for learners. It’s the definition of rapid elearning to enable a developer or subject matter expert to make a screencast or other quick video to respond to new technology developments or demand in the marketplace. We’re making it possible for organizations to track and manage their learners’ participation in video-based learning experiences.

Wow — that’s huge. I know I will love it. Now for a few personal questions that will really give readers a chance to get to know you.

eLW: Imagine one of those bumper stickers that starts “I’d rather be…” and tell us what you love to do so much that you could complete that phrase with it.

JB: There’s no place I’d rather be than here, making elearning accessible, effective and fun! But in an alternate universe, if I had to choose another profession, I would coach the USC football team.

TT: Like Josh, I enjoy this opportunity to start a new business focused on extending learning opportunities across enterprises but if I had to choose something else, I’d be producing children’s movies.

eLW: What do you have to read online?
TT: My RSS reader features TechCrunch and a handful of elearning blogs, including this one, LearnNuggets, Aaron Silvers Blog, Jane’s Pick of the Day, Corporate eLearning Strategies & Development, elearnspace, our own OpenSesame blog.
eLW: Do you have a favorite geek t-shirt that you love to wear or want to get?
JB: I’m proud to sport my “hAPI hAPI Joy Joy” shirt.
eLW: I sort of wish I didn’t ask that question, but that is clever. Where is the strangest place on Earth you have been?
TT: How about the strangest place on Earth that I will go to next week?  My wife and I are taking our two boys to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Universal Studios Orlando. While I love reading with my kids and I love Harry Potter as much as the next Muggle dad, I can’t imagine that there are many stranger places on Earth than that.
eLW: Thank you, Josh and Tom. Here’s my favorite final question for our readers who like networking: Where will you be appearing and where can people find your schedule for conferences or events?
JB:  We are hitting the road this spring and we want to meet you!  We love to meet new people, try new hotel restaurants and talk about the future of elearning.
Also, if you missed out on the OpenSesame hoodies at DevLearn, don’t worry.  We ordered more.
The hoodies! Sweet.

LMS Spotlight: TOPYX January 31, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in LMS Spotlight.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

As part of my research on LMS options, I found one that is so inexpensive that it still boggles my brain. Let me get right to the price before I share the features: $15,000 per year. For TOPYX, that’s it.

If you have been a part of purchasing an LMS, you know that 15 grand a year is practically unbelievable. When I talked with Jodi Harrison, Vice President Business Development and Affiliate Partners at Interactyx, I needed her to repeat the price a few times, and then I had to ask if that was just the set-up price. Nope. There are no hidden fees for each learner. No cost to implement and no charges for upgrades, which are free for life. Just $15,000.

And if $15,000 seems like a lot, you can opt for TOPYX Lite for less money and less LMS.

Topyx  LMS Best Value FlyerWith TOPYX, you have options. Having options is key in the elearning industry where everybody needs something just a little different. Maybe all the options inspired 100% of 2010 TOPYX clients to stay with TOPYX.

For an LMS that truly integrates web 2.0 to create a social learning experience, look to TOPYX. TOPYX comes ready, off the shelf, to integrate your favorite social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and is built to add other plug-ins like your company’s webinar software. TOPYX has now won the Best of Elearning! award for Best Social Learning Software for two years in row, 2009 and 2010.

If you already have an LMS you like, or are stuck with, you might like TOPYX BOLT. BOLT is the social learning only component that plugs-in to your existing LMS so you can benefit from the award-winning social learning infrastructure.

TOPYX is sold as an SaaS solution (Software-as-a-Service) and is totally web-based. That might be bad news for companies that require behind the firewall solutions, but it’s great news for small companies or companies with inundated IT departments. The affordable and reliable hosting is provided by Rackspace.

If you do want to pay more than $15,000 per year, you can. There are optional add-ons like a built-in authoring tool, and although your first two language options are free, you can purchase more. And for more information, watch this short video from Interactyx:

The eLearning Security Leak November 11, 2010

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Words and images spread fast online. Internet 2.0 offers many tools for sharing a status update or image with a network, which can then share with a larger network, and when something goes viral, it seems that everybody knows.

In elearning, we are in the business of putting images together to train employees and clients. eLearning images make great screenshots for an elearner to leak to the ever disseminating web.

Now That's a Screenshot!

Engadget ran a piece with a screenshot from VZLearn, the LMS of Verizon Wireless. The training, for employees, revealed what the public did not yet know: that Palm Pre 2 training would only be assigned if Verizon intended to roll that out soon. Now, you can Google “screen shot leak” and see blog post after blog post about Windows 8 or or the next iPhone. For all we know, those screenshots are “leaked” on purpose for publicity.

But what potential leaks could happen at your company? Could a disgruntled employee post screenshots of your internal only or proprietary data?

I’ve worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Federal Reserve Bank. These companies have serious needs to protect information and reputations. The elearning we made was scrubbed and re-scrubbed to eliminate any potentially damaging information. Still, if an elearner had it out for a company like those, or  yours, they could print screen and leak in a 2.0 minute.

I don’t know if elearning designers and developers can spend too much time planning for the potential threat of a screenshot leak. But maybe that is a key part of the projects. And what about the LMS systems that house the elearning–are they safe?

If someone were hungry enough for a story or had a big enough grudge, they just might hack into an LMS to get more than a screenshot: the whole module. Is elearning a hot spot for internet security and corporate privacy?

LMS Spotlight: Litmos September 10, 2010

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, LMS Spotlight.
Tags: , , , ,
4 comments

The face of the LMS is quickly changing. Five years ago, I could name only a half-dozen LMS options. Today I find new ones every week, and I estimate that there are more than 200 viable LMS choices.

I just completed an investigation of 35 LMS solutions, and found many cool companies and versatile tools. What I saw, and what I liked to see, was that many new LMS companies are trimming the fat off the traditional LMS behemoth. The newer LMS software offers only the options people actually use. And many offer complete hosting, which means you can make a decision without the interference/blessing of your IT department.

One of my favorite options is Litmos. The founders of Litmos created a tag line: “Love your LMS.” I thought: Yeah, right–an LMS is for bitter hatred. But not so with Litmos. This LMS is so stripped down that it might seem too limited by some users. But I think it’s tight focus is a challenge to elearning professional to assess what they really need from an LMS–and how much they want their LMS to get in the way.

Litmos is so light and agile that I was able to set up a demo site, add a few learners, add a couple of SCORM courses, and send a few email notifications all in less than 30 minutes. Minutes later, I was accessing the LMS on my smart phone. The Litmos experience is amazing–so different from the LMS nightmares I was used to with the larger LMS beasts out there.

Next, I was following Litmos on Twitter to learn more. Litmos posts updates on Twitter and on their blog, written by the “happy blogger” and General Manager, Nicole Fougere. I reached out to Nicole, and she provided me this nice summary of the strengths and features of Litmos:

Strengths:

  • Our mission is to build the most easy-to-use LMS in the world and have fun along the way
  • Litmos is Software as a Service (SaaS)
    • On-demand system delivered over the web
    • Instant access to trial, no downloads required etc.
    • Regular product and feature upgrades rolling out
  • Bare-bones LMS – development started with just the features you absolutely need to be successful
  • Easy navigation and intuitive design
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Young, small and agile team – rapidly growing company

Features:

  • SCORM 1.2 Certified by ADL
  • Custom themes and branding
  • People management tools: bulk import, groups/teams etc.
  • Drill-down and more selective custom reporting
  • Monthly billing based on active usage – only pay for those people who use your system each month
  • eCommerce – currently PayPal supported with a view to adding more payment providers shortly
  • API access – integrate the LMS with other systems
  • NEW: Basic mobile support for iPad, iPhone and Android – videos look great!

I recommend test driving Litmos. It has inspired many ideas for me. Check out this You Tube video:

Getting Ready for the All New eLearning Weekly September 3, 2010

Posted by Eric Matas in Editor Comment, eLearning.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments

Hello eLearning Weekly fans and readers!

This post is my first editorial comment since coming on board as the Managing Editor at eLearning Weekly. I am pumped up with adrenaline and elearning energy because next week is the official relaunch.

elearning weekly re-launches after labor day

Next week, after Labor Day, eLearning Weekly will kick off a series of regular new content with a spotlight piece that focuses on a cutting-edge LMS solution. The LMS space is changing drastically and we will write regularly about the options and trends for learning management–after all, where the elearning goes is pretty important.

eLearning Weekly will not be as entirely “all new” as this post’s title boasts. The blog will get a bit of a make-over so the look of the site will complement the new content, but long-time  readers will see the same committment to quality content that strives to explore techniques and tools and shares tips and tricks. Both B.J. and I are innovators and early adopters, but we are also well-grounded, careful thinkers. So, while we will jump into hip, fresh elearning news like using social media, we will also be a calm space in the middle of the elearning storm, writing about practical ideas and consistent practices.

On a final note, I want to invite you to be involved. We are a sort of hybrid now: part blog and part online magazine, and we want contributors. Contributors can be writers who post once, post more than once, or post regularly. Let us know your interest by emailing editor@ericmatas.com. In the meantime, you can contribute by commenting on the posts. 😉

Introducing the SCORM Cloud December 9, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Rustici this year at DevLearn. Mike runs Rustici Software and he’s a total SCORM ninja. In our conversation, Mike mentioned a new service that is offered by his company – the service is called the SCORM Cloud. It was easy to see Mike was pretty excited about this, and after hearing some of the details, I think it definitely provides us with some interesting new ways to deliver and track learning content.

How to describe the SCORM Cloud…

If you didn’t have to use an LMS to offer learning content, where would you want to do it? A Facebook page? Your WordPress blog? Via an iGoogle widget? Maybe, but you’d lose the ability to track and record and assess, right? Enter SCORM Cloud, which lets you take learning outside the LMS and put it pretty much anywhere you want.

How does that happen? Essentially, your course content sits out on the cloud (much like your Google Docs or your Flickr pictures), and SCORM Cloud lets you deliver it wherever you want. SCORM Cloud tracks and records the same things SCORM 2004 (or 1.2 or AICC) would in your LMS and reports them back. So you can score quizzes, track interactions or set sequencing for any content you upload to the SCORM Cloud. No LMS required.

As of now, Rustici Software has already integrated SCORM Cloud with several open source LMSs such as Moodle and Sakai. And they tell me that they are close to having it ready to work with WordPress and iGoogle. The current integrations are open-source and flexible enough to allow for customizations, and you can even build your own integration if you want to use SCORM Cloud somewhere they have haven’t considered yet.

(There’s a fee for using SCORM Cloud and it is priced based your usage and needs. And it is far cheaper than going the whole-LMS route.)

I’d recommend that you check out the SCORM Cloud if you’re feeling overly constrained by your LMS; it will help you break out of the traditional eLearning model and take advantage of some of the new 2.0 tools that are now available on the web. Kudos to Mike and his team for thinking up an innovative solution like this…

Check out the SCORM Cloud web page to learn more, sign up for a free account, and view pricing information.

The Next Generation of Learning Management Systems October 31, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

A recent post by Clive Shepherd references an interesting activity done by the eLearning Network at their recent Next Generation Learning Management event. According to Clive’s post, the event was attended by a cross-section of members: private and public sector users, LMS and content vendors, consultants, and others. In the activity, participants identified requirements for learning management systems for the 21st century. (Great idea!) You can download a PDF containing the results of the activity. It’s worth checking out.

I’ve written about the future of LMSs before (see "Have LMSs Jumped The Shark?"). I still believe major changes need to be made, but I find it fascinating to keep an eye on the market and watch the different approaches companies are taking. Some LMS vendors are choosing to integrate Learning 2.0/Web 2.0 functionality (ex. wikis, blogs, micro-blogging, etc.) into their systems. Others are choosing to integrate with HR systems (ex. talent management, development planning, etc.). Some people see LMSs as systems with a front-end for users, while others see LMSs as back-end systems that users should never see. I don’t know which approaches will prevail, but activities like the one above are a great way to get everyone working together to advance our industry. (And I hope LMS vendors are listening out there…)

LMS Customer Support Expectations July 17, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
2 comments

I know a few people who have run into major customer support problems with an LMS vendor over the past few months. The vendor has not provided competent support, communication has been difficult, and the project is taking months longer than what was originally expected. I’ve worked with several LMS vendors in my day (both good and bad), and this one is taking the prize. It makes me ask this question: What level of customer support should you expect to receive from your LMS vendor?

Here’s my take:

  • Customer support should be available via phone and email during regular business hours.
  • All inquiries should be recognized and responded to within 24 hours (auto-response emails don’t count!). A solution isn’t necessary within 24 hours; just let me know that you’re working on the issue.
  • Urgent issues should be recognized and responded to within 2 hours (or sooner).
  • An online ticketing system should be used to track all open requests, issues, fixes, etc., and this system should be visible to the customer.
  • An account representative should stay in touch with you every month or so to check in and make sure everything is running well.
  • Finally, on a more technical level: If I need to troubleshoot a complex SCORM issue, I would like to send the SCO to the LMS vendor to get their input. If the problem lies within the SCO, I should have to fix it. If the problem lies within the LMS, the vendor should address it.

Keep these points in mind when working with LMS vendors. If you’re about to purchase an LMS, carefully review the support details in the contract and request changes if necessary.

Can you think of any other expectations for LMS vendor customer support?

(By the way, the eLearning Guild has a great research report (Learning Management Systems 2008) that provides a ton of detail around features, demographics, satisfaction, costs, implementation timelines, and much more. Be sure to check it out if you’re in the hunt for an LMS.)

Have LMSs Jumped The Shark? March 20, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
14 comments

I constantly hear people (across many organizations) complain about their learning management system (LMS). They complain that their LMS has a terrible interface that is nearly unusable. Upgrades are difficult and cumbersome. Their employees’ data is locked in to a proprietary system. Users hate the system. It’s ugly. (Did I miss anything?) I think LMSs may have jumped the shark.

If LMSs are going to survive, they’ll need to change drastically. We’ve recently seen LMSs shift to include more functionality, such as wikis, blogs, social networking, etc. I think they’re heading in the wrong direction. I don’t really understand why LMS vendors are now thinking they need to build in every possible 2.0 tool. If I want a great blogging platform, I’m going to download WordPress (it’s free and has a huge support community). If I want a great wiki platform, I’m going to download MediaWiki or DokuWiki (also free and they have huge support communities). And when it comes to social networking, as a co-worker put it, “Do they really think I’m going to create a ‘friends’ list in the LMS? Seriously?”

Maybe LMS vendors are taking advantage of the people/organizations who don’t have the technical resources to install these free open-source systems on their own. I think it’s a big problem; by using these tools within the LMS, people are now locking even more data into a closed system. One of the few LMS add-ons that I think may have merit would be a talent management module, mainly because it could integrate well with the data in an LMS. That seems like a good fit to me.

Instead of adding all this new functionality, LMS vendors should concentrate on better connecting and integrating with open standards and technologies. User data should be 100% portable. RSS feeds should be available both ways: people should be able to subscribe to a feed to monitor when new resources are added in the LMS, and the LMS should be able to import and act on data fed to it. The systems and the data should be mashable. The LMS will need to become one of the building blocks within the enterprise, rather than remain as a standalone system that doesn’t play well with others.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic; I’ve made a good living in the world of learning and technology working with LMSs. I think I’m most frustrated because other areas of software and technology seem to have progressed at a much more rapid pace in terms of usability and flexibility. I believe there is a future for the LMS, but only for the vendors who are able to see the changes on the horizon and adapt before it’s too late.