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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rapid LMS

I've been asked numerous times over the past couple of years by various types of people and companies a very similar question:

I plan to or have been conducting and charging for training workshops for clients. I'd like to creating this as self-paced eLearning possibly with other capabilities as well. And I want to charge for this. How can I do that?

Two years ago, after quite a bit of discussion with most people who had this general question, I would figure out that it was going to be relatively easy for them to figure out how to author the eLearning courses, but it was going to be a harder decision on how to get that posted somewhere and available to their existing or new clients.

I was just asked the question again the other day. It's a company that has been offering 3-day workshops and now they want to put some portion of that content online. Ideally, they would offer it both publicly for fee and as well to particular clients.

While there are a lot of different Learning Management Systems with very different features, the requirements in this situation are a bit different. So here are some of the requirements I see for this customer that are a bit different from what you would find in a normal corporate LMS RFP.

To me this is a new kind of system. I'm temporarily calling this a Rapid Learning Management System. It's hosted. It's easy to use. It's a bit like rapid eLearning authoring tools, but aimed at the learning management side of this equation. If you know the right term for this, please let me know.

White Label

For their existing customers, they should be able to point them to a system that looks just like their own site.

Company Clients / Groups of Learners

Many of their customers (companies) come in with several learners. They need to be able to have these learners grouped together and provide reporting over those learners. The company will have a single administrative contact. The system should look and act like an individual LMS for that administrator. Also, if they make changes to the LMS overall, the company should inherit those changes.

Marketplace for Content

While they are going to need to take the lead on driving traffic to their courses, the system should allow for individuals and companies to find and sign up for their content.

My impression though is that despite the claims that the marketplace will help you get new customers, you should plan to do the work needed to get people there. Thus, you probably should be thinking about all the normal internet marketing approaches to driving people to sign up. And once they get to your landing page, it should be easy to get them across to the marketplace and have it transact with them.

Instructor, Virtual Classroom and Social Learning Support

In some cases, all that is needed is for the self-paced eLearning to be hosted, but in this case, they also still want to be able to interact with the learners. Instructors will still be there for the companies. And there should be some basic capabilities for asking questions, getting answers. Possibly some forums. In this case, it's limited, but I've run into situations where the plan was for 8 hours of self-paced online and then 1 day of online virtual classroom.

Authoring Support or SCORM?

A lot of the systems on the market seem to start with some kind of basic rapid authoring tool. I personally believe that it would be better for these systems to accept SCORM content from a few of the top authoring tools. Of course, that implies additional cost. However, if you are really authoring several hours of content and are going to take this seriously as a business, it would seem like that should be a good investment. Or maybe you just use an open-source or free. But I'd rather not have to learn all the quirks of one of these platforms. And I'd want my content to be transportable in case the platform goes away.

Other Requirements?

What am I missing? What other requirements are important in this situation?

Systems?

I'm currently pointing people to the following rapid learning management systems. I'm not claiming these address all of the above requirements. Rather that they generally are a hosted LMS solution that roughly corresponds to most of the requirements:

What other systems should be on the list?

20 comments:

Bob Brogan said...

Hi Tony,

The TOPYX platform from Interactyx provides a hosted white label e-Learning with integrated social networking communities to foster rapid learning for internal employees, external partners and customers. We offer virtual classrooms for distributed participants and are SCORM compliant.

Interactyx has a rapidly growing client list that has adopted enabled the networked learner in an engaging experience and reinforces the performance improvement of the small and medium sized businesses.

Please consider adding TOPYX to your list and as always keep up the good work.

All the best,
Bob

bob brogan said...

Tony,

Here is the link to TOPYX: www.interactyx.com

Bob

Bryan Jones said...

Tony,

I think you should add Moodle to the list as a rapid LMS. It's really easy to use and setup.

I'm a big fan of Moodle, but it has always fallen short as a corporate LMS. It lacked a lot of the grouping and reporting features that most companies need. One of the Moodle partners, Remote Learner, created a Moodle add-on called ELIS (Enterprise Learning Intelligence Suite) that fills a lot of those gaps.

Also, when I use Moodle, I always pay to have it hosted by a legit Moodle resource (e.g. Moodle Partner), so that this becomes a true SAAS solution. I have no interest in supporting a Moodle install on my own servers or putting it on a server that doesn't truly support Moodle.

There are some pretty simple branding thing that can be done to change the look and feel of a Moodle install (color scheme, branding, etc).

I hope that helps.

Bryan

Ravit Yanay said...

Adobe Connect does a very good job as well. Should be added to the list.

Anonymous said...

Adobe Connect does not fulfill this need. It is not SCORM compliant and the reporting is atrociously bad.

Tony Karrer said...

Bob - I've added Topyx.

Bryan - good point on Moodle. Are there hosted versions of Moodle that would work for this situation?

Ravit - I tend to agree with the anonymous commenter that Adobe Connect doesn't fit this category. Or am I missing something?

Judy said...

I always had a notion that e-learning could never replace a regular school education.Off late i have been doing some research and found that there are many online educational tools which students of e-generation prefer to books.

Massood said...

Tony,
I would take a serious look at iContent solution from Plateau.It is kind of a content bazzar and is built to suuport these kinds of initiatives. The goal of the solution is to make it easy to buy, deploy and manage third party and custom e-learning content.

With your blessing I will suggest OutStart's TrainingEdge platform too. It combines LCMS, LMS, Social Business Software into a single application on demand platform, and has been used for the business case you have defined.

Richard Williams said...

Hi Tony,

We developed the Firmwater LMS to specifically address the needs of training vendors and publishers. It can be completely white-labeled, is SCORM compliant, supports multiple client communities, and is offered as an affordable hosted solution with no start up fee.

Please consider the Firmwater LMS to your list.

More information is available at www.firmwater.com.

We'd be happy to demonstrate the system to yourself or any of your readers who may have such a need.

Great post!

Regards,
Rich

Rudi Aksim said...

Good article. Do you know of comparisons from people who have taken these for test runs?

You might want to add Coursepark, Sclipo and Udutu to your list


http://sclipo.com/frontpage
http://www.coursepark.com/
http://www.udutu.com/

Regards

Rudi

Tony Karrer said...

Rudi - good point on Sclipo and CoursePark. My impression of udutu is that it's authoring not LMS. Is that wrong?

Bryan Jones said...

Tony- Yes, you can turn Moodle into a hosted solution. I would recommend using one of the Moodle partners to do this. They've built their businesses around hosting and supporting Moodle. The hosting and support rates are really low compared to most LMS b/c you're not paying for the software; it's open source :)

David Hoare said...

Tony and Bryan -

I agree, Moodle is an excellent all-around package.

ClassRunnner.com has recently opened its doors to provide either free or paid hosting of virtual classrooms using this platform. Our goal is to make setting up an LMS as easy and user-friendly as possible for non-technical teachers, by providing guided video tutorials and personal tech support.

Thanks for this great list of alternative platforms!
DH

Don said...

Hi Tony,

Thanks for this list and the challenge. There are several here which were not on my list. I am now trying to figure out how to categorize these solutions. I am still working on it but I don't think there is just one category. Here are some preliminary thoughts.

Some seem to emphazise communties/networking - LearnHub, Xerceo TrainingAtom, CoursePark, Sclipo. Others focus on publishing and marketing - Coggno, Litmos, Odijoo, Firmwater. They could be called training marketplaces. TOPYX tries to do both the marketplace and networking.

I see Trivantis CourseMill and Upside Learning Upside LMS as quite traditional modest SaaS LMSs so I wouldn't have included them on this list. I see ClassRunner as a Moodle partner so I wouldn't have included them here although they do seem to provide wide access. LearnHub and ClassRunner are oriented to the education sector rather than the corporate training market.

I see them all as a natural evolution of the LMS given the popularity of social networking, SasS and cloud computing.

Regards,

Don.
www.trimeritus.com

Tony Karrer said...

@Don - I tend to agree with your categorizations. I would be very curious if other people have a similar thought on where each of these fall.

Mark Spruell said...

Thanks for the list Tony! As a trainer looking to replace our moodle based system, I was really happy to find this. We've been hoping to find a solution that would allow more of our trainers to submit content (aside from just me, lol) and that would make it easier to sell our services. I was sure one of these offerings would fit the bill.

Sadly, after a week of intensive trials, they all fall short:

1) Several of them have no way to embed content (how can that be as we near 2010?). Sure, they can upload content and host it, but why should I do that when youtube, slideshare and sliderocket already do a fine job of hosting?

2) Most lack SCORM compliance, so those of us that already have courses made would have to rebuild them.

3) Nearly all of them lack the ability to add media to questions (most allow a picture or two, but no audio, video or flash).

3b) Adding media to answer fields or feedback fields is right out...

4) Most do not allow the use of flash, nor any other type of interactive content.

5) Most don't allow the use of html in their editors, surely to hide the users from the code. This has huge downsides.

Articulate and Udutu come notably close to matching the functionality of a serious LMS, the rest aren't even close. For users wanting to upload a ppt and maybe some audio, any of these will work. The rest of us will have to keep looking.

Tony Karrer said...

Mark - that's an interesting comment. I believe that several of them have bits and pieces of what you are going for - obviously, they don't have it all. I do still think there's opportunity around this.

alon.margovskiy said...

hi tony,

just thought I'd let you know that we took your comments in your Rapid LMS article to serious consideration:

"A lot of the systems on the market seem to start with some kind of basic rapid authoring tool. I personally believe that it would be better for these systems to accept SCORM content from a few of the top authoring tools."

and we're very excited to announce that in about one month, Odijoo will FINALLY be SCORM compliant and with no extra costs for the user.

We're very excited!

Phil said...

Mark, what you are describing is accomplished through what we call an LMS Framework. Through an LMS Framework, the client is building their own LMS by snapping together from a library of standard off-the-shelf components that cover the gamut of LMS functionality with configuration AND convention to client business needs, data need and styling needs with no to little programming. You can learn more at www.maxit.com.


Content creation and management would not be in this domain other than learning objects, from which a rich range of content development tools as well as new content development tools can be used.

Kyle Smith said...

www.coggno.com should also be on this list. They have a wonderful LMS and lots of training programs as well. Plus full support.