Here are the top 10 trends (6 -10, part 2 of 2. Miss part 1? Click here.) that I have seen taking place in the industry, as well as a few forecasts. They are in no particular order. The trends apply to both LMS/LCMS vendors.

6. Expansion into the SBM (Small Business Market). Smaller size vendors already see this as a real revenue generator. Some of these vendors are only targeting this market and not anything higher. Now, the mid size and big dogs see this as an equal revenue growth opportunity. That said, some big dogs have focused and thus created products geared towards the plus 1,000 or 5,000 employees that their solution does not offer the necessary features and capabilities to penetrate effectively into the market. Pricing becomes an equal challenge to them, especially when they love to use add-on modules. Many smaller size vendors identify the SBMs as less than 500 employees, others value it as less than 250 employees. The challenge will be to truly define the SBMs space.

Forecast: Strong growth, regardless of vendor size, but the advantage is with the smaller size vendors.

7. Talent and Performance Management. Extremely high trend, especially in the mid size and big dog vendors. Two approaches are being seen.

a. Modules that focus on recruiting, along with TPM

b. Modules that only focus on Talent/Performance Management

Some vendors are making this change in such a way, that learning (as defined by a LMS) is becoming smaller, while the drive to TPM is becoming stronger and is driven internally to make this happen. While vendors are adding this module or it already exists, increased sales are being pushed into this space, as it shows enormous growth. There are vendors who have incorporated or integrated with ADP and Taleo, while others have struck deals with those two companies.

Leadership development, HPI, succession planning and OD are increasing in the LMS market, due to a real change in having L&OD or HR leaders taking charge of the LMS/LCMS. Toss in the integration of ERP solutions (Peoplesoft, Oracle, SAP, Workday) and HRIS systems into the mix and you will see why this is growing. There are vendors who state they are “Performance Management” LMS/LCMSs, rather than just saying they are a LMS/LCMS vendor.

Forecast: Strong growth and increased costs to the company who purchases these solutions. Typically these are add-on modules, whether pre-existing in the system with the ability to turn on when purchased or integrated either at the beginning of implementation or post. They are not commonly part of the system, i.e. included in the original price (always ask what modules are included in the price, never assume). ERP and HRIS integration will play an important role.

8. API’s and Widgets. LMS/LCMS vendors wishing to a slight degree to incorporate social learning without fully entering are adding Widgets to the mix. Administrators can add these pieces into their system. Some vendors are providing some widgets are part of their system, and then customers can go onto the web and locate widgets to add or more often than not, create their own. Hence, a stronger tech skill is required. The growth of open source and with Web 3.0 (another buzz word) coming into play, APIs (Application Program Interface) is showing up as well.

Strong tech skills are required for integration. While you can locate APIs on the web (there are plenty of directories and they are free), vendors expect the customers to build their own APIs, rather than locate and add. This is not to say this is a requirement, but many vendors have absolutely no idea, you can find API directories on the net nor widgets. There are enough vendors who are not going into the widget space, but are enabling the integration possibilities of APIs, which are really offers a powerhouse potential (a future emerging technology topic).

According to the The New York Times, Facebook will soon incorporate location’ in two ways: its own features for sharing location and APIs to let other sites and apps offer location services to Facebook users.

Forecast: More vendors offering the integration capability of APIs. Widgets is mixed and not as strong. While smart phones and the tablets offer the widget capability, the market for APIs is significantly growing. Google maps is an example of an APIs. Linkedin tied into Twitter is an example of APIs. The use of geolocation – available in HTML5.

9. Mobile Learning. Two levels of thought

a. Incorporation from the standpoint of smart phones but with limited features – ala see it as a collaborative learning tool, social learning angle

b. Tablets – Ipad (first and foremost), then other tablets. This option, will enable courses to be taken via the tablet, plus social learning functionality/collaborative and even if the vendor so chooses access into their LMS.

Vendors are finding that end users have no true idea on what is mobile learning, and their is an assumption on the part of end users that they can take courses on their phones (regardless if it is a smart phone), or they can view something beyond documents, pdfs or similar pieces – which is really the true component of mobile learning, regardless of what many vendors push out in the space.

While it is true that some vendors are offering a mobile learning LMS, it is with limited features and honestly, no one I know really wants to take a course or view any type of LMS on a smart phone screen. Plus for vendors who offer a mobile learning LMS, it is an additional cost. Vendors who offer mobile learning solutions, need to identify what types of Blackberrys can be used (all?), acceptance of Droid (yes or no) and Iphone or Ipod (many state Iphone as a yes).

There are vendors in the e-learning space whereas an end user can create a quiz have it been seen on the smart phone and then after it is completed the data goes into their (whomever the end user’s vendor) LMS/LCMS for tracking and data reports. That said, it requires integration from the mobile learning vendor to your system. Challenges on the part of smart phones and even tablets are:

  • Who is your carrier and do you suffer from constant drops? AT&Ts network is great in some cities, horrible in others. T-Mobile has equal problems, as does Sprint. Even Verizon. However, since the Iphone at this time is exclusive with AT&T, how will the vendor – mobile or LMS, handle this issue? What about overseas – does their solutions work there? Not only for travel purposes, but for people who live there? And what carriers?
  • Do you have only WI-FI or Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G? How is that handled from the LMS/LCMS angle – in terms of their mobile LMS or mobile features? Again, overseas where 4G is already common. 3G increases data download speeds, 4G more so. The Ipad’s next rendition includes the capability of 3G.

Sprint’s 4G smart phone’s maker – HTC cannot keep up with the demand, and the smart phone is a back log. Other tablet vendors are coming into the market – some are already there, others are entering in 2010-2011 including Google tied to Verizon. How will your LMS/LCMS vendor handle them? Will they support all the tablet vendors or just some? Will it based on the OS? Android? Windows 7? Palm OS (rumored, since HP purchased them)?

  • HTML5. What if your LMS/LCMS is using extensively or some component of Flash? How will you handle HTML5? Granted it will take years for web sites to fully integrate into HTML5, but tablet vendors are supporting it, and in some cases using it exclusively. Sure, it is an on-going development on the part of the tablet vendors, but it is here and will be on-going. Since the browsers will support HTML5, how will the LMS/LCMS vendor handle that angle? While it is true that the browsers will use something similar to a sniffer, so that if the site does not use HTML5, but only Flash, it can switch to the Flash, will the multimedia capabilities and data transfer at some point outstrip the Flash angle? Will the vendors support the new versions of all the browsers?

Chrome is already offering a beta version of their new browser with support of HTML5, Safari already exists. Firefox, Opera and IE9 are in the pipeline. Today, there are vendors who do not support Chrome or Opera. Will this change, since there are smart phones who offer Opera as their browser, or even Google. How will vendors adapt to smart phone apps and tablet apps featuring other browsers – such as Dolphin to name one?

  • Apps. Huge. Will the LMS/LCMS vendor create apps for their solutions on the smart phone and more importantly the tablets? They should, but will they and if yes, what type of apps?
  • Data costs. Right now the cost for a data package for everything is not cheap. For my droid on Verizon the additional cost is $25. AT&T has announced that they will start a tiered pricing structure for data – downloads, uploads, etc.

How will the LMS/LCMS vendors adopt, since other vendors in the mobile space are likely to follow suit (granted, not all). Sure most end users will never hit the data limits of their tier, but how does this play into the LMS/LCMSs solution and features?

Forecast: On-going growth. Growth will continue to explode especially based on projections of tablet sales, where the LMS/LCMSs real potential exists in the mobile learning space. Yes, smart phones are growing as well, but as mentioned people will not take a course, regardless how it is presented on a smart phone and find it of use. A tablet is a different story. And yes, LMS/LCMS vendors may only focus on the social learning angle, but for those who see the future and see the future of emerging technology, they will explore the features and functionality of their system and end users taking courses.

10. Social Learning.

I conducted a survey, which found that 45% of companies planned to incorporate social learning into their LMS/LCMS by the end of 2010.

Additional data:

  • 52% have a Twitter account
  • 67% have a Facebook account

While you may be aware of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, there are over 190 social networking sites; over 20 different types of social media – inc. app sharing, livecasting, social bookmarks, social news and network aggregators, streaming video, Video/Audio, slideshare presentation, event management to name a few. Each type has a good size number of companies in each space.

From Pew Research Center 2010

  • Linkedin averages a new user per second
  • Twitter 50 million Tweets sent per day
  • 73% of adult profile owners use Facebook and 14% use LinkedIn
  • The biggest users of social media – and not going away any time soon is people in their 20′s (Pew, July 2010).

Mass Mingling a new term. It already exists with Meetup.com which has 6.1 million members, handling 2.2 million RSVPs and 180,000 meet-ups, in 45,000 cities a month.

Some companies are blocking access to Facebook and Twitter to their end users, which LMS vendors cite as a reason not to include something similar nor offer access within their system to those solutions. However, lets consider how many end users plan to access the system. They are more likely to access via home and not at the workplace.

Wouldn’t it then make sense to enable some type of features in your LMS/LCMS? I surmise a vendor could create a block option or work with the company to block Facebook and Twitter. The irony is many LMS/LCMS vendors offer the ability to input YouTube into their social learning pages and the companies allow that, yet won’t allow people accessing it directly via their desktop/web browser.

The issue that arises in social learning is how much to incorporate into a system. Some vendors feel a blog and wiki is more than enough. Others offer it as an add-on module and even then it has limited features. Some view it as only a collaborative best practices tool.

A new trend is the SME Q/A option. This is where end users in the company identify themselves as SMEs in a certain topic and then the learner in the system can post a question within the social learning section or pages and then the SME will respond and follow-up with the learner. Basically it is Social Q/A, which is another type of social media.

It is a great idea, as long as the SME is dedicated to providing responses and quick follow-up and can assist the learner going forward, when needed. That said, it makes sense and vendors who do not offer this option, should.

Vendors who believe social media is nothing more than a blog or wiki are living in fantasy land. There are vendors who believe social media is just a Facebook like page, where learners can follow other learners, post comments, app-share and there is a RSS feed. Time to wake up and move forward. If everyone is heading only into this space, why should I buy your system? Especially if this is an add-on and frankly it should not be.

Forecast: Social Learning must be incorporated into every LMS/LCMS system. It is only going to grow – add apps to a tablet or smart phone; since it can be incorporated into mobile learning. Add social media functionality beyond the standard – how about a slideshare capability within your solution? Adapt to the marketplace and be willing to embrace social media and emerging technology. Who is on the forefront of this you might ask? The small size vendors.

by Craig Weiss, E-Learning 24/7 (www.elearninfo.com)

** Guest Blogger **

To see our social LMS in action, request a demonstration of TOPYX and get a 30-day trial site. Visit http://www.interactyx.com/eLearning/Request-Information.html


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