Published On: May 8, 2014By
Top takeaways from ASTD 2014 - now ATD - from the independent learning tech analysts at Talented Learning

Today, more than 10,500 learning and talent professionals from 92 countries are getting back to work, more than a little tired from this week’s ASTD 2014 learning, partying and travel extravaganza.

Talented Learning analysts attended ASTD (now known as ATD) as part of the press corps and we talked with vendors every minute the exhibition floor was open.  We sought-out learning technology vendors and asked each of them how their solutions impact extended enterprise learning, who they compete against and how they differentiate their LMS in today’s market.

Here are our “Top 12” ASTD 2014 Learning Technology Take-a-Ways:

1) Augmented Reality Leads Innovation In Extended Enterprise Learning

Now this is cool stuff and made for the extended enterprise.  Performance support has reached a new level.  The idea is your smartphone,  tablet or Google Glass helps you identify a physical item (patient or product for example) and then automatically connects to training, support materials, 3D animations, how to guides, social networks or experts.   Here are our favorite examples:

  • Sumaria Networks uses augmented reality to help Avaya channel salespeople and technicians to identify phone models and provide targeted performance support and training.  Check out this video of what we saw on the show floor on YouTube.
  • Origin Learning developed “Near Field Recognition” for service technicians that lets smartphones or tablets sense digital chips embedded in stickers on engine or manufacturing parts.  Upon sensing, eLearning, 3D video animations, performance support and social expert access is provided to the user.
  • C² Technologies is working the Google Glass into its solutions.  We talked about a project to help first responders.  The Google Glass sends back real-time visual info to medical experts all over the world that can help triage and diagnose disaster victims and then display instructional video, guidelines or provide live expert support to stabilize the patient for transport to medical facilities.  Additionally, GPS tagging capabilities can lock the exact location for pickup or extraction.

2) Gamification Is In

Dr. Karl Kapp, you were right 10+ years ago to study gamification and be the first one to talk about it.  Today, LMS providers, authoring tools and content providers are all talking gamification.  LMS providers have badges, levels and social integration to let your friends know how you are proceeding.    Gamification authoring tool providers have templated games with branching gaming scenarios of all types.  Content providers are touting their off-the-shelf and custom gamification capabilities.  The Millennials have arrived.

Gamification is extremely relevant for extended enterprise solutions because the users participate voluntarily and anything you can do to make the experience and content engaging and sticky is key.  Some solutions of note:

  • GameLearn provides high-end simulation gamification teaching soft skills.  Check out this trailer on their Time Management game.  This isn’t your Dad’s eLearning.
  • C3 Softworks provides in-classroom technology gaming like Jeopardy, class polling and much more via authoring tools with pre-built gaming templates.  You can see a series of demo videos here.
  • Winning The Training Game uses the revolutionary principles of interactive gamification theory to encourage trainers and HR professionals to provide an interactive, educational and results-oriented training content to participants.

3) Tin Can Hype is Waning

Last year, every vendor had two cans and a string displayed on their booth.  This year, not so much.  Maybe “waning” is a strong word, but it is no longer in big print on everyone’s booth.  However, organizations like Docebo, Upside Learning and Learning Locker all support it prominently.  We’re going to do more research on Tin Can and try to identify specific client use examples.  We’ve seen the vendors but not really the buyers talking about the success of Tin Can over the last 12-24 months –very similar to social learning in the early days.

4) Old Guard LMS Vendors Struggling With Mobile

There is a lot of differentiation and strategies to capitalize on the mobile wave.  Without a doubt, this is one of the key business issues that learning technology vendors are trying to solve for customers.  Old guard LMS vendors are struggling to mobilize their existing well developed platforms.  Developed before smartphones and tablets, its very expensive to go back and rewrite the application to have “responsive” design that re-sizes and adapts to any device automatically.  As a result, many organizations are either mobilizing just the end user experience or creating mobile apps for Apple and Android.

A wide range of mobile apps are being developed to support “pieces” of LMS functionality such as apps for instructors to mark attendance, managers to review reports and end users to take offline content.  Newer pure cloud LMS vendors are sticking with responsive design to cover their mobile bases and using it as a differentiator to steal business from the older solutions.

5) Flash-to-HTML5 Conversion Is A Big Business Need

I remember the heyday of the CBT to WBT conversion 15 years ago.  It was a great time to be a custom content vendor.  The instructional design was already done and the conversion process was easy, straightforward, voluminous and profitable.   A similar trend is going on now with the Flash to HTML5 conversion to support mobile delivery.  Organizations invested copious amounts of time, energy and money developing cool Adobe Flash-based content only to have it become a dinosaur technology obsolete on mobile devices.

One company we met, Integra, has converted thousands of hours to HTML5!  As of now, there is no automatic way to convert the content to HTML5, so you either redo it or pay someone to redo it.  Internal employees still take the majority of their eLearning while on the job at their desks so the Flash problem isn’t as critical as external users of the extended enterprise.  They are primarily using the LMS via mobile devices and Flash isn’t supported.

6) Pendulum Swings Back To Administrators

We found a few vendors making a nice living off administrators and the pain they feel using the new end-user focused LMS systems.   For organizations that are delivering substantial amounts of instructor-led training with complex scheduling scenarios, the new LMSs are not highly usable.  They are great for elearning, but not designed to do the heavy lifting of old-school training management.  If you are running a traditional training business and you are wasting too much time and money in administration, check out these companies.

  • eLogic Learning’s eSSential LMS continues to impress us with one of the most robust, powerful and configurable admin tools in the market.  Additionally, we saw dozens of examples of how eLogic also creates dynamic front-end portals for their clients to support just about any branding scenario bringing power and flexibility to their clients.
  • Training Orchestra, a European Training Management System (TMS) vendor, makes a heavy duty backend for administrators that manage the ILT process as well as sophisticated budget and ROI management (thanks for the very late in the day demo Christophe!). If you are a for-profit training organization delivering primarily instructor-led content, check them out.   If you want to manage eLearning also for end-user consumption, then you will need to add SumTotal to the solution.
  • The absolute best LMS vendor we know from Scotland, Administrate, has a similar TMS product but with stronger reporting and their own out-of-box front end LMS also.   Want to see heavy admin lifting in action?  Check out their YouTube Channel or their brand new website at  However, I am very disappointed we didn’t win the double size bottle of 12-year old, single malt Scotch they were giving away.   We would have given it a loving home here in America, although short-lived.

What we did find humorous is we remember when every LMS was strong on admin but weak on user experience.  That really changed with Cloud but doesn’t negate the need for admin heavy solutions.

7) Monthly LMS Contracts In Vogue

The new breed of LMS vendor doesn’t care about long-term contracts and they make it so easy to buy.  The business logic is to let customers start for free and then upgrade them to a monthly price.  Vendors are open about their pricing from the beginning.  The natural customer stickiness of entering content and not wanting to walk away makes sense.  Some vendors of note, who couldn’t make it any easier to start an LMS project of any size with zero hassle are DoceboAdministrate and Mindflash.

8) ASTD Is Now ATD: Association For Talent Development

After 71 years, ASTD is now ATD.  Seems like a lot of unnecessary trouble for ASTD and all the chapters, but OK, ATD it is.  Who wants A STD anyway?  Here is a link to information from ATD on the branding name change.

9) Upcoming Talented Learning LMS Reviews

We met some great LMS solutions focused on serving the extended enterprise market, and we can’t wait to add them to our Talented Learning LMS Reviews.  Look for the following reviews in the coming weeks!

  • Totara
  • Administrate
  • OpenText
  • Upside Learning
  • Info Certpoint
  • Docebo
  • Risc
  • Litmos
  • ePath
  • On Point Digital

10) Our Favorites Innovations

  • Mindflash has a FocusAssist feature that requires users to have a webcam to measure user engagement.  We tried it out and could see our engagement score go up or down as we looked away, yawned, leaned back, etc.  This is a one-of-a-kind advancement that has great potential to really impact the instructional design process with measurable user engagement data.
  • NexLearn has a suite of heavy-duty simulation creation tools that provide the most sophisticated branching logic and reporting out there.
  • The Intelligent Mentor (TIM) is Saba’s personification of patent-pending machine learning algorithms, the same sort that recommends items to purchase on Amazon or movies on Netflix.  TIM helps employees or extended enterprise users succeed by continuously monitoring learning activities, content and discussions.  TIM then makes personal recommendations of relevant classes, items and mentors to each employee based on their job roles, profile attributes and career goals.  This feature is extremely applicable for extended enterprise use and you can read more about it on Saba’s blog here.

11) Our Favorite Content Companies

  • Wilson Learning — I worked there 15 years ago and it was a great company then and even better now.  They have been driving advances in sales, leadership and workforce development for almost 50 years.  If you want the classiest company dedicated to measurable performance solutions for your leaders and sales team, you have to reach out to Wilson Learning.
  • is the Expedia of Learning and they have a network of 300,000 instructor-led seminars and over 10,000 online courses.  Additionally, TrainUp provides high-end custom-tailored LMS solutions for their clients.  When your project is so important that you want a learning technology solution of ILT, elearning and management, that is designed just for you and no one else, you want to talk to TrainUp.
  • GK Training and Communications — We met the owners Michael and Daniela and couldn’t have been more impressed.  GK, uses techniques developed in ancient Greece and history and brings them to the modern training world.  GK focuses on public speaking, sales training, team building, writing and other communication skills.  As a side note, I know I’m hanging out with the right people dedicated to lifelong learning when we have a substantive conversation on the first sentence of Moby Dick — “Call me Ishmael”, Shakespeare and Greek history in our first 15 minutes.


12) Talented Learning Makes the Cover of T+D

Hopefully, next time it will be for real!  This shot is from the Networking Night at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  This is John Leh (CEO and Lead Analyst) and Joelle Girton (COO and Editor-In-Chief) of Talented Learning. Hope to see you in Orlando next year at ASTD, er I mean ATD. (That name change will take some practice!)


Thanks for reading!


Want more insights? Replay the webinar!

Choosing Your Next LMS: How to Kickstart the Process with an Independent Consultant

In a complex market packed with 700+ possible solutions, how can you be sure your next learning platform will work for your organization? What kind of functionality is essential? Do you know what’s available? What budget parameters makes sense? How can you avoid overpaying? Do you even know if an LMS is the best solution?

Where should you start?

Before making your next move, why not tap into the knowledge and experience of a successful independent learning technology consultant? Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning as he tackles today’s trickiest LMS buyer challenges:

  • How to make sense of today’s expansive LMS landscape
  • How to determine if you can afford a new LMS
  • Why requirements definition is essential to sort through the learning tech “specialist” market
  • How to narrow your options from 700+ vendors to a qualified shortlist
  • When and how to use an RFP (or not)

Replay the webinar now!

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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