When Joelle Girton and I co-founded Talented Learning in early 2014, we went on a mission to learn and report personally on the global LMS industry like no analysts ever have.
One-by-one, we’ve established relationships with 65 LMS vendors and now officially “cover” them in our research. In addition to receiving deep-dive product demonstrations with all vendors we had in-depth executive conversations about the LMS industry, technology trends, buyer habits and their business. We discussed their business model, history, target market, differentiation, competitors, clients and goals going forward. We consolidate, study and use all this information to help our blog readers and consulting clients find and buy the right LMS for them.
Based on all we learned in 2014 and a combined 40 years in the learning technology industry, we humbly offer our top 10 LMS predictions for 2015:
10) Improving U.S. Economy Bodes Well for LMS Industry
Spend 13 years selling LMS solutions and it is obvious that the LMS marketplace is cyclically tied to the U.S. economy. When times are good LMS spending rises and when times are bad the opposite is even truer. The U.S. economy is gaining steam and gearing towards a new level in 2015. After years of recession and then meager economic growth, the U.S. is entering 2015 with an improved 3% GDP growth rate coupled with low inflation and low interest rates.
Compounding that good news is the recent, drastic reduction in the price of oil and gasoline resulting in more disposable income in the pockets of consumers and corporations alike. You don’t need to be Nostradamus to predict good things for the LMS industry in 2015!
9) Here Comes the UK Innovation Invasion
Our biggest surprise of the year was the thriving nature of the United Kingdom’s learning technology market. Historically, the UK has been about 5 years slower than the US to adopt LMSs, but now they are widely embracing learning technology and this is driving the most innovation in the world. Gamification, social learning, mobile responsiveness and true cloud seem to be where each new solutions starts and gets more specialized from there to solve business problems.
The vast majority of LMS products born in the last 3-5 years are fully mobile responsive. A responsive LMS “senses” the user device and automatically optimizes the text, graphics and menus to display perfectly without zooming, scrolling or downloads. Downloadable mobile apps for your iPhone or Android device are the alternative way to deliver LMS features and content to mobile learners. However, LMS vendors and learners are required to support multiple LMS products that essentially provide learners the same capability.
Some of the most complete mobile responsive LMS solutions are AccordLMS, Skilljar, TalentLMS, Absorb and Saba. We predict that responsive design will continue to outpace mobile apps and become the de facto mobile standard going forward.
7) LMS Gamification Becomes a “Me Too” Feature Set
LMS gamification is actually pretty simple. Learners are awarded points for using the LMS, taking content and participating in social learning. As points accumulate, users earn new levels, badges and distinctions that are displayed on their profile, “leaderboards” and social news streams. At certain configurable thresholds, learners can also earn tangible rewards such as gift cards or discount coupons.
LMS gamification was a hot buying trend in 2013-2014 influencing the “sizzle shoppers” and as a result, dozens of LMS vendors added (or plan to in 2o15) the above feature set without much variation so they can say “me too.” We predict this trend will continue and without innovation and LMS gamification will be just another 10 cells on every vendor’s RFP template.
6) MOOC Instructor Features Adopted by Corporate LMSs
With the rise of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in global universities over the last few years, individual professors needed the ability to create and deliver their own blended learning courses to thousands of virtual students. Instructors want to record and edit their lectures and release them over the course of a semester. They also needed to incorporate self-paced eLearning, work groups, social learning, virtual events, video, resources and assessments along the way.
The MOOC providers like Coursera, Udemy and EdX provided these capabilities and it became obvious that a similar feature set would be great in the corporate and extended enterprise world. Although the corporate LMS vendors have had blended learning for years, it is typically an administrator function and not something practical or usable for instructors. LMS specialists such as SchoolKeep, Panopto, DigitalChalk and BrainCert have introduced these features for any instructor or content provider to use and we predict a new wave of content assembly and delivery tools will be enhancing corporate and extended enterprise LMS solutions.
5) Rise of Corporate Open Source Solutions
In the corporate LMS space, we have pooh-poohed the open source solutions for a decade. The best open source – free – solutions were Moodle and Sakai, but they were focused only on academic settings, really still are and are not corporate or extended enterprise competitive.
Now organizations such as Totara and Asahi Net International have taken university open source solutions and have significantly and successfully modified them for corporate internal employee and extended enterprise use. They then set up and certify global channel partners such as Kineo, Catalyst IT Europe and eClass4learning to provide all the value added implementation, consulting and hosting services. The end result are highly tailored, extremely affordable solutions backed by a local partner. We predict open source LMS solutions finally break into the corporate and extended enterprise LMS market and get some serious traction in 2015.
4) LMSs Get an “Integrated Social Interface” Face Lift
For many years, LMS solutions have had social features such as discussion forums, best practice centers, threaded discussions and blogs. However, you always went to a separate place, tab or page in the LMS to participate in the discussion thus limiting the learner participation. Social learning features now are now becoming so integrated in LMSs that you can’t tell where social learning starts and stops.
New features such as news feeds, profiles, friending, following, liking and rating are tied directly into the learner dashboards, course catalogs and even inside the online courses themselves. The new integrated social learning LMS interfaces are more akin to Facebook, LinkedIn or Windows 8 and provide a familiar, easy-to-use environment for learners. LMS leaders in this integrated social learning movement are Brightwave, Expertus, Brave New Talent, DigitalIgnite, Saba, and Growth Engineering.
3) The “Cloud LMS” Becomes Less Nebulous
A cloud LMS is an LMS that is only available via a web browser and internet connection. LMS buyers don’t install a cloud LMS, nor is a cloud LMS the same as a hosted deployment LMS. A true cloud LMS is “multi-tenant” which means that there is only one version of the LMS available and every client has their own, highly-secure area and data.
The cloud LMS vendor maintains the server environment and automatically applies updates, fixes, enhancements and new features to all clients. The buying organizations enjoys always being on an evolving and improving LMS and rewards the vendor by paying an monthly, annual or consumption all-inclusive license fee. Almost every new LMS of the last few years is true multi-tenant cloud LMS and we expect this trend to continue and be the new normal. Leading true cloud LMS vendors include Docebo, Cornerstone, BlueVolt, SmarterU, BizLibrary and Litmos.
2) Talent Management is Optional in LMS
If you are a really big organization and want or need integrated talent and learning management provided by a single provider, providers such as SumTotal, Cornerstone, Saba, SAP, Oracle, Infor, SilkRoad and PeopleFluent are your best and only options. The other 590 global LMS providers are focused on learning as their first and only line of business and have left TM behind.
The buyers of LMS and Talent Management are different unless the purchase happens at the highest level in an organization. As a result, the purchases often occur in different budget years with different stakeholders, making the business case of LMS-TM integration stronger than an expensive and paralyzing rip and replace of multiple systems. We predict LMSs will continue to specialize in learning and share data when needed with other HR systems vs. trying to build or buy everything.
1) 2015 Is the Year of the Extended Enterprise LMS
2015 is going to be the year that organizations focus on their extended enterprise audiences of channel partners, distributors, customers and prospects to achieve competitive separation. Training and certifying your extended enterprise audiences provides a huge measurable return on investment.
Most talent management LMS vendors ignore this segment and as a result, many new LMS vendors have evolved solutions to service this unique need with unique feature sets and pricing. Look forward to a year of heated competition and LMS vendor specialization in terms of industry and LMS function. Some high quality extended enterprise LMS vendors include eLogic Learning, KMI Learning, Firmwater, Digitec Interactive, Accord LMS and BlueDrop,
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
Considering an LMS in the near future? Replay this on-demand webinar:
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
John Leh is Founder, 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.