Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know just how much the world has changed over the past two years. The learning technology landscape has changed just as dramatically. One thing remains the same, though. The extended enterprise learning systems market continues to be on fire. It’s the reason we get up every morning. And that passion is reflected in our choices for the top learning systems of 2021.
I founded this firm eight years ago to independently research the unexplained surge in learning management systems. During the previous decade, the number of commercial LMS providers had grown from a handful to hundreds. I wanted to document who those vendors were and how they were serving their customers, so I could recommend the right solutions for my clients who wanted a new learning platform.
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Since then, I’ve reviewed more than 300 commercial learning platforms. And this year, I’m picking up the pace, so I can add even more vendors to our new member-based research and education site – the Talented Learning Center.
We’re also changing the structure of our LMS awards. In the past, we recognized excellence in multiple categories, based on business use case.
But learning systems have matured. Now, there are so many categories and cross-over competitors that this approach is no longer useful for buyers.
Exactly who are the “best of the best” this year? What’s hot? What’s innovative? Read on…
How to Define Learning Systems
Today’s learning systems space spans more than 1000 unique solutions. It’s not just about learning management systems(LMS). It also includes learning experience platforms (LXP), learning record stores (LRS), talent management, performance management, training management, video learning, mobile apps, microlearning, event management, learning analytics and authoring solutions – all of which have overlapping capabilities.
And if the functional crossover doesn’t confuse you, consider the countless use-case specializations, such as customer education, partner training, franchise training, employee development and beyond. It’s overwhelming for buyers, vendors, investors – and sometimes for analysts, too. It’s why we created the Vendor Shortlister to help sort though all the variables.
Awards Criteria: Who’s On Our Radar?
With so many learning solutions and the impossibility of reviewing them all, our choices are guided by these subjective criteria:
Reviewed by Talented Learning – Do you keep me updated and impressed with your progress? The best vendors do.
Participated in a buying opportunity led by Talented Learning – This isn’t mandatory, but we learn a lot about you by observing you in the wild, especially when you’re interacting with potential clients.
Member of the vendor community in good standing – We don’t see or hear public trash talk about you. Nor are we helping any of your customers replace you.
Thought leadership – Do you regularly educate the market with content that drives the whole industry forward?
Extended Enterprise – Do you focus entirely or in part on external audience training – customers, partners, gig workers, association members or other external audiences?
Our 2021 award winners are listed below in alphabetical order. These companies may not be the best of all possible extended enterprise learning systems. But each stands out among the 300 solutions we’ve analyzed to-date…
Absorb is quietly becoming one of the world’s largest SaaS LMS solutions, through both organic business growth and acquisition. This platform has attracted more than 1400 clients and 23.5 million active users across more than 30 countries.
Absorb LMS excels in customer, partner and employee training for multiple industries.
AccordLMS is a low-cost, high-value platform designed for the corporate space, including employee, customer and partner training. Accord provides free guided implementation to start clients on a solid path to success. And soon, the company will unveil a completely overhauled learner-centered interface.
Authentic Labs isn’t an LMS vendor. Instead, it makes learning systems better with a suite of high-end enhancements, including a full-featured LXP, a data visualization engine and interactive video development capabilities. Plus, these tools are enhanced by professional services from one of the most experienced technical and business intelligence teams in the industry.
BenchPrep is an exciting learning system built for professional continuing education and high-stakes test preparation – particularly where digital delivery and time to competency are key considerations. The solution includes advanced capabilities for adaptive learning, spaced repetition, personalized study goals and integrated proctoring.
The Blue Sky eLearn Path LMS supports the entire conference/event lifecycle, including branded event portals, ad networks, registration, attendance, session recording, materials management and complex continuing education credential management in an easy and coordinated manner.
A specialist in channel and partner learning, BlueVolt builds and supports massive, diverse learning ecosystems that bring together manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, trade associations, buying groups and retailers – primarily in the construction, architecture, engineering and facilities management industries.
For more than 25 years, the Brainier LMS has evolved as an innovation leader in serving manufacturing, distribution, business services and financial industries.
In addition to its long reputation of stellar customer support, Brainier’s platform stands out with advanced segmentation, a highly configurable user interface and turnkey integrations for HR, CRM, SSO and talent management.
Cadmium is a new company, recently formed by combining complementary solutions: EthosCE, CommPartners, CadmiumCD and Warpwire. Focused squarely on the professional association market, Cadmium’s vision is to support all aspects of event management, online learning and continuing education.
The family of Community Brands platforms supports all aspects of association management, learning, continuing education and event management. With two complementary learning platforms (Crowd Wisdom and Freestone) and multiple AMS solutions, the company’s solutions offer superior integration, hyper-personalization, native virtual meetings, global support, content creation and B2C/B2B e-commerce.
With 75 million active users, Cornerstone is the largest LMS company in the world. After acquiring its largest competitor, Saba, in 2019, CSOD just announced its own acquisition and privatization by Clearlake Capital Group. Known for end-to-end innovation in employee talent management, CSOD is also a major player in the global extended enterprise market.
Cypher has accomplished a nearly impossible goal by offering an LMS that is equally successful in corporations as well as academic environments. Both variations of this solution are affordable and easy to deploy and use – with a gorgeous interface, productized integrations, built-in content authoring, gamification, social learning, automation and globalization. In addition, Cypher has developed a reputation for stellar customer support.
With decades of success in the academic LMS space, D2L is now leveraging its core competencies in instructor-led training, social and informal learning and application integration to expand into customer education and association markets.
D2L has an innovative approach and professional service bench depth to ensure that clients’ implementation, content and administration goals are achieved.
The Degreed learning experience platform is the original LXP and it remains the world’s most popular choice. The company is known for ongoing innovation in skill and competency mapping, application integration, learner experience design, user-generated content, social and informal learning, content curation, content aggregation and lifelong learning support. This mission has fueled Degreed’s growth and continuously challenges others in the industry to keep up.
Now a public company (DCBO) and the fastest-growing LMS solution, Docebo has pivoted from an LMS-only product to a suite of complementary solutions, including integrated authoring tools, third-party content and data analytics.
Docebo is a global organization and a true global solution with robust capabilities that are cutting-edge, scalable, configurable, easy to deploy and integrate. It is ideal for many mid-size and large corporations.
EdCast is a popular LXP that supports internal and external corporate learning audiences with ongoing knowledge and skills development. EdCast automatically curates and presents content based on personalization criteria – for example, a learner’s job role, program or project affiliations, declared interests, social connections, media preferences, content behaviors and more.
Operating at the very high-end of the market for training businesses, non-profits and academic institutions, Extension Engine provides custom LMS and learning experience solutions designed programmatically to erase the line between system and content. The goal is to draw people into learning that is enjoyable, efficient, effective and measurable.
Focused on knowledge sharing and skills development, the Fuse platform supports some of the world’s largest extended enterprise education deployments.
Fuse brings many key components of the customer education ecosystem to the table, including LMS, LXP, knowledge base, in-app help, federated search, interactive experiences, mobile-first delivery and a premier professional service team.
With a laser focus on learner engagement, gamification, social and informal learning, as well as content creation innovation, Growth Engineering produces a white-label mobile app, an LMS and an authoring tool – all successfully designed to knock the boring out of online learning in unique ways.
An innovative force in the customer learning market, Intellum provides a comprehensive solution for organizations that are new or experienced at customer training. This end-to-end platform provides advanced, powerful, yet easy-to-use tools that help organizations create and sell personalized, adaptive, formal, informal, social, gamified instructional content, learning paths and certifications.
KMI is a comprehensive elearning provider that offers all the technology and services needed to deliver large-scale, custom educational programs for the extended enterprise. Factors that differentiate KMI include a powerful LMS with extreme scalability, implementation teams with integration prowess and content development expertise, as well as flexible hosting options.
A global, high-end provider of custom learning solutions based on open-source software, Kineo specializes in corporate extended enterprise and employee performance solutions that delight users. The company offers a fully integrated learning suite based on a robust, highly scalable LMS, along with comprehensive services such as learning strategy development, custom content creation, content management and technology integration.
LearnUpon is a corporate LMS designed to support multiple audiences – customers and partners, as well as employees. LearnUpon is a highly functional, low-cost extended enterprise solution that offers a free trial and no implementation fees.
This solution also integrates well with other cloud SaaS applications, including e-commerce and CRM platforms.
LearningCart makes it easy and inexpensive for organizations to promote and sell learning content in multiple forms – training modules, digital files, physical products, in-person events, webinars and more. Core platform functionality can be enhanced with productized application integrations, webhooks and Zapier integrations.
Learnie is a new mobile learning app that enables corporations and member-based organizations to deploy their own private learning communities. Content is user-generated and built in a series of super-short video microlearning bursts. This enables all learners to share their unique skills, experience and knowledge broadly with other community members.
Northpass is an easy-to-use yet robust LMS and CRM designed to help small and medium-sized businesses manage customer education. With highly configurable functionality and productized HubSpot and Zapier integrations, this platform makes it possible for nearly any organization to offer online customer training programs in an integrated, personalized, affordable way.
Pursuit’s AcornLMS is Australia’s fastest-growing learning system, and we’re not surprised. It’s a modern, affordable solution that is easy for small and medium-sized corporate training organizations to implement. Differentiators include content creation and management, personalization, performance management, skills support, mobile capabilities, multitenancy and productized application integrations.
With 24 million active users in more than 30 countries, SAP Litmos is a global, all-purpose, extended enterprise LMS designed to support the diverse needs of employees and extended enterprise audiences. Video assessments, content creation, automation, gamification, e-commerce, scalability, globalization and support for instructor-led training distinguish SAP Litmos from competitors.
A specialist in complex compliance, regulatory and distributed organizational learning, Schoox is a powerful and very popular global LMS. This platform stands out because of its strong organization and group management, extensive application integration, built-in performance management, content curation, ROI impact tools, goals management and social learning functionality.
Skilljar has specialized in innovative customer LMS solutions for nearly a decade. After recently obtaining several significant rounds of investment, Skilljar is now accelerating R&D to enhance its user experience and expand its e-commerce, content creation, organizational management, analytics and certification management capabilities.
Designed for the global small and medium-sized business market, TalentLMS is a simple, cost-effective LMS that offers a free trial and publicly available pricing. This platform is capable of supporting any combination of customers, partners and employees with easy content assembly, training paths, mobile app functionality, productized application integrations and a proprietary content library.
Teachable offers an end-to-end solution that helps subject matter experts, teachers and consultants create, market, sell and deliver proprietary instructional content. The licensing model is based on content sales volume rather than audience size. This lets new training providers reduce risk and upfront costs when launching an online learning business.
Thinkific, a learning business platform, enables educational content providers to create, market, sell and deliver courses and membership sites without having to invest time and cost in standalone software and integration. Thinkific assembles all the elements an online learning provider needs, including site design and course creation tools, sales and marketing automation, e-commerce capabilities and integrations with relevant third-party applications.
Thought Industries is an enterprise-grade learning system built specifically for online training businesses and customer education. This powerful solution seamlessly combines LMS, CMS, CRM and content authoring tools. It also includes world-class e-commerce capabilities that can support new ventures, as well as the most complex large-scale training companies.
Totara is a global LMS, LXP and performance management solution that enables corporations and government entities to deliver enterprise-grade education to employees and external audiences.
Based on open-source software, the Totara solution is distributed directly, as well as through 85 development partners that provide platform customization along with content, administration, hosting and other specialized services.
Tovuti is a flexible, full-featured LMS that offers a fast, cost-effective way to build and deploy branded learning portals. This platform includes a powerful course authoring suite, world-class content administration functionality, productized application integrations and a vibrant content marketplace. It is an ideal choice for federal, state and local governments, as well as corporations of any size.
Training Orchestra provides a training resource management system that easily supports high-volume, global ILT and VILT training businesses. Often used in conjunction with an LMS, Training Orchestra helps automate training administration, session creation, instructor assignment, resource allocation, sales cycle planning, reporting and financial analysis in ways that LMS platforms do not.
Valamis is an enterprise-grade LXP and LMS designed to meet the needs of learners and learning organizations. Focusing on user-centered design, data science and application integration capabilities, Valamis’ strengths include a sophisticated content recommendation engine, predictive analytics, productized integrations, e-commerce functionality and accessibility support.
Web Courseworks is one of the largest LMS solution providers in the association and continuing education market – and with good reason. Its learning platform includes custom AMS and CRM integrations, embedded content creation and a mobile application, as well as support for continuous learning, organizational management, e-commerce and analytics. All this, combined with a highly experienced professional services team, makes Web Courseworks an attractive choice for member-based organizations.
Congratulations to each of the Talented Learning 2021 “Top Learning Systems” companies! In a landscape defined by more than 1000 potential competitors, you should be proud that your platform has caught our eye and continues to impress us upon close inspection.
Of course, there are many great solutions beyond those listed here. Choosing only 40 was tough, but we had to stop somewhere. We believe these choices represent the strongest learning system options across all extended enterprise categories.
Finally, we encourage all winners to keep demonstrating excellence in extended enterprise innovation, thought leadership and customer success. That’s the best way to earn a place on our list again next year.
Thanks for reading!
LMS Sellers: Do you belong on this list? Introduce us to your solution! To start the process, send us an email at Awards@TalentedLearning.com.
Hourly – Schedule an hour or two to touch base and get perspective on the learning solutions market, tapping into more than 20 years of industry experience.
Shortlisting Service – What are the four best vendors for your unique LMS, LXP or other learning systems needs? Work with John to find out quickly, independently and accurately.
Full Service Consulting – If you’re feeling lost or uncertain, ask for help. I’ll work with you and your team to identify the best learning system for your organization, guiding you every step of the way.
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.