Author: Craig Weiss
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To be quite honest, I could easily name 100 systems that I would recommend on any given day, depending of course on your use case, business goals/objectives, feature sets, and so forth. Budget is always an important one, okay it is the main one because a system can have everything you need, match your use case perfectly, but the one little item, it is not in your budget.
I never understood why vendors love to place the pricing in the far back of their proposals, some of which I have seen that are more than 25 pages, as though you are going to start on the first page and read through. Everyone I know jumps to the price.
Just as I can’t figure out why vendors love giving you their history as if that is going to sway you on buying a system. “Oh, I see that you were around in 1989, when Prodigy made its debut and no one could see actually web pages unless they had a time machine.”
The fact of the matter is that people always ask me what system or systems I recommend, and once they give me some things (that I request), I can always provide them with three systems that hit the bill.
Please remember a few items here:
- I base this on an extensive analysis of the system, so what I am looking it may not be everything you are looking at. Support plays a crucial component here because it is the number one reason, why people leave a learning system. Some vendors below, may not have an awesome track record on support but based on what I am seeing there are improvements. Equally, there are times that salespeople over-promise on what their system can do in terms of configuration (if applicable), integrations with systems that are unfamiliar with (say Wallys HCM) or it is loaded with bugs and not the kind that fly around.
- One system is an HCM, but based on extensive discussions with the vendor, they have a very strong commitment to learning, including some new solutions that will be rolling out to compliment the learning piece.
- One system targets only customer education/training, partner training, what we refer to as B2B and B2C (customer being the company’s or business customers) or it can be an association whereas the members receive the training.
- Each of these vendors can support at least 10mb bandwidth for remote workers (i.e. not working in the office but at home), and the browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Safari (not all do), IE Explorer (usually version 7 at the min.). Most vendors nowadays will state you need the latest version of a browser, it will work with older versions say of FF or Chrome, but for optimum, you should go the latest version. If you are using an alternative browser such as Brave, Vivaldi, Opera, always ask the vendor. Everyone says they are browser-agnostic – here is a hint, many are not.
- Video Assessment (Definition) – This is not an “assessment” that appears in a video or you add to a video. A video assessment is based on speech patterns/words used when practicing a scenario, sales training techniques, customer service techniques to the coach/mentor/manager.
A VA component will always include a listing of overused words, words that are difficult to understand, a transcript with highlighted words (so the learner knows), and a form of metrics visual via data visualization on the learner screen. This is very brand new to the industry, so a lot of vendors do not yet offer it.
(As of September 1, 2020) – This is not a precursor to my 2021 rankings (and where they appear), because a) they are not in any order here, and b) there is still time for vendors to bounce into the top 10 for 2021. Oh, and these are ones as noted “I’d recommend any day of the week”.
In no particular order, rather it is just a list.
- Extended Enterprise – Average, Enterprise- Elite, Large Enterprise – Very Good, best for employees, associations, customer education/training.
Outstanding UI/UX for learners and administrators. Mobile is fantastic, native apps for iTunes and Google Play, on/off synch, Analytics and Reporting is fantastic, create KPIs, heat maps, metrics on articles, web sites/web links, data visualization, custom fields are reportable too. vILT is very good, event management is strong.
Extensive capabilities with machine learning, content curation and playlists.
On the Skills development/management side, the system can use job roles and/or skills to identify and present recommended or suggested courses to the end-user.
This is not a system if you want e-commerce.
That said it does come with CK Connect – a very cool platform based on pre-assessments via personality test, pushes out content as a result of your strengths and weaknesses based on your personality.
- Extended Enterprise – Above Average, Enterprise – Very Good, Large Enterprise – Elite, best for employees, but you could offer it to customer/education channel, and even higher education.
Learner UI/UX is elite. Administrator UI/UX equally elite, system offers event management needed for vILT, skills development/management features are elite as well. Metrics and reporting are good. Can be a stand-alone or a bolt on to any existing system. Excellent list of connectors. Skills development capabilities are elite, and playlists are quite good. Enough content is available (free and paid). There is a content marketplace that comes with the system (but you just need to connect it).
Spark is nearly identical to the EdCast system, but its focus is on SMB, so you will see a lower price (based on seats), and a couple of features are not available – for example, you cannot integrate the Domo BI tool (it is doable with EdCast itself, for an additional cost).
This is by far the most robust LXP on the market, but I wish they drop the LXP, and instead embrace themselves either as a NexGen Learning Ecosystem or a Digital Learning Platform.
Will be in my T-Grid in the Leader area in 2020 (grid to be published in October). Barring any last minute surprises, they likely will be the number one system for 2021.
- Extended Enterprise – Elite, Enterprise – Very Good, Large Enterprise – Good, best for customer education/partner training, associations and employees.
T-Grid Leader Area 2020, Data visualization and metrics are quite good. Wonderful system for mid-market too. Finally, added ad-hoc reporting. Skills development/management features are good. The multi-tenant is very good. Event management is top tier. Learning Environment and Administration – elite. Strong with rules-based options. Outstanding UI and UX. Ranked #5 in 2020, has an excellent chance of cracking the top four for 2021.
- Extended Enterprise – Good, Enterprise – Very Good, Large Enterprise – Good, best for employees, associations, customer education/training, channel partners, B2B/B2C.
For my NexGen T-Grid 2020, they are in the Leader’s area. Digital Coaching/Video Assessment is elite. UI/UX on the learner and administration side – very good.
A strong system overall, with a very good track record. Skills management/development is good, multi-tenant is good, data visualization and analytics are equally good. Reporting is fine but needs some tweaks. Their content marketplace frankly needs more partners, but it is still solid for most.
I’d like to see even more administration functionality, but that said, on my rating scale they achieved 90%. The system comes with a built-in authoring tool.
E-commerce continues to be a work in progress.
Will definitely crack the top 10 for 2021.
- Extended Enterprise – Average, Large Enterprise – Elite, Enterprise – Good, best for employees, doable with customer education/training and associations, although the system is heavily skewed to employees.
Where to start. On the NexGen side of the house, they were in the leader’s area for my T-Grid in 2019, and will once again appear in the T-Grid leader’s area for 2020. In other words, Cornerstone Learning has extensive nexgen features sets including many in my new Tier 4.
Cornerstone Development is their version of an LXP, and will be launching soon. As of right now, it will be part of the Cornerstone Learning (as a separate offering) – so you can only buy it if you are a Cornerstone customer. My personal feeling is that is a mistake – they should sell it to anyone, even if they are not a Cornerstone client.
Cornerstone Skills and Metrics is a new feature that will exist in Cornerstone Learning and takes data visualization and analytics to a whole new level. Content Anywhere, which is their content marketplace comes with Cornerstone Learning, and includes free and fee-based content (again, this is where the client buys the content based on the number of seats, and gives it to their learners for free).
They now have a built-in skills library (identifies skills and job titles) with over 46,000 skills/job titles. This is a trend that you will see more of in the learning system space in 2021. So kudos to them, for jumping in early. Feature-wise with Cornerstone Learning is beyond robust. Learner UI/UX is quite good, the administration side needs a revamp, as it can be overwhelming to many.
I wish they would just re-name the system, Cornerstone Learning Suite and include everything at one price point, rather than their current structure.
If there is one knock with Cornerstone is that I am not a fan of them outsourcing implementation, support, and configuration to a partner. Their top partner is Bluewater, which is a wonderful company and has a strong track record. However, I know of another partner, whose track record isn’t as strong.
There are other vendors out there, who have partnerships with companies who handle the implementation, support, etc. – so Cornerstone isn’t the only one.
This is why I personally am not a fan of the reseller/partner implementation angle with any vendor, because it puts the entire success or failure on whom the client gets as their partner. And sadly, the client has no idea on the track record of said partners/resellers, something I wish all vendors who have resellers who handle the entire client process, provide.
- Extended Enterprise – Average, Enterprise – Good, Large Enterprise – Very Good. The system is skewed heavily towards employees.
They have dropped the LXP moniker and now identify themselves as a Learning Experience system.
The first vendor in the learning system space to include skill ratings in their system (for learners), a learner can self-assess, a manager can review and modify if needed, admin the same. Thus for skills development/management features, elite level. The bookmarklet feature is very good, it is a drag and drop into your browser, and available in the Chrome store as an extension (which BTW, you can also use with Edge).
A recent revamp on the administration side provides mixed results. While overall, it is a vast improvement from a UX standpoint and upgraded to solid on the UI side, it provides a Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to their data visualization/metrics and reporting. Hyde appears with the new UX/UI for KPIs and other items, Jekyll appears with the bar graphs. It’s hard to fully explain, which is why I recommend checking out my blog on the comparison of Degreed, EdCast and Fuse, so you can see for yourself.
They now offer as an add-on “Opportunities” which is where for a certain job that is available, within the company (uh, your company), is presented with the skills needed. Thus, a person can have five of the 10 skills needed.
The system comes with a built-in skills/job roles library, a nice plus. The mobile app is good, with native apps in iOS and Google Play.
The big knock? Digital coaching/video assessment is lacking.
· Extended Enterprise – Above average, Enterprise – Very Good, Large Enterprise – Average. Best for employees (up to 20,000) – the system is very strong for SMB, customer training/education and associations. Government too.
Ranked #2 in the LXP/DLP Rankings for 2019-20.
Learn Amp is a digital learning platform. Playlists are very good, this is a very robust system, feature-wise, can play with the big boys as I like to say. UI/UX on the learner and administration side is good. Metrics and data visualization is average, but many items are in the works for early 2021.
The bookmarklet feature is very good. E-Commerce exists in the system and is good. Event management is strong. This system could easily be referenced to as an LMS, which isn’t a bad thing. The system continues to get better every year. Has their own training department for their clients – which is rare, as many vendors in the learning system space, do not have trainers, let alone a training department.
Brightspace by D2L
- Extended Enterprise – Good, Enterprise – Good, Large Enterprise – Average, Best for employees, associations, customer education/partner training.
#1 learning system in 2020 for the association market. Continues to improve in the corporate side of the house. I expect a lot of enhancements and updates in 2021, with improvements on the Learner UI side. Learner UX is quite good. Administration UX is very good, UI needs a few tweaks (which is on their roadmap for 2021).
Content curation, machine learning, content marketplace, and e-commerce are excellent. Digital coaching/video assessment is elite. Skills management/development is elite with skill ratings, playlists based on skills with a slight twist – it is dependent on a pre-assessment of that skill.
I personally like this, because when you ask a learner to rate themselves, as a whole, people tend to rate themselves higher than they really are. That’s fine, but if my manager isn’t inside my brain, and some of those skills I have, they are not familiar with, then them changing the ratings (which many systems that offer skill ratings can do), isn’t always going to work out well.
Another win that I like is the ability to assign CEU’s and CPDs to any piece of content.
Mobile learning is good with native apps for iOS and Android.
System to keep an eye on for 2021.
- Extended Enterprise – Elite. System focuses solely on the customer education/training, partner training segment (aka as B2B/B2C).
They are the leaders in this segment – i.e. extended enterprise.
Panorama capability (elite) which enables you to do quite a bit in each tenet for your multi-tenant (if you so choose), comes with the system – i.e. based on packages you receive X number of the Panoramas. The base is 25, which should be more than enough for most companies.
Learner and Administration UI/UX are very good. They have yet to add a digital coaching/video assessment piece, but from my understanding it is in testing (just not live for all). E-commerce is very good. Data visualization and analytics/metrics, reporting is very good.
Extended Enterprise – Above Average, Enterprise – Good, Large Enterprise – Good, best for employees, associations and customer education/training (B2B/B2C).
Pitches themselves as an LXP, I see them more as a Learning Ecosystem or a digital learning platform.
While most of their capabilities fall within what they refer to as communities, which is fine, I would still like to see a bit more. Learner UI/UX is elite. Administration UI/UX is good, but needs some tweaks.
The data visualization/metrics and reporting is the best I have seen in 2020. The options for metrics you can generate is over 300, this is due to the system comes fully integrated with GoodData, a BI tool, (at no charge to you, the customer). KPI metrics are over the charts. I wish every system had this level of metric capabilities, to be honest, especially as trends show, more L&D and Training people are seeking more data than ever before.
Social learning has always been their strong point, but to me, I’m not totally sold, in terms of the latest that is out there for social. Then again, I have yet to see one vendor fully take it to the next level of social, so I can’t fault Fuse here.
It is a fun system, and I can see why many people like it. I know “fun” is a scary word for the corporate side, but let’s remember who is accessing the system – learners, not you – uh I am talking to you CLO.
While they have over 100 connectors, they still are missing a full integration with Microsoft Teams. Digital coaching/video assessment is non-existent, and skills development/management is equally non-existent.
Both items are needed and based on their previous track record, I’m confident it will be seen in 2021.
Others I recommend without hesitation
(but did not list as the ten right out of the gate). In no particular order
Biz Library (ideal for SMB), Access LMS (great in FS space), Brainier (strong in many ways, not well-known, GyrusAim (Enterprise – very good), Knowledge Anywhere (Streamlined system ideal for SMB), Docebo (overall, solid system, but lacks some items, and the admin UI is confusing – still worthy of note), Spoke LMS (now comes with Hub360 an excellent SEP – Sales Enablement Platform), Area9 Rhapsode (follows what they call brain-based learning, UI/UX isn’t for everyone), BlueVolt (ideal system for the trades segment).
ConveYour (not well-known, a shame really, a very different take on learning/training), eThink (partner behind Moodle Workspace – the best for folks who want Moodle or Moodle Workspace customization), Tovuti (another, not well-known vendor, under the radar, if you will, has a lot of wonderful capabilities). Learning Pool Steam LXP (Potential watcher for 2021), Instilled LXP (great digital learning platform – with a built-in LRS – Watershed) and CourseStage (for association market, the vendor is Web Courseworks).
As you can see, that is just a few, and I could go on and on, because this is the best time to buy a learning system, with so many out there that do an outstanding job, and to which I would recommend, any day of the week.