By Craig WeissMore Learning System Awards for 2021

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I think I’m a here this is what it is, kind of guy.  No messing around. No, “Well, I enjoy sitting on a fence” – which I definitely do not enjoy. I mean, wood fences? No, thank you.

Anyway, for better or worse, straight-talking, no hold barred is the appropriate way to go.

I mention all this, because there is always plenty of items to talk about in the e-learning space, and for this post, all around those wonderful learning systems.

Take an LXP.  Is it really something so radical? Or is it something that has become so ubiquitous to an LMS, that it is hard to distinguish?  I will give you a hint – it is the latter.

Talent Management – Please.  I’ve heard for nearly 15 years, how the LMS is dead or dying and TM is the route to go.  No, no it isn’t.  Because every TM system, has learning in it, and functionality for that learning – wait, for it, that appears in many LMSs.

Learning is a cash cow in the e-learning industry. And so is training for that matter – customer education/partner training/B2B/B2C and the old legacy term – extended enterprise.

When a vendor messages their system as “talent management” or for Learning and Development and plans to go after the customer learning (a new term that is replacing customer education – but means the same thing) market, they can say goodbye to landing a lot of clients.

The reason is simple. Over 90% of the people who purchase a learning system for the customer/client segment have a background in training.  Not L&D.  Those associations you want? The majority of the folks have a background in training or are coming for a university or similar.

Not L&D.

And, this has to be repeated – and stressed – L&D is not the same thing as Training.  Anyone who is in the industry – i.e. L&D or Training knows this. Yet, over and over again, vendors ignore it and think it is L&D only.

I heard from so many readers, after my post on LinkedIn about this exact topic, who agreed wholeheartedly and stated that they will not buy a learning system for customer education that pushes the messaging or narrative around L&D.

The best way to think of it, is to ask yourself – is HR the same as L&D? No, and nobody, I hope would think so. Sales the same as Recruiting? No.   Yes, vendors think L&D and Training are the same.  Can someone who has “Training” in their title or background provide employee training? Absolutely.  And they can do customers and employees.

The majority of employee training (a term that is used frequently, mind you) and learning, are those who have L&D backgrounds or sadly, HR – sorry here, but typically HR folks have neither a background in training nor L&D.  I mean, would you go get a haircut with someone who only watches YouTube videos on how to cut hair OR would you want someone who, studied hair cutting, earned their certifications and has worked in the industry for a few years?

Why the gripe? Okay, well first it is me – so uh, it fits.  Secondly, though I wanted to provide the vendors in the customer learning/education market, who when I speak with them, will mention or refer to “Training” over L&D.  Some never even say L&D.   They do not push the narrative of learning and development nor L&D nor talent management, even if they are going after the CE market.

There will be vendors you will not see on this list – even if they are a combo (employees and customers), because the narrative is either around TM or workforce development or Performance Management or L&D when you talk to their salespeople or even see it on their site.  Again, nothing wrong with L&D,  but this is for those in customer learning (previously mentioned as customer education, aka B2B/B2C) who want a system that is all about you.

I should add that a customer-focused system, typically will have some employees too – only because the client wants to offer the system to their employees or a segment, but the main focus is on their customers and clients.  Example: External audience (customer learning) is the focus, but the client has 200 employees.  The system is purchased for the external audience, as the primary.  Only one vendor on this list is below the 88-90% customer-focused.

Oh, no particular order here.

  • Thought Industries
  • Intellum 
  • Skilljar (They push the narrative, but over 40% of their clients are using the system for only employees)
  • Meridian (They note career dev and other items, but they are a combo system, so not a surprise here)
  • Eurekos  (The website is going thru a revamp, so don’t base the platform on the site)
  • Docebo (I will add that while the messaging is focused on the business case/use case, some salespeople use L&D when I talk about customer education, others say Training)
  • Absorb LMS

Tada!  What do all of these have in common? Well, they often compete against one another (or at least two on this list against so and so) for the customer learning/education market.    Perhaps, I am just thinking openly here, that the messaging/narrative may have something to do with it – well, at least to get the buyer to take a look.

Awards for This and That

I won’t be showing you the top 10 learning systems for 2022 (that is a blog post, coming in mid-Jan, along with a mini report you can purchase with extra details).

Rather here is a list of awards that covers verticals, types, and even a feature (Speaking of which, why do so many Netflix-made movies, seem to be so awful? Big-name talent, bad acting or bad plotline, or just bad in so many ways. Reminds me of Network made movies in the ’80s and 90s).

Probably need an award of that – NEXT TIME!

The Awards for 2021

#1 Learning System for Skills Management/Capabilities

 

 

 

Cornerstone LMS

Cornerstone scored 87%.  This is based on my Learning Systems Template – the skills tab.  As a whole, the industry around skills capabilities and feature sets is in the infant stage, with the majority either having a lot of “On Roadmap” and/or “No”.

Here are how some others scored

  • EdCast 77%
  • Degreed 72%
  • SAP Litmos 71%
  • Pluralsight 69%
  • Fuse 66%
  • Schoox 64%
  • Docebo 58.5%

#1 Learning System for Customer Education

 

 

 

Thought Industries

Repeat Winner.  That says something right there, and this year they had some serious competition.  Thought Industries is customer-focused (over 90% of their clients are doing B2B or B2C, customer education, partner training).  Metrics are tied around the customer learning space, and yes, training in general.  The UI/UX is very modern and slick – a must when everyone knows you have one shot to score well with customers, nobody loves using a system that looks dated or cheap.

Panoramas are really nice, a huge win.  The one downer is their lacking of a mobile app, but TI has told me it is coming mid-2022.  If you are into classroom management (ILT) or vILT including event management the system scores high.

#1 Learning System for Technology Vertical (Software and Hardware)

 

 

 

EdCast TXP

EdCast TXP is a very robust system, with items such as Skills DNA (for admins), skills capabilities (as noted above, the second-highest capabilities in the industry), EdGraph which is metrics and analysis on steroids – it is quite good – very similar to a BI tool.  Their newest component is the ability for the administrator to create their own APIs, to push and pull data – via a simple method of doing so – I believe you will need some IT skill set here, and/or be willing to learn – there is a learning curve – but what is nice is that EdCast has pre-built several templates with the data sets you likely want – and it is easy to change.  BTW, I believe that this capability will take off in 2022, as another vendor, Docebo has it as well – Docebo Connect, which just as it is with EdCast is an additional fee.

For folks who use MS Teams and want their learning courses, experience, and all the goodies of the EdCast TXP system within Teams, congrats – you have it.  You never have to leave Teams for your learning, and all the data is pushed into the EdCast XP. This is by far superior to Microsoft’s Viva Learning, which is designed specifically with Teams.

EdCast TXP also has a mobile app with on/off synch.

#1 Learning System for Financial Services

 

 

 

Access LMS

Includes courses/content specifically for the FS space as part of the learning system, at no additional cost. Compliance has always been the strong point for Access LMS, but with the best quiz game as part of their mobile app, it only adds to the power. CPD is there too.  The UI/UX is being updated as we speak.

A close second was Learn Amp, very close indeed. In fact, two points difference between the two.

#1 Learning System for Retail and Hospitality

 

 

 

Absorb LMS

I recommend going with the entire suite (although they do not advertise it as such) – which is made up of Infuse, Engage, Analyze, and Create LI.  Observation checklists, segmentation, external training tracking, classroom and virtual event management, and a strong UI/UX.  Gamification, which employees in the retail and hospitality space enjoy. 

#1 Learning System for Life Sciences

 

 

 

Cornerstone LMS

The system has always been strong in compliance and regulatory capabilities, and this year, their track record of capabilities continues.  There are a lot of players – vendors who go after this segment, but not every system has certain functionality that is needed.

#1 Learning System for Enterprise

 

 

 

Multiple Vendors – Allow me to explain.

Enterprise is always a tad funky when it comes to a user base (employees). There are learning system vendors in the industry, who consider 500 or more end-users as Enterprise, others list 1,000 to 2,500,1,000 to 5,000, 5,000 to 10,000, and a couple of vendors consider Enterprise to be 50,000 or more users.

If a vendor is in the 500 to 10,000 (as Enterprise), and the majority of their Enterprise clients are say, 975 end users, they can easily say they have a lot of Enterprise clients, and you, let’s say have 5,000 end users.  Thus, you will think that 5,000 is the standard for Enterprise – a “just like you and me”, and automatically assume that is the size base, and therefore they are in alignment with a lot of big numbers based clients.

The two most popular ranges for “Enterprise” are 1,000 to 5,000; and 5,000 to 10,000.  Large Enterprise in the industry as a whole is 10,000 or more, although there are quite a few vendors who see Large Enterprise as 25,000 or more. And yes, the ones who skyrocketed with Enterprise, consider Large Enterprise to be 250,000 or higher.

Thus, if you are a learning system vendor who focuses on specific user segments (which many do, but will stay accept clients who are much larger in terms of size)

The Enterprise Award Winners

#1 Learning System – Enterprise (500 to 2,500 learners)

Docebo

#1 Learning System – Enterprise (2,500 to 5,000 learners)

Learn Amp

#1 Learning System – Enterprise (5,000 to 10,000 learners)

Fuse

#1 Learning System – Enterprise (10,000 to 25,000 learners)

Degreed

#1 Learning System – Enterprise (25,000 to 50,000 learners)

EdCast TXP

#1 Learning System – Large Enterprise (50,000 and up)

A triple tie

EdCast XP, Degreed, Cornerstone LMS

Specific Awards covering best new learning system (this means they debuted in 2021), best functionality/capability in 2021, the best system for content curation (which is included for free), and, yes, the Best Award for the most overhyped system, that rolled out in 2021,  that turned out to be underwhelming. (I wonder, who will win???)

The Winner for #1 New Learning System that debuted in 2021

Rockstar Learning Platform – They did so well, they landed in my Top 20 (11-20) for the upcoming 2022 Learning System awards.

It is a system that is still a work in progress, but everything points to the system taking off and flying high.  I could easily see this system morph into a learning suite, with Lectora Online, CenarioVR- VR authoring tool, content/courses library, digital assets, and more.

#1 Learning System for Content Curation (that is included at no additional charge)

A Tie

EdCast TXP and Fuse – Both scored the highest with their capabilities and functionality.

Degreed was slightly behind them, so uh, let’s say, runner-up.

Best “New Functionality/Capability” in a Learning System 2021

Guidebooks.  Guidebooks.

Degreed. This capability exists as part of Degreed Intelligence (an add-on, i.e. additional cost). It actually sits within one of the modules – Degreed Intelligence consists of three modules/components.

The moment I saw them, my eyeballs zeroed right in, and I was saying wow, wow, wow.  I wanted to show what they looked like, but Degreed asked me to hold back, for fear that other vendors would see this capability and replicate it.  I mean, the learning system space? Cutthroat, lemmings?

Anyway. I wrote briefly about the Guidebook options on LinkedIn, so here it is verbatim.

“With the capture data graphs/screens component and the choice to use either the pre-existing Guidebook, which you just do a brief edit and capture OR create your own guidebook – custom and do a major this or that, is designed for anyone.

I love that, especially with the latest trend around folks without a learning or training background. It is also ideal for folks with learning or training background who need to show C-level or higher-ups, what does the data actually mean. For example, you can show in the guidebook, the top skills – and it says that. The guidebooks can be viewed in various ways offline, another huge win.’

#1 Most overhyped learning system that turned out to be less than impressive

This was a tough one, because two systems really were neck and neck, in being overhyped as though they would change the world of learning, with learning experiences, engagement, content, and lots of other this and that.

The Contenders

Linkedin Learning  Hub – Talk about being hyped. This was an “in your face” monumental yowsa type of hype. It was spun as a new learning system, different than LinkedIn Learning. And while LL may say this isn’t accurate, I’d argue that from a perception standpoint with potential buyers it was.

The earth-shattering capabilities from asking and connecting with experts, to an expansive list of courses/content available (beyond the LL content) to even connecting and seeing others – a new learning experience on the same course, were part of this amazing narrative.

Too bad, it turned out to be four new features built within LinkedIn Learning.  None of which, are earth-shattering, and if anything the “Office Hours with Experts” is nothing more than the expert presenting an event, who may or may not respond to you.  Here is my review of Linkedin Learning Hub.

Microsoft Viva – Hype would be an understatement. The buzz started early 2021, with a huge kickoff with press releases, “game-changer”, the only system you will need for learning; an LXP above all others – sp much so, they coined their own term – “Employee Experience Platform”, which to no surprise, made absolutely no sense.  Wait there’s more.

As part of the promo tour, they showcased Viva with multiple marketing virtual conferences for analysts. I attended one and instantly realized this was just a promotion tour, without talking about someone’s new movie.

Topics rolled out first, along with Insights, the analytics component. Initially, they were going to have some health module, which made no sense whatsoever from a learning standpoint.  Surprise, when it came to launching, it was nowhere to be found.  Instead, “Connections” appeared.

All are add-ons (modules that cost, except for Insights that’s free). And to really leverage them, you need the core – Viva Learning.

Let’s get back to Viva Learning, the new learning experience from Microsoft, fully wrapped within MS Teams, that some folks were saying, would eliminate the need of you buying any other learning system.

First off, you have to use MS Teams. Without the usage, Viva isn’t happening.   But that didn’t stop the hype, because if you have Office 365, Teams is included.

Next, the pricing. To maximize all the capabilities of Viva Learning, you need the suite – which consists of Topics, Insights, Connections, and yes, Viva Learning – the learning main piece.  The cost? $9 per user, per month (auto-renew).  To give a perspective here on said pricing. That is $108 per user/per year.  While they offer volume discounts (but never state what number is needed for the discount), I decided to play a price game.  Let’s say, I have 2,500 employees, and I am buying the whole suite of Viva.  I am paying $270,000. Even if, only 1,758 actually use Viva, I still pay 270K a year.

In just a matter of minutes, Microsoft Viva (with all the modules) jumped into the five most expensive systems at the 2,500 end-users for a learning system. Quite a feat, don’t you think?  To give a perspective, without saying the actual numbers, I know that MS Viva at 2,500 end-users costs more than Cornerstone, Docebo, SAP Litmos, and the majority of vendors in the learning system space.

The most expensive systems on the market today, in no particular order are Degreed, Pluralsight, and EdCast TXP.

And that is before any type of discount.  MS Viva? That’s the price unless you score a volume discount.  I mean, at 5,000 employees, you are paying 450K.  I know of quotes from some well-known systems, that are nowhere near that fee, at 5,000 active users.

But wait there is more.  You might say, “well, you are getting an EXP within MS Teams” that is just beyond amazing, nobody can replicate that or even surpass it.

Sorry to disappoint, but EdCast TXP not only does (and they were the first to do so), but it is IMO far better.

The Winner of the Most Overhyped Learning System for 2021 is

Microsoft Viva

Bottom Line

There you go, the award winners for various verticals/industries, types, functionality, new to the market, and even overhyped underwhelming.

And just think, 2022 is around the corner.

With the Top 10 Learning Systems for 2022 – published the third week of January.

But, this awards showcase, wouldn’t be ultra amazing, if it didn’t announce #11 to #20 Learning Systems for 2022.   Hold onto your seat, because here they are:

11. Biz Skills  – If you want a game-changer, this is a system to check out. The first to fully skill map to every course/content in their library (over 5,000 – which comes with the system at no additional charge). And affordable no less.

12. D2L – The corporate version, and the #1 Learning System for Associations in 2021. #1 Learning System for EdTech (K-12, Higher Education)

13. Juno Journey – A TXP (which is a combo of talent development where Learning is the core, LXP features, Skills capabilities, e-learning course/content marketplace).  Their UI and UX are definitely different. I enjoyed the system quite a bit.  And yes, it has a career opportunities option too (an additional cost). Oh, and learners can select interests too, which is cool.  #1 Learning System in Israel, 2021.

14. Intellum – Customer-Focused. The minimum user size they will accept is 4,500. They are one of only a handful of vendors in the industry that can do a massive, deep configuration (add-on cost).  The mobile app can be white-labeled, which you want for customer education, err learning.  UI/UX is slick. Has skill capabilities, which is very unusual for a customer-focused system, but makes sense when you are competing with combos who offer it.

15. Rockstar Learning Platform – Already discussed earlier.

16. Eurekos – Customer-Focused. A system to definitely watch in 2022. #1 Learning
System for the Nordic Region, 2021.  The website needs an overhaul. 

17. Skilljar – Total combo system. Anyway, solid system. UI/UX good.

18.  SAP Litmos – UI/UX is solid, needs a revamp – think freshness on the admin side, and stronger metrics. That said, lots of functionality, with an option to have content/courses that are part of the system(a different pricing tier).  Not a fan of the SAP policy of requiring an SAP salesperson on the call with the SAP Litmos salesperson, when a prospect is interested only in SAP Litmos.  Is it the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of? Hmmm…

19.  LearnUpon – Always a darling in the learning system space. A combo system, functionality, and capabilities are good. Pricing at 1,000 users per year, is a tad high – but not as high as Viva (HA!).  UI/UX is very good.

20. KREDO – Probably the most affordable system on the market today, that has a nice UI/UX, with a modern and fresh look to it. Used to be pitched as a micro-learning platform, thankfully that is ending. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but what it does offer, is solid, and for an audience of say 50 to 1,000 users, sufficient.  #1 Learning System in India, 2021.

Next week – The biggest blog yet – Battle 2.0 – The Clash of Learning System Titans – EdCast XP vs. Fuse vs. Degreed.  What really makes this of interest is that all three are in the top four learning systems for 2022.

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