A review and our 5 picks of the show…….

Busy busy busy was the common consensus of those exhibiting in the Learning Technologies area, a slightly less busy area in our view was the Learning and Skills area, as it was in its new located area adjacent to LTs.

I missed the central arrival point of the escalators up to floor one for LTs, after first having taken in Learning and Skills downstairs.

What did we see, and what interested us most this year…..well we had an attempt at predicting what we would see in an earlier blog piece, were we right? Well only in part.

Mobile learning

The excitement around tablets and mobile phones is very real, and lots of vendors were offering ways to integrate tablets and smartphones into the e-learning mix. Mobile learning is of huge interest at present to the L&D community, and will break through, though I am minded of the a great quote from Sharon BollermLearning is a lot like sex. Lots of folks talking about it. Far fewer actually doing it yet.”

The key challenges to making mobile learning a success are not completely in the gift of the L&D profession, the complex eco-systems of Apps and the multiplicity of devices and operating systems to which is added the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) conundrum makes this still an area of great problem and potential  in equal measures  and don’t forget Tin Can. This industry is at a point of great change and evolution!

Many solutions are emerging, with content developers building “authoring environments” to support the creation of learning that will play effectively on all devices, and several of these were exhibited at LTs. This responsive web design approach strikes us a good solution to deploying content to multiple devices, and will allow for some integration of the LMS.

HTML5 yes but…..

The tools vendors….Articulate and Lectora are likewise moving towards making mobile an achievable reality with new product launches and upgrades. As of today HTML5 is not a complete and fully operating standard for all browsers, so again care must be taken when pursuing this route.

Our advice to the buyer surveying the new “new” world of mobile learning (after all we have been talking about mlearning  and hand held learning for 5 years or more) is still to take care and consider very carefully what you are seeking to achieve, and remember L&D does not do R&D.

The LMS of today or tomorrow?

The LMS is not going away, it too is on a path of great evolution with the emergence of a new post SCORM standard….Tin Can. Several vendors made a big thing of Tin Can, but far fewer than we expected. Again Tin Can is not a fully complete standard, but it does offer huge potential as the Learning Record Store (LRS) becomes common and takes content delivery away from the LMS.

The most interesting developments in LMS we saw was firstly Articulate coming into this market, with a Tin Can enabled offer of their LMS and secondly the growth in presence of Docebo in the market. Both Epic and Cegos have signed partnership agreements to distribute this Open Source LMS, so a bit of competition here for Moodle and Totara.

Upside Learning were at the event and look to have a neat solution in integrating Native Apps and Web Apps to manage the interface of mobile learning with the reporting required of an LMS.

The new Irish LMS vendor Learnupon impressed us, with a disruptive pricing model for a very light LMS …I believe it is called!

Again the LMS vendors looked busy, with the tier 1 suppliers (Saba, Sum Total, SAP and Cornerstone) all having a strong presence. The other vendors also reported good levels of interest….yes both Kallidus and Callidus. Kallidus is the UK based company, and probably the mid-market leader, with a growing client base. Callidus is the company behind Litmos the Callidus Cloud, and HTML5 authoring tool Rapid Intake.

Video in short supply

Perhaps the area of greatest surprise was the lack of video content at LTs, research done by Towards Maturity indicates that many organisations are seeking to license in third part video content. Video is perhaps most suited to delivery on tablets and smartphones as it negates many of the accessibility issues with Flash based e-learning content.

Social Learning….on the buyers question list

So mobile was the offer, but  what was the buyer interested in….well Social Learning appeared to be an in-demand topic this year…….”in our pre what we expect to see”  blog piece we anticipated “Collaborative learning” as being a hot topic at LTs. Wrong….the parlance remains social learning in the buyers mind.

Many LMS vendors have been adding Social Learning to their offer for some years, during the Web 2.0 phase of thinking and often finding themselves in advance of the markets demand.

We did not really note any “full on social learning” offers at LTs, and unlike BETT are disappointed at the lack of the large players in this market, I do hope we will see Twitter or Microsoft or Google take an interest in this corporate learning market, we have blogged relentlessly about the role these the FLATMAGs (Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google) all play in the way we live our lives and learn.

Many vendors, including Webanywhere are working hard to integrate Google Apps into the enterprises learning and delivered a very popular seminar on this very topic.

Content in demand

The demand for e-learning content remains robust, with the content developers reporting high levels of interest from Buyers, and it was always good to see that there stands were very busy indeed.

It was interesting to see that content is still in demand, and all the developers we spoke with reported a busy show.  We spoke with Epic, Brightwave, LINE, Kineo, Redware, Totem, Virtual College and more and all reported a busy show with high degrees of buyer interest.

It was interesting to note no Skillsoft in attendance this year, and a new attendee Cirrus caught our eye, with this company now marketing the Atlantic Link product, this offshoot of Further Education (Cirrus is a part of Mid Kent College) brings an interesting dynamic to the industry, it’s not just City Guilds alone coming into the e-learning industry from the training market.

What we didn’t find were MOOCs

These education phenomena’s are the talk of the industry (or the education sector) and a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, and the best exposition we have come across in outlining what they do and the impact they have had to date is provided by Christopher Pappas .  To be fair we saw very little of MOOCs at BETT either, but a lot more talk about the topics, and the opening of learning was a key theme especially from Microsoft’s key note opening address to the event, (following after Vince Cable’s opening speech).

Our 5 picks of the show:

1)       Upside learning’s  LMS integrating native and web apps as chosen by Unilever.

2)      User generated video solution for Zara by Webanywhere  

3)      The NHS “Lean Academy” by Virtual College

4)      = The  Xyleme LCMS and eXact Learning LCMS aimed at managing volatile learning content, and this will quite likely form the basic architecture of the corporate MOOC!