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  • Writer's pictureJudy

Learning Technology Evolves: Integrated Platforms Are Arriving

The enormous market for training and learning tools is very fragmented. Today there are more than 200 LMS vendors, more than 30 LXP vendors, and thousands of vendors who build collaboration tools, mobile learning tools, content development tools, and analytics tools.

While each of these categories is filled with great vendors, something else is happening: a move from what I call “horizontal” to “vertical” or integrated learning platforms.

Some History: This Has Happened Before

If I go back to my early days in e-learning, the technology-based training market started this way. When the internet first began we found dozens of tools from companies like Macromedia, Trivantis, and others to help us cobble together web-based training. It was an exciting, innovative time (similar to now) when every new idea seemed good.

In the early 2000s, however, the market grew up. Companies became familiar with web-based courseware and decided they wanted a “virtual university” that integrated it all together. The result? The “integrated LMS” came to market.

Prior to this time, there was a robust market for “training management systems,” but these didn’t manage e-learning – so a new breed of LMS vendors was born. The early vendors were Docent and Saba, but soon enough all the LMS vendors went out and bought or built “vertical” solutions.

By “vertical” I mean the vendor has decided to put together a “stack” of solutions that address all parts of your learning needs, as opposed to a “horizontal” solution where they sell their slice of the problem to many different customers. It’s like selling “car radios” vs. “cars.” For a while, there was a big market for independent car radios, but now it’s more or less integrated because the technology has evolved and matured.

During this time we saw Saba acquire Centra and a set of assessment tools. Docent acquired Click2Learn. And almost every LMS vendor started to build and buy content management systems, assessment tools, e-commerce software, and other related technology. All with a focus on building a “vertical” or end-to-end corporate training solution.

You know what happened next: the LMS market got stale and a new breed of learning experience, micro-learning, and adaptive learning tools was born.

The new paradigm was different: LMS’s no longer fit the bill, we need continuous learning, micro-learning, and learning in the flow of work. Vendors like Pathgather, EdCast, Degreed, Fuse, Axonify, Bridge, and many others were born. And we ended up with a marketplace like this.

The New Learning Stack

Now that we’re about 20+ years into the applications of the internet (and web-based education and training has been through a long journey), a new “technology stack” for L&D is starting to make sense.

This stack, has many important elements – each part of the end-to-end learning experience. A modern corporate learning solution embraces all the types of content on the right, and includes all the elements in the stack, each being used for different types of employee development needs.

And note that I put the LMS at the bottom – as a less important part of the solution. While still needed, I believe the LMS systems of today are more likely to be integrated into the ERP or HCM platforms, and the more “experiential” parts of the system will be where the value is added. And this is where all the “platform integration” is starting to happen.

Where The Market Is Going

I’m not saying that innovation is slowing down: quite the opposite.

Tools for VR, embedded micro-learning, intelligent search, mobile content development, and many forms of assessment and video authoring are everywhere. In fact, we are in one of the most exciting cycles of innovation on all levels of the “learning stack.”

Some large companies, have senior learning architects who can sort out these tools, test them, and bring them together into a solution.

But many companies are getting tired of being the “general contractors” for their learning experience, and they want to start buying “a complete house.” So vendors are becoming more integrated.

I like to think about it this way: in the early days of our country, people built their own homes. If you weren’t good with your hands you didn’t have a very good house, because there weren’t many integrated solutions to buy. But as the housing and construction industry matured, general contractors came to market, and today it’s almost unheard of to build your own house. Sure you can do it if you really want to, but it’s risky and often more expensive than you thought.

The same thing is happening now in this cycle of learning technology. Just as the “cottage industry” of e-learning tools collapsed in the early 2000s to become the LMS market, this “cottage industry” of micro-learning, LXP, and continuous learning tools is also starting to come together.

We are still in early days, but I think today buyers can be even more discriminating in their decisions, and it’s time to look for more integrated solutions in the market.

What Will Happen to the LMS Vendors

What will happen to Cornerstone, Saba, SumTotal, SuccessFactors, and all the LMS vendors ?

While these are well-funded companies with lots of R&D, I think you’ll find most of them are very committed to the LMS of the stack, and few have the time or resources to build out the entire learning experience. Cornerstone has clearly decided to invest in the LXP layer, and SuccessFactors offers Jam, which is essentially an LXP-type product on top. But as you look at the middle layers of the stack, they haven’t had the time to focus in this area, so the jury’s out whether they build integrated learning experiences or not.

Most customers tell me they’ve spent a lot of money on their LMS and they’re trying to buy easier to use tools around it, so this is likely to be where the market will go.

Remember It’s The Experience That Matters

Remember, your customers will not use a fragmented, complicated experience to learn. Completion rates and satisfaction is driven by the elegance and simplicity of the complete learning experience.

One of the largest financial services companies in the US was a pioneer in the early days of LXP – they built their entire digital academy around it. When I visited them a few years ago they told me “we’re ready to do away with this product as soon as we select our next LMS, because the LMS vendors we want all have LXPs of their own.”

Cyberwisdom is a leading enterprise level digital learning solution and CPD management provider, built upon a suite of platform, content, technologies and methodologies, our offerings include learning management system (LMS) and mobile learning, Bespoke courseware design, off-the-shelf e-Learning content, training consultancy as well as blended learning.

Cyberwisdom's state of the art and award winning flagship enterprise Learning Management System wizBank7.0 and wizMobile 4.0 helps over 1000 clients for enterprise and CPD managment authorities in Asia particular in Greater China.

Cyberwisdom has a professional team of over 300 staff in Asia covering Hong Kong, Singapore, Kular Lumpur, United Kingdom, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and ZhongShan. offering innovative learning solutions. Built upon a suite of content, technologies and methodologies, our offerings include learning management system (LMS), mobile learning, CPD managment system, bespoke courseware, off-the-shelf e-Learning content, training consultancy as well as blended learning.


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