The Powerful Amazon Feature You Should be Adopting in Your Learning Management System

April 1, 2014 2 comments

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

It seems like just yesterday that business analysts were wondering whether this newfangled e-commerce fad would catch on.

  • Would anxiety over credit card theft deter customers from trusting on-line retailers?
  • Would people feel confident in buying stuff sight unseen or would they instead stick to going to brick-and-mortar stores to paw and sniff the merchandise?

Fast forward a few years and we now find Web retail giant Amazon, fueled by our insatiable urge to buy stuff on the Internet, with 2013 sales of more than $17 billion U.S. and a market capitalization of $153 billion.

We choose to buy from sites such as Amazon because of convenience, pricing, breadth of offerings, product reviews, and a simple and pleasant shopping experience.

One of the things these sites excel at is the ability to recommend products based on our browsing or purchasing history. Search for, say, a bicycle helmet and Amazon will tell you that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” cycling shorts, cycling shoes, cycling gloves, and every other cycling-related item including chamois cream (don’t ask).

chamoiscream

Photo by Naoto Sato on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Amazon’s recommendation engine encourages us to increase the number of items added to our shopping cart. Rather than feeling like these items were forced upon us, we are instead grateful to the site for making shopping so easy. Gone are the crowded parking lots, endurance of inclement weather, and eternal waits in checkout lines, replaced with anticipation for delivery which may soon come within minutes via a flying drone.

With millions of customers, Amazon has the big data to support a powerful recommendation engine. But really, it isn’t rocket science to suggest to someone shopping for a kitchen knife that they may also want to purchase a cutting board and maybe some adhesive bandages for potential sliced fingers.

Adopting an Amazon-like recommendation system in learning and development doesn’t require big data and teams of programmers. This can be done within any learning management system (LMS) that contains two simple features:

  • The ability to have course-specific communication templates
  • The ability to link directly to one or more courses

Here’s a typical course completion e-mail:

Absorb LMS Course Completion E-mail

Here’s a variation that contains a couple of recommendations:

Absorb LMS Course Completion E-mail With Recommendations

Adding recommendations to your communications with learners can provide measurable benefits:

  • Increased enrolment, course completion, and certifications obtained
  • Better learner engagement through a more pleasant experience
  • For commercial learning content providers, increased sales

Successful on-line retailers such as Amazon would never let you buy a pen without also suggesting you take a look at notebooks. Consider using the same simple logic in your learning initiatives.

The One Simple Tool You Can Use to Help Select the Right Learning Management System

February 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

Dear readers, you’ve in the past endured me ranting about the horribly-designed Requests for Proposals (RFP) that regularly cross my desk and the desks of my Blatant^ colleagues. (See my previous posts titled “Why Your RFP May Not Get You the Best Learning Management System” and “The Worst Type of Question to Ask in Your Learning Management System Request for Proposal (RFP).“) These RFPs often ask hundreds of open-ended questions such as:

Describe the procedure to create a report showing the progress of a group of learners in a curriculum.

The vendors with enough time and mental fortitude to tackle submitting a proposal in response to the RFP then deliver 50 to 100 pages of answers to these questions. The organization looking to acquire the technology then needs to read hundreds if not thousands of pages containing answers that look like this:

  1. On the main Admin Control Panel dashboard, click on Reports
  2. Select the Learner Progress Report
  3. Add the appropriate courses
  4. Show or hide the columns you wish to display
  5. Define which learners should be included
  6. Etc.

A textual description of a feature that should be demonstrated is a waste of everyone’s time. Since few vendors will respond to your lengthy and poorly-designed RFP, you’ll be less likely to find a great system. The proposals you do receive will contain information that in no way helps you select the right learning management system. You believe you are doing your due diligence in issuing an RFP; what you are actually doing is significantly reducing your chances of finding the right system.

There’s a simple alternative.

Every once in a while, I receive from a prospective customer a short, elegant, Request for Information (RFI). Typically, these RFIs consist of one or more tables that simply require Yes/No answers from the vendors. Whereas a full-fledge RFP might take an LMS vendor 40 hours or more to complete, an RFI can take one-tenth the effort. The result is that the organization looking to acquire a LMS gets a 100 per cent response rate from vendors. In addition, the information received from the vendors can be easily compared and scored. Gone are the thousands of pages of materials, replaced with tables that illustrate feature sets at a glance.

Here’s a sample:

RFI for the selection of a learning management system

CAUTION: Your RFI should not contain a laundry list of every LMS feature in existence. The tables should only list your most important requirements. The longer you make your RFI, the lower the response rate from vendors. You’re aiming for a 100 per cent response rate, which means keeping the RFI short and focused on your top-level needs.

An RFI designed this way will quickly weed out the systems that aren’t a good match for your learning initiative. Demonstrations of the remaining systems, ideally employing use cases, will then identify the best system.

The vast majority of RFPs I see are horrible tools to select enterprise software. An RFI, if designed as illustrated above, is totally awesome and effective, and a very simple tool to help you select the right LMS.

Two More Excellence in Technology Awards for Absorb LMS

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Absorb LMS has just won two more industry awards.

Brandon Hall Group, a research and advisory services firm specializing in the areas of Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources has named Absorb LMS a Gold and Silver winner in their annual Excellence in Technology Awards.

2013 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology (Silver)

Best Advance in Learning Management Technology

2013 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology (Silver)

Best Advance in Mobile Learning Technology

We’re thrilled to add these two awards to our list of accolades:

2013:

  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology
  • Silver Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Mobile Learning Technology
  • Bersin & Associates WhatWorks® Award Winner for Delivering Innovation
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies

2012:

  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies
  • Bronze Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Learning Management Technology for the SMARTLAB LMS.
  • Bronze Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology

2011:

  • Awarded LMS Industry “Innovator” ranking in LMS Vendor Landscapes report by research firm McLean & Company
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies
  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Global Training

2010:

  • Silver Brandon Hall Excellence for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies

2009:

  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
  • Bronze Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training

2008:

  • Silver Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Custom Content

You can also access user reviews of Absorb LMS here.

How Branding Your Learning Management System Can Influence Culture (and Create a Fun Place to Learn)

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

The best companies I’ve worked with have had great workplace cultures. Management in these companies understand that happy team members are more productive and less likely to jump ship the next time an opportunity arises elsewhere.

Whenever I speak to anyone about workplace culture, I often end up pointing them to a great Harvard Business Review Blog post by Nilofer Merchant titled “Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time.” Compare an organization with happy, motivated people to a similar-size organization filled with demoralized walking dead, and it immediately becomes clear why a positive workplace culture drives success.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur hoping to start the next billion dollar company, you should read the Merchant post and other resources about workplace culture before you even have your first business card designed. If you’re a manager, you need to be aware that you are a key driver in defining the culture within your organization. Speak to anyone who’s worked for a few years and they’ll have stories about managers from hell who were the impetus behind staff calling in sick and eventual mass exoduses.

In a previous Blog post titled “How to Use a Learning Management System to Support Your Workplace Culture,” we looked at how changing the wording of system prompts and interface labels can create learning environments that more closely reflect the culture you are attempting to create and promote. Textual communication, however, is only one tool to support culture; the visual design of the learning environment is equally important.

In branding visually your learning management system (LMS), you should think beyond simply being faithful to corporate colors and placing a logo at the top left-hand corner. Imagery including illustrations, photos, and icons can enhance the environment and help eliminate the preconception that your learning management system is just another boring piece of business software. Most importantly, these visual elements can create a more pleasant place to learn.

Need some inspiration? The following video presents some of the ways the Absorb LMS user interface has been branded for various clients.

Absorb LMS Selected as “Top 20 Learning Portal Company” for 2013

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment

2013Top20LearningPortals162x162Blatant Media, creators of the Absorb LMS (Learning Management System), has been selected as a “2013 Top 20 Learning Portal Company” by TrainingIndustry.com for the fourth year in row. Blatant Media is one of the few vendors that has been awarded a place on the list each year since the program started in 2010.

Calgary, Alberta (PRWEB) October 16, 2013: Staff at Blatant Media Corp., creators of the award-winning Absorb LMS, are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a place on TrainingIndustry.com’s annual list of “Top 20 Learning Portal Companies.”

Selection of this year’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies list was based on the following criteria:

  • Breadth of functionality and capabilities
  • Commitment to the corporate training market
  • Industry visibility, innovation and impact
  • Number and strength of clients
  • Geographic reach

“Our Top 20 Learning Portal Companies list represents the companies that support the administration and delivery of learning content. These innovative companies integrate an array of technologies into their portals to support engagement, and bring a deep set of industry experience,” said Ken Taylor, Chief Operating Officer of Training Industry, Inc.

“These companies use a variety of strategies to ensure content is easily accessible to the learner. There is also a strong focus on improving the ease of use through simple, innovative platforms and interfaces,” said Doug Harward, Chief Executive Officer of Training Industry, Inc.

“The LMS landscape, and the vendors on this list, have changed a lot over 4 years so we are particularly proud to have been selected each year since the program began in 2010,” said Mike Eggermont, co-founder of Blatant Media.

About Blatant Media Corporation

More than 1,000,000 learners use Absorb LMS every day in over 1,000 companies globally. Among the list of international clients are Oakley, Adobe Software Systems, Dannon, Dale Carnegie, American Medical Systems, EVOCO, University of Indiana, Zoll Medical, Shortel, Websense, , the United States Anti-Doping Association and many others.

The creator of Absorb LMS, Blatant Media Corporation is a learning technology company that leverages the power of technology to provide training management solutions for clients throughout the world. The company is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. http://www.absorblms.com, (403) 520-2595.

Media Contact

Dan Medakovic
V.P. Learning Solutions
Dan.medakovic(at)absorblms(dot)com

Try This `Winning Strategy’ to Increase Learner Engagement

September 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

There are two ways to get a young child to school on time in the morning:

Method 1: Every minute or so, repeat the words `HURRY UP!’ at increasing levels of volume. After about ten minutes, and upon reaching a decibel level similar to a low flying jet, your goal will be achieved. Mind you, you and the child will be a little stressed, and regrettably, some life-long resentment generated but these are worth the price of having this child succeed in school.

Cadel Evans, wearing the yellow jersey, 2011 Tour de France Winner. Photo by Richard Nantel

Cadel Evans, wearing the yellow jersey, 2011 Tour de France Winner. Photo by Richard Nantel

Method 2: Alternately you could say, quietly and in a relaxed tone of voice, “first one out of the house is the winner.” For your own safety, it’s best not to block the exit when uttering this phrase.

Deeply rooted in our brains is a desire to compete and win. The reward centers in our brains love the chemical jolts that stem from victory.

Even when we aren’t the participants, we experience competition vicariously by watching professional sports. When our team or favorite athlete wins, we raise our arms in the air as if we were the one who crossed the finish line before others or scored the winning point. When our team loses, we feel despair and wonder where we went wrong. Perhaps if we had not traded a player or hired the current coach, the outcome would have been different.

The ability to increase learner engagement through competition is a common requirement encountered when speaking with effective learning leaders who are currently evaluating learning management systems (LMS). This requirement usually falls into two different categories and approaches:

  • The ability to hold contests
  • The ability to rank learners, departments, or teams and share the results with learners

For contests, an easy approach is to issue points, educational units, or credits for the successful completion of a learning event. Individuals with the most points in a given time frame win. Another approach is to reward learners who score the highest on an exam with a reward.

Absorb LMS: Contest Entry, Admin View

Absorb LMS Contest Entry, Administrator View

Absorb LMS Contest, Learner View

Absorb LMS Contest Entry, Learner View

For ranking of learners, teams, or departments, you can simply generate the rankings from your LMS’s reporting engine. As was the case with contests, rankings can be based on a wide range of criteria:

  • Points, educational units, or credits earned
  • Courses completed
  • Exam scores
  • Etc.
Absorb LMS: Ranking learners based on educational units earned

Absorb LMS: Ranking learners based on educational units earned. Laura Marling and Jimmy Page are tied for first place with Mick Jagger just one point behind.

Once you’ve created the report showing ranking, you can make it available to learners on their dashboard.

Absorb LMS: Providing Learner Rankings as a Resource

Absorb LMS: Providing Learner Rankings as a Resource

In conclusion, contests and rankings can be helpful in identifying achievement-driven individuals within your organization. But, we shouldn’t just focus on the top performers. Rankings based on exam scores may also be helpful in identifying people who need extra help in specific learning areas. Supplementing their current learning with coaching may help them better perform their responsibilities.

Turbo Charge Scheduled Events in Your Learning Management System by Using Tags

July 31, 2013 4 comments

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

Instructor-led sessions, either in physical or virtual classrooms, play a big part of many organizations’ learning strategies. To support such initiatives, the best learning management systems (LMS) are equally adept at managing scheduled instructor-led events as they are at managing self-paced learning.

If your organization delivers a large number of scheduled events, it might be tough for learners to keep track of what’s available and what might fit into their daily schedules. The ability to tag instructor-led sessions with keywords can be an elegant way to present learners with a manageable list of upcoming events so that learners can quickly assess whether they’d like to attend.

When people think of tags, they automatically think of topic keywords. A course on, say, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), might be tagged with the topic keywords HealthFirst Aid; and CPR.

Topic tags added to a course in Absorb LMS

Since this course will be delivered as a scheduled instructor-led event, you can make it significantly easier for learners to find the session in their learning portal by adding a keyword to define the date range in which the session will be taking place, as well as a keyword specifying the name of the instructor delivering the session.

Absorb LMS: Adding date and instructor tags to a course

NOTE: Peter Safar is credited to be the inventor of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). He passed away in 2003 but it seems appropriate that he be revived symbolically in this Blog post to teach this important topic.

A learner clicking the August 2013 tag or searching for that keyword will be presented with all the scheduled events taking place in August 2013.

AbsorbLMS-Date Tag Clicked

Similarly, clicking the name of the instructor will present the learner with all the scheduled sessions being delivered by that instructor. If your organization has an in-house public speaking rock star with a reputation for delivering good content, your learners will appreciate a quick way to view all the speaker’s scheduled sessions.

Making this tagging technique even more powerful is the ability to e-mail to learners the search string that generates the list of upcoming sessions:

Dear learner,

Click the link below to get a list of all the sessions we have scheduled for the month of August:

http://learning.mydomain.com/#/search/courses/August%202013

We hope you find these resources helpful.

Signed,

—Your loving learning enabler

To maximize enrolment and attendance, it’s critical that learners be able to quickly find instructor-led sessions and other scheduled events in their learning portal. Tagging scheduled events with date ranges and names of speakers can make it a breeze for learners to find sessions of interest that fit their schedules.

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