Virtual College’s learning management system (LMS), Enable, has been ranked in the top eight by Learning Light, the UK-based independent e-learning industry market analyst. The top eight performers were selected from over 600 systems. In this interview David Patterson, Learning Light Director, talks about why he thinks Enable is one of the market leaders.
Can you please tell us a little about your company and your analysis of the Learning Management Systems market?
Learning Light has worked in various roles and capacities in the LMS market for about 9 years.
We have been involved in many varied LMS projects. We have advised several clients on procuring LMS solutions. We have worked on the deployment and management of LMS’s to deliver learning transformation projects with a number of clients going way beyond advising…really getting our hands dirty. In addition we actively research and monitor the LMS market in Europe and we publish research on the market quite regularly.
You recently published a list of your top ranking LMS…..how did you arrive at that?
I think it is important to understand this list. We are fans of Craig Weiss who produces a ranking list of LMS on a regular basis, but mainly from a North American perspective. This list will be the first of several we will produce on LMS, but we are specifically looking at LMS suitability in more defined market segments, in this case for training organisations. We have not ranked the LMS’s they are listed in alphabetical order. We would therefore recommend any training organisation to start their evaluation and procurement from this list.
Why have you focused down on training companies and organisations?
In part we see the training industry in the UK now taking a much greater interest in e-learning and learning technologies than ever before. As you may know BIS (Department for Business Innovation and Skills) has responded to a submission from FELTAG on using online learning in government funded skills provision, stating that these courses must now have online learning components. We believe that lots of training companies who work in this market will need an LMS to support this requirement.
So this list is really aimed at training and skills providers in the corporate and vocational market who are looking for the right LMS solution as we see the LMS market fragment and specialise. So with over 600 LMS to choose from, we thought we would select based on our experience and expertise some of the ones we believe would fit their requirement most effectively.
So how does Enable fit this market?
It is fair to say they all the LMS’s listed did fit the market but in slightly differing ways. Enable is in our view one of the most evolved LMS on the market. It is a super learning platform in that it combines all the features needed by a training organisation. It is particularly strong on competences and assessment which we see as a crucial area as well as being strong in reporting and learner management. Training companies really do get a lot of LMS for their money with Enable.
Despite being feature rich for learner management and reporting it is well designed to allow the learner to get too the learning quickly and effectively. In our view this is quite a trick to pull off and not many LMS are able to combine this strength of management and learner centric design so effectively.
You mentioned the importance of future development plans for the LMS’s going forward.
Yes indeed, one of our key areas of investigation in this listing is the commitment to further improvement and development of the LMS. We have seen several LMS come and go and along with market consolidation we have seen several purchasers loose out with an unsupported LMS going forward.
In addition, too many companies turn to their web designers for some form of platform to manage learners and often regret buying a bespoke solution with no development pathway….we have rescued a few of these in our time!
So a commitment to continual development and support is very important to the evaluation, especially as training companies do training not software development or support. Virtual College has been consistently one of the most innovative e-learning providers in the UK with course development and their LMS. We are particularly impressed with the VOOC innovation aligning content and LMS.
This is no doubt why you rank highly in the European edtech top 20 every year!
Are there other features you see as important for training companies in particular?
I would like to highlight one really important feature about Virtual College and Enable: we noted the commitment by Virtual College to first line learner support. This is very important and we would implore other vendors to consider this.
The most difficult part of rolling out a new e-learning programme is at the very beginning in getting learners to engage with this new way of training and learning. The offer telephone support is therefore a real differentiator that Virtual College has.
I note your website continually reports the numbers of learners using Enable, so the learner engagement and support must be really working!
How important was cost in your evaluation?
We are very lucky at Learning Light in that we have very good market intelligence in costings in most things e-learning and yes cost is an important metric to the buyer. It always will be….
Price and cost need to be considered carefully, and LMS vendors offer many differing pricing models which impacts on the true cost of ownership.
We find it very important that price and cost are transparent and offer real definable value to an organisation. Training companies do not wish to simply drive down their price; they need to add value to their offer. Enable scored very highly in its ability to add value to an organisation and improve the efficiency of delivery and therefore the market reach of a training organisation.