Wednesday, May 20, 2009

eLearning Brand Name Recognition?

The eLearning industry is a weird beast. It's not really one beast at all. Maybe it's a whole bunch of beasts. Or maybe it's a fruit bowl instead. Whatever your analogy...

A few weeks ago I did a very informal query on Twitter, asking people what were their favorite eLearning brands. Or maybe the question was, what brand names come to mind when you think about eLearning?

Responses varied, but this is what came back:
  • Captivate
  • Articulate
  • Camtasia
  • SnagIt
  • Ning
  • Fireworks
  • Adobe
  • Lectora
  • Google
  • And the eLearning Guild got a few mentions
Granted, this was a moment in time on Twitter, so we're probably talking about a particular sector of the universe that replied to my question...but...nonetheless...what stands out about this list?

I see a listing of products and tools. No service companies. No eLearning development houses. Clearly says something about the state of the fragmented eLearning market -- mostly small shops providing services or companies doing it in-house using all of the aforementioned tools.

What does this mean? What brand names come to your mind when you think eLearning?


Sreya Dutta said...

How true Cammy. I tried and couldn't think of much other than this myself, except for more tools. :)


Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on who you ask. I'd personally come up with a list of tools, but then I produce elearning inhouse for my employer. If you were to ask people whose companies buy in elearning, you'd be more likely to hear about the service companies.

John D Roberts said...

You could say that the perception is that most elearning brands are answers to the question How? not How Well? or How better?

Janet Clarey said...

You'll be interested to hear that when 200 CLOs/e-learning managers/training directors were asked to name 10 custom content development companies, most couldn't name 5. This was based on a Brandon Hall Benchmarking Study done some time ago). Responder listed themselves as internal purchasers of outsourced services too so it wasn't like they didn't use custom developers. How did they chose a company? "Word of mouth." We review 150 developers in our custom content knowledge base and identified 550 vendors that produce custom courseware.

Now to answer your question on e-learning brands...there's this company called Brandon Hall Research....

Jen Ludwiczak said...

For me, tools and online resources automatically come to mind. Because of all the great tools available, I think many companies may have a DIY mentality.

For my company, eLearning opportunities are a way to enhance the products and services we already provide to customers. The most "convenient" way to do that is to build capacity through SME's using relatively affordable, robust tools.

Anol said...

Funny thing is - none of the LMS players in the list. Public listed Blackboard or Open source Moodle. If I just take content creation and social media perspective - then why only Ning and what Google is doing there. Taxonomy disaster - our distant cousins from the KM world might not like this :P

Cheers Cammy!

Denise Link said...

Well, first of all I apologize for being self-serving, but I can't not promote my own company, Phasient Learning Technologies, which does provide custom course development and eLearning consulting services as well as tools. We are primarily in the Midwest.

With that behind us, I think I know the reason for the lack of mention of service companies. Good custom development is a high-touch proposition, both in the development and in the sale itself. In addition to understanding the content for a custom course, the vendor needs to understand the company's culture and communicate constantly with the SME. A tool vendor can sell an unlimited number of tools with the same number of employees; a service vendor must have enough great people to serve all its customers well, so it's just more difficult to get the market saturation that you need to rise above mention of the tools.

Amit said...

For a learning solutions provider like us, this is both surprising and scary. I would imagine it does depend on whom you ask but then as Janet adds - most CLOs don't even know 5 custom development companies. Isn't that scary?
Nornally I would expect names like Blackboard, SCORM, Articulate, BrandonHall, to popup in a survey like this.

Wondering how to promote our own brand now!

Upside Learning Solutions

Cammy Bean said...

Denise has a really good point about the high-touch quality of the custom development houses, which is so essential in this biz. I used to pitch up against some of the "big guys" -- NetG, SkillSoft -- who do some custom development, but the clients would choose our small shop because we provided better customer service. The rant against the big boys was that the project managers were always changing, they were just a factory, etc.

So for custom developers, if you're trying to build up some brand recognition, is it essential to stay local? Or is it rather that word of mouth that Janet mentions that's most critical?

Here's to spreading the word...

To Anol's question -- I think Moodle may have been mentioned. Just remember, my "survey" was highly unscientific and represented one afternoon's chatter on Twitter.

Oh, and SCORM did get a mention.

Derek said...

Isn't this observation you made good? Who needs large brands for e-learning? But they are there. For example William Horton (20 years on it says on their website!!) - but in general WE don't interact with them, we interact with our tools, un;less we work for them - and the big companies (like the ones that keep 20,000 pharmacy reps up to speed) are not quite branded. They are there in the background.

Cammy Bean said...

Hey, Derek. Good or bad, I don't have an answer. For a custom content developer to scale up to that size and gain that kind of brand recognition -- that'd be a challenge to do without losing the quality. I don't think the brand name matters so much as the quality of the work and a client's interactions with that company's people.

Unknown said...

I would have to say


Which is more of a tools list.