Sunday, March 27, 2011

New mLearning Authoring Tools – Wave #2

Another month, another trip to Orlando it seems and last week had me attending two different shows down near the Mouse House; Learning Solutions 2011 and CTIA Wireless 2011. This first post will focus on LS2011 and I’ll post again on CTIA tomorrow.

The Learning Solutions 2011 Event. The eLearning Guild’s LS2011 event was well attended and features 50+ vendors and more than 1300 participants from the training and development industry.  The Guild continues to put on a great show although the focus on mobile learning at this show is somewhat muted given their upcoming mLearnCon event in San Jose is being held in less than 3 months; the next show will certainly be “all mobile all the time” and a better bet for both the experienced and the curious as it relates to enterprise mobile learning. That said, interest in the various products and sessions and “morning buzz” gatherings that related to mobile all seemed well attended and topical.

I was able to spend time with several different vendors who are all preparing to deliver their own mobile learning offers into the marketplace in the coming months. Much of the need and innovation behind these new products is in direct response to the growing market perception that mobile learning either has or will hit the “tipping point” this year for enterprise adoption and the fact every organization is now faced with questions about how they’ll deliver on this potential and the various expectations being promoted by scores of training departments, sales teams, engineering groups and senior managers waving iPads and Android tablets.

Of the 45+ vendors exhibiting at LS2011, about a dozen had some form of mobile messaging clearly on display and there were certainly a few standouts as follows:

Claro from dominKnow.  Luke Hickey and team over the dominKnow took center stage in the LS2011 exhibits area to herald the launch of their next generation authoring platform called Claro. The new web-based HTML5 authoring package looks and performs quite well and delivers an impressive array of authoring features that can produce exceptionally nice looking mobile content for the various web kit-based mobile devices and tablets including Apple’s iPad and the full range of Android-based tablets. Published modules are packaged as SCORM objects and deployed with nominal hiccups for local/disconnected playback via an installed CellCast application on our test iPhones, iPads and Android devices. We now plan to take the next few steps down the technical integration front to make it easy to publish and deploy a Claro-generated course directly into our CellCast Manager/mLMS platform with “one click” simplicity.  Contact them directly to sign up for the official beta of Claro too!

Storyline from Articulate. I actually got to check out the new Storyline application from Articulate running in pre-beta form this past week and it is impressive and promising on many fronts. Whereas I expected Articulate to simply add some sort of option to "publish to HTML5" to their already popular Presenter add-in to PowerPoint, they actually decided to go a whole new direction and build an application from scratch that looks/functions in much the same way as PowerPoint but the created content is then published in tablet-friendly deliverables. There were plenty of tools to create interactions (ala Engage-style functionality) as well as define animations and path-based motions which all rendered well in the final outputs. And, of course, you can import existing PPT/PPTX presentations right into the new app and manipulate all the sides while still leveraging most of the defined interactions (e.g., slide to slide hyperlinks). For a pre-beta application, it seemed generally polished and stable too meaning it will be great addition to many ID tool kits in the future for those targeting deliverables to high resolution iOS and Android screens -- not sure this will work on many if any BlackBerry devices though.  Articulate expects to issue a select number of public beta invitations sometime in the latter part of Q2 and we’re hoping to participate and provide active feedback for these new tools as they prepare to come to market.  See a screen shot of the application on display from the show below.

mLearning Studio from Rapid Intake.  As detailed in a recent post, Rapid Intake’s new mLearning Studio tools are preparing to hit the market and will enable IDs to publish their content as either Flash or HTML5 packages.  Check it out here.

Questionmark Mobile Apps from Questionmark.  Questionmark was highlighting ways to publish their standard assessments into mobile friendly formats and SCORM packages that can be delivered to and accessed via mobile apps. OnPoint plans to run these offerings through their paces in the coming weeks to see how it all works and performs. Check it out here.

OnQue from Impatica.  Mike Doyle and the Impatica team continue to advance their efforts to produce some great tools that can help publish mobile friendly virtual learning environments to tablet devices like the iPad.  Their latest offering renders content that includes a video stream, a slide deck, notes and other learning resources using a consolidated time line metaphor all using HTML5.  Check it out here

Simwriter from NexLearn.  Finally, I had a chance to see one of NexLearn’s simulations – normally a Flash-based deliverable – running on an Apple iPad tablet using a new new delivery format they are working on.  We are already in discussions about how to package, deliver and manage these simulations for disconnected on-device playback and hope to have a way to support them in the coming weeks.

I suspect there will be three times as many interesting and compelling offer announcements across a full range of products and services in the coming months culminating with activities surrounding the mLearnCon event in late June.  These are interesting times indeed!


  1. Great information about the standouts in mobile, Robert!

  2. Great entry! I've heard of some of these guys before, but what about Claro? That product really sounds interesting.

  3. Thanks for the post, Robert. I just wonder if many of these tool vendors are missing the true advantages of mobile though... none of these really seem to take advantage of the device or the user's context.

    Dumping a PPT to a 320x480 screen doesn't cut it, IMHO.

  4. Hi Chad, I'll agree most people (and vendors) are still wrapping their head around what's possible and practical in this space and experience will bring everyone closer to works best in the mobile space. Of the products I saw last month at LS2011, most are really trying to take advantage of all the new device-centric affordances and several of them seem to do a nice job on specific devices (e.g., the iPad). The real trick comes with tools that can help create highly functional and effective content that can be used across the range of devices most enterprises have -- this factor drives a lot of the lowest common denominator approaches we've seen taken (and frankly have used).

    On the good news front, innovation across this space seems to be alive and well and that's good for all the users/customers and practitioners alike.

    Looking forward to connecting with you and your whole team out in San Jose in June for mLearnCon too!

  5. Another things I find interesting, after deeper investigation... is that many of the application developers aren't building bridges to port eLearning from the previous generation of tools into their mobile toolkit.

    Looks like a lot of copy and paste action moving from Unison to the new mLearning Studio.

    Having dabbled in software development (SaaS), i can't say it would be easy, but it seems like a perfect time to go get some VC and build a bridge for all your customers to the next generation of tools.


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