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The Evolution of the Absorb LMS: An Update

March 6, 2013 Leave a comment

dan suitIf you’ve spoken to our staff or visited our website or blog recently, you may have noticed 3 things:

1. Absorb LMS has a fancy new look and feel!
2. We are no longer talking about Smartlab
3. We are now talking about something called “Mercury”

Absorb LMS is rapidly evolving, right along with the entire learning technology industry. The rise of mobile learning, and specifically, the success of the Apple iPad and iPhones, have created new challenges – and new opportunities – to rethink how we deliver online learning.

It’s been more than 10 years since blatant^ was founded on the principle of building a better Learning Management System. Over time, we have added many new features, mostly at the request of clients and sometimes because we’ve anticipated what’s to come and tried to lead the market in that direction. We’ve always aimed to implement these new features so that they will be both useful and easy to use. We also try to ensure that we maintain a high-level of design standards. The user experience is tantamount.

A few years ago (a lifetime, in the technology arena) and as part of this ongoing product evolution, we created a completely custom platform that sat “on top of” Absorb LMS. It provided some of our clients with a completely custom HTML5 interface, and added some additional functionality to support increased marketing, learner messaging and learner engagement requirements. This platform – Smartlab – also ran on iPads (where the old Absorb FLASH interface would not) and it offered all of the Absorb functions plus some new features and widgets: FAQ, Quick Polls, Twitter Feed, News Feed, Rotating Banner Ads and Contests. All of which could be targeted at specific groups of users with the standard drop-down audience filters that Absorb provides for course and resource targeting.

For the clients that adopted Smartlab, this was great. For a while. We all learned some things and thought long and hard about how we could make Smartlab even better.

What we learned:
1. HTML 5 is great for iPads but an IDEAL user interface should scale in size and layout regardless of the size and type of device that the learner is using.
2. Custom is great, until you want to change it. Then it can get expensive and time consuming.
3. Custom does not like upgrades. Having a custom anything kind of defeats the purpose of the SaaS model, where all users get all new features at the same time.
4. Custom can get very expensive and requires tons of planning and review work. If many people are involved in the decision making process, this can drag on for some time.

How we improved it:
1. We took the best features of Smartlab (Polls, FAQ, Contents, News, Twitter, Banners) and made them available to all of our Absorb users (current and future).
2. We renamed this ‘Absorb Mercury Edition’. Smartlab was a weird name anyway, and besides, it was still 95% powered by the core Absorb LMS.
3. We changed the entire product to have a slick new “responsive design” that detects and adjust its layout depending on the size and orientation of the browser/device being used.
4. We dropped the design fees for the (formerly Smartlab) Mercury options by over 80% and eliminated 6 months of project management effort.
5. We recognized that only some of our clients would be interested in Mercury’s bells and whistles and so made it available as an easy add-on module that can be purchased and turned on at any time.

Our clients think this is great. Whether they upgrade to the new Absorb Mercury Edition or simply migrate to the new Absorb LMS responsive interface, they will still benefit from complete cross-platform/mobile support in a beautiful user interface. In other words, you don’t need to use Mercury to take advantage of the adaptive features in the new learner interface – this is now standard to the Absorb platform.

So to recap, Smartlab has been improved and renamed Absorb Mercury Edition (or “Mercury”, for short); the price and implementation time were reduced dramatically, and Absorb now scales perfectly across different types of desktop computers and mobile devices, thanks to the new responsive design.

Since it is part of the core Absorb LMS platform, Mercury also gets regularly updated as part of our standard development cycle. And for clients that want or need a custom interface, we still offer that service too, and at a much lower cost due to the new Absorb Mercury Edition architecture.

It’s an interesting and dynamic time in the learning technology industry, and we’re excited and inspired by all the change.

Join us July 18 for “Absorb SMARTLAB: Where Learners Go to Escape Learning Management Systems”


Let’s be honest. A lot of learning management systems (LMS) look like boring enterprise software applications. When a learner logs in, they see their list of learning activities, take a course module or two, and then reward themselves with a trip to where they actually want to spend their time online: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

Absorb SMARTLAB provides a revolutionary approach to learning and development. SMARTLAB creates an experience that resembles the sites people enjoy. Chances are, in fact, that your SMARTLAB learners will not even be aware that they are accessing information in an enterprise learning platform.

Although your learners may be oblivious to the fact that they are spending time within a learning management system, your administrators will be able to track easily the improvements in skills, performance, and knowledge of your workforce.

This free Webinar will cover the following:

  • Overview of Absorb SMARTLAB
  • Absorb SMARTLAB demo
  • How organizations uses Absorb SMARTLAB to project their brand and increase product knowledge among employees, and retail sales associates
  • How to assess if Absorb SMARTLAB is right for you

Join us for an overview of Absorb SMARTLAB and find out how you can create a site where learners want to be.

Absorb SMARTLAB: Where Learners Go to Escape Learning Management Systems
Wednesday, July 18, 2011, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST

Register Now

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/225601087

Managing documents, videos and links in your LMS.

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

It seems to me that with our industry’s focus on Mobile and Social Learning, people are often overlooking some great opportunities to effectively integrate their existing documents, videos and websites (links) into the formal training delivered via their LMS.

 

 
It’s not surprising, of course, that most LMS purchase requirements are centered on formal learning processes and standards such as:

• Flexible reporting options
• Certifications and Compliance
• Approvals processes or rules-based learning plans
• Multiple enrollment methods
• Support for a wide variety of content types
• Extended Enterprise
• SCORM compatibility
• HRIS or CRM integration, etc.
 
These requirements solve the primary business and process challenges that drive LMS adoption.
Increasingly, we also see “nice to have” or “must have” requests for mobile and/or social learning.
 
What seems to be missing from most organizations’ LMS deployment strategies, however, is a plan for managing all of their various learner and employee resources in the context of the LMS.
 


I think that this is due primarily to three causes:
1. A belief held by some L&D practitioners that static learning content (Standard Operating Procedures, HR Policy Documents, Technical Manuals , Marketing Brochures) need to be transformed into interactive e-learning courses if they are to exist in the LMS.

I am still seeing LMS projects stalled because people are struggling with how to convert all of this “static” content into “engaging e-learning content”.

2. A belief that these resources are best left in a document management system and not in the LMS.
While there are some companies that are spending time and money to integrate their document management system (like SharePoint) with their LMS, it may not be necessary to do so. In some cases, all these organizations want to do is to provide their users with an easy way to access documents or content that is tied to a job position, department or the learning outcomes of a course. Maintaining two different platforms to achieve this may be overkill.

3. They haven’t thought about it yet.

A lot of organizations are focusing all of their energy on implementing the LMS to help reduce the administrative workload associated with managing course delivery and tracking. For these people, there is a great opportunity to extract more value from their LMS over time. This should be considered for a future phase of the LMS initiative.

Does it really need to be this complicated?

I don’t believe so. It should be easy to place learning resources where you want them: within course content, alongside course content or generally available as a global resource. You should also be able to categorize global resources while simultaneously choosing who gets to access them.  Here are some suggestions:

Adding Resources in the Absorb LMS


One of the cool features of the Absorb LMS is that it provides the ability for administrators to easily create global or course-specific resources through a simple process involving only a few steps.

The process involves uploading a file (e.g., a video or PDF) or typing in a URL and choosing:
1. If the resource should appear:
a. In a Global Resource Folder (a.k.a. Category)
b. Under the Resources tab in a specific Course
c. As an instructor’s resource associated with a specific course.


2. You can then choose to make the resource visible to all learners in the system (the default) or restrict it to groups of users based on filtering on one or more aspects of the Learner’s profile. These Learner fields are customizable and can include anything from Company, Department, Location, Job Title, etc.
Filters can be fine-tuned and layered for a very flexible set of rules. For example, you could create a resource that is visible to two groups of users, everyone in Human Resources, and everyone with the word “Manager” in their job title. Absorb will display the total number of learners that meet the criteria that you’ve set. In this way, you’ll know instantly if you’ve done something wrong such as set a filter to be too broad or too narrow (affecting too many or too few learners).
3. Upload your file or type in the URL for the resource.
4. Add a description (if you want to).
5. Click “Add” to finish the process.

The following image shows an example of creating a Global Resource for the Production Department in the Absorb LMS. Note, the system will place the resource in the “Pricing” category and it will only be visible to the 107 employees in the Production Department.

Sometimes, you may want to include a document, hyperlink or video as a lesson within an Online Course, rather than as a Resource associated with a course. In this case, reading the content can be made a mandatory task within the course itself. In this case, you would simply edit the course Outline and insert a new lesson. The lesson will appear as part of the course content, wherever you have placed it in the course structure. If you want to test the learner, you can easily create and insert an Absorb Quiz as the next lesson in the course.
 
You may even want to take things a step further, and allow users to generate their own content, or if you want to incorporate news releases, polls, FAQs and Twitter feeds alongside your learning content, then we would encourage you to take a look at SMARTLAB, which includes a set of learner engagement and Content Management functionality. The great thing is, it’s easy to add resources to Absorb and the process for filtering by audience is exactly the same as the process for setting Self Enrollment rules at the course level.

PRESS RELEASE: Blatant Media Certified as ‘Best in Class’ LMS Provider by Brandon Hall Group

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Blatant Media Corporation, publishers of the Absorb and SMARTLAB LMS platforms, receive a “Best in Class” rating in Brandon Hall Group’s Smartchoice® Solution Provider Certification program.

CALGARY, ALBERTA– (Mar 21st, 2012) – Staff at Blatant Media Corporation, creators of the award-winning learning management systems Absorb LMS and SMARTLAB, are pleased to announce that they have received a “Best in Class” rating from Brandon Hall Group’s Smartchoice® Solution Provider Certification program. The company received its highest scores in the focus area of Cost of Ownership, based on “great price to value” and extremely high customer satisfaction with their overall return on investment in the Absorb platform.

Brandon Hall Group is the preeminent research and analyst organization focused on developing research-driven solutions to drive organizational performance within executive management, learning and development, talent management, sales, and marketing functions.

“It is evident through our Smartchoice® process and discovery that Blatant Media has a compelling learning solution. Blatant Media¹s clients have reported their solutions to be reliable, flexible, and easy to use,” said Mike Cooke, chief executive officer of Brandon Hall Group. “A strong focus on product design, functionality and client support was integral in Blatant Media receiving a Brandon Hall Group Smartchoice® certification.”

“Absorb LMS made rocket science look like play dough. Every other LMS looked outdated in appearance and function – Absorb looked perfect,” stated one of the clients that participated in the survey.

The Smartchoice® Program is based Brandon Hall Group’s extensive analyst coverage of vendors and industry research findings. Smartchoice®, is a validation program that recognizes the best product and service providers offering solutions to learning, talent, sales and marketing functions.

The Smartchoice® methodology is a rigorous evaluation process focusing on four core areas: Client Support; Cost of Ownership; Functionality; and Capability. Companies, which receive a superior rating in all four-focus areas, receive the Smartchoice® Program certification. By selecting a Smartchoice® provider, organizations looking to acquire products and/or services will be choosing from industry-leading providers who offer ground-breaking solutions to their unmet needs.

“It’s really great to be recognized as a Best in Class LMS provider” said Al Kinnear, Sales and Marketing Director with Blatant Media. “The whole team here works very hard so it’s awesome to see this reflected in such a high level of customer satisfaction.”

“Nice!” added Mike Eggermont, partner at Blatant Media.

This is the seventh time that Blatant Media has earned the recognition of Brandon Hall and the first time that they have participated in the Smartchoice® program. Previous Brandon Hall awards include:

  • Bronze in Learning Management Technology category of the Excellence in Technology for Learning, Talent Management, and Sales and Marketing Awards (2011)
  • Gold Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Global Training (2010)
  • Silver for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training (2009)
  • Gold Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium Sized Businesses (2009)
  • Bronze Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training (2009)
  • Silver Award for Best Video in a Learning Program (2008)

Absorb LMS has also been named to TrainingIndustry.com’s 2011 list of Top 20 Learning Portal Companies (for the second consecutive year) and was recently recognized as an “Industry Innovator” in a McLean & Company LMS Landscapes report.

About Brandon Hall Group

Having worked with more than 10,000 clients globally and after 20 years of delivering world-class solutions, Brandon Hall Group is the preeminent research and analyst organization focused on developing research-driven solutions to drive organizational performance for emerging and large organizations. Brandon Hall Group has an extensive repository of thought leadership, research, data and expertise in Learning and Development, Talent Management, Sales Effectiveness, Marketing Impact, and Executive Management. (www.brandonhall.com)

About Blatant Media Corporation

More than 650,000 employees and students use Absorb every day in over 300 companies globally. Among the list of international clients are Oakley, Adobe Software Systems, Dannon, American Medical Systems, EVOCO, University of Indiana, Zoll Medical, Shoretl, Websense, Virgin Mobile Canada, the United States Anti-Doping Association and many others.
The creator of Absorb LMS and SMARTLAB, Blatant Media Corporation is a learning technology company that leverages the power of technology to provide online training solutions for clients throughout the world. The company is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. http://www.absorblms.com, (403) 520-2595.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Dan Medakovic
V.P. Learning Solutions
Dan.medakovic@absorblms.com

PRESS RELEASE: Blatant Media Launches `The Learning Management Pain Clinic’

February 8, 2012 2 comments

 Pain Relief photo (Some rights reserved by o5com)CALGARY, ALBERTA– (Feb 8, 2012) – Blatant Media Corporation, creator of the award-winning learning management system, Absorb LMS, is happy to launch a new Webinar series titled “Learning Management Pain Clinic.” These monthly online events are designed to help organizations make workplace learning more efficient; from registration of new learners to certification, and beyond.

“Our ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality makes us believe that we need to sweat through everything in life, including the management of workplace training. That’s crazy!” said Mike Owens, Co-Founder and President at Blatant Media.

Registration is presently open for the first two events:

How to Automate the Administration of Learning Within Your Organization

How to Manage Large Scale Learning Initiatives Painlessly

Future events will be listed on the Absorb LMS Web site (www.absorblms.com) as well as the Absorb LMS blog (absorblms.wordpress.com,) and Twitter feed (@AbsorbLMS).

According to Mike Owens, “Enabling learning in others shouldn’t be painful. It should be rewarding and fun. Let’s leave the suffering for the gym.”

About Blatant Media

The creator of Absorb LMS and Absorb SMARTLAB, Blatant Media Corporation is an e-learning company that leverages the power of technology to improve learning for clients throughout the world. Blatant Media was named one of the Top 20 Learning Portal Companies in 2010 and 2011 by TrainingIndustry.com.

About Absorb LMS

Absorb LMS is an award-winning learning management system; having captured five Brandon Hall Excellence Awards since 2010. More than 600,000 learners in 300+ organizations throughout the world use Absorb LMS as their learning environment. Clients include Adobe Software Systems, American Medical Systems , Dannon, New York University, Oakley, Rolls Royce, Virgin Mobile Canada, the United States Anti-Doping Association and many others.

Blatant Media is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. www.absorblms.com, (403) 520-2595.

Media Contact

Richard Nantel
VP, Enterprise Learning Solutions
Absorb LMS | blatant media
(403) 277-4856
Richard.Nantel AT AbsorbLMS DOT com

Using an LMS for Highly Effective Retail Training: Part One

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

LISTEN AND LEARN (is what we do)

One of the things I love best about this job is that I have the great pleasure of speaking with a variety of  senior training managers across many industries on a weekly basis. I like to think that they learn as much from me as I do from them but sometimes, I am sure that I am the one that really benefits from these conversations.

It’s important for us as a learning technology provider to participate in these discussions and to really listen to the challenges faced by our customers “in the trenches”. I know we are good listeners because our products reflect a lot of the great thinking generated by these interactions. In particular, we have collaborated with some brilliant clients (like Oakley) to develop an understanding of some great best practices in the area of retail training.

Recently, I had a long conversation with a training manager of a department store chain that has about 100 stores and no Learning Management System. I want to share some observations here that came up in that discussion, specifically in the context of retail employee training. This seems particularly pertinent given the recent announcement of 100-120 planned store closures by Sears/Kmart.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

Retail is a complex science. Although no one retailer can control the economy (many would argue that Walmart does in fact play a significant role in the global economy) we do understand that effective marketing will at least get people into your store; so let’s talk about what happens if marketing succeeds in that goal.

Great store design and merchandising will impact how much time people spend in your store and what they will purchase. This is the realm of a select team of employees but the people that have the most direct impact on your potential customers are your retail (sales) employees.

Your retail employees will define your corporate culture, reflect your corporate standards, impact customer satisfaction and loyalty and ultimately, increase the amount that each customer spends in the store. That’s all, of course, subject to who you hire and how well trained they are.

Let’s agree that you can provide high quality training without an LMS. The opportunity, however, is in scaling that training; providing it quickly and in short, focused interactions that are relevant and measurable. And dare we add ‘fun and rewarding’ for the learner?

In PART TWO I will discuss some observations and best practices for how an LMS can really impact your retail employee performance.

Breaking Down Silos: Why Your Learning Management System Should `Play Nice’ with Others

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

We live in a world where information flows between applications. Rare are organizations with all their data in discrete silos. Learning data should not be the exception. Here are some of the common ways learning management systems (LMS) can share data with other applications:

Importing data into the LMS from an HR system
Many organizations require employee records from a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) imported into a learning management system (LMS) as learner records. When a new employee is hired, this individual will automatically be registered into the LMS and can begin their learning activities. If an existing employee changes jobs, is promoted, or relocates to a regional office, that information will be reflected within the LMS and the individual’s learning plan adjusted accordingly.

Centralizing learner records within an HR system
Some organizations require learner data exported from the LMS into an HRIS system, thus allowing individuals’ learning history to be attached to their employee data and displayed within the HRIS. For organizations working in regulated industries, for instance, this makes potential audits quick and easy; eliminating the need to look for data in two separate places.

Adding legacy learning records to a LMS
In some organizations, the training history of employees may exist in an HR system, or have been exported from a learning management system no longer in use. To centralize the learning history of employees, their achievements and certifications can be imported into the LMS.

Sharing e-commerce data with accounting applications
In situations where learning content is purchased by individuals, departments, or organizations using the learning management system’s shopping cart, APIs can be created to exchange financial data with accounting software applications. Such integration allows purchase histories to be tracked and can be used to generate financial reports such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, etc.

Want to learn more about data integration? We have a free download on this topic: How Absorb LMS Plays Nice With Others.

Wednesday: Optimizing the Administration of Learning

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Please join Donna Gernhaelder, Dan Medakovic, and Richard Nantel this Wednesday for a free Webinar:

How to Automate the Administration of Learning Within Your Organization

Richard Nantel, Donna Gernhaelder, Dan Medakovic

Space is limited so register early.

Absorb SMARTLAB: Where Learners Go to Escape Learning Management Systems

November 21, 2011 3 comments

Back by popular demand: a repeat of our recent session introducing our latest product, Absorb SMARTLAB. 

Title: Absorb SMARTLAB: Where Learners Go to Escape Learning Management System
Date: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST

Register Now

 

 

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/982446006

Let’s be honest. A lot of learning management systems (LMS) look like boring enterprise software applications. When a learner logs in, they see their list of learning activities, take a course module or two, and then reward themselves with a trip to where they actually want to spend their time online: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

Absorb SMARTLAB provides a revolutionary approach to learning and development. SMARTLAB creates an experience that resembles the sites people enjoy. Chances are, in fact, that your SMARTLAB learners will not even be aware that they are accessing information in an enterprise learning platform.

Although your learners may be oblivious to the fact that they are spending time within a learning management system, your administrators will be able to track easily the improvements in skills, performance, and knowledge of your workforce.

This free Webinar will cover the following:

  • Overview of Absorb SMARTLAB
  • Absorb SMARTLAB demo
  • How Oakley uses Absorb SMARTLAB to project its brand and increase product knowledge among employees, and retail sales associates
  • How to assess if Absorb SMARTLAB is right for you

Join us for an overview of Absorb SMARTLAB and find out how you can create a site where learners want to be.

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

Space is limited. We hope to see you there!

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer