Seeking Apples and Amazons in the Learning Content Market


In today's hypercompetitive business world, nearly every company is studying the secrets of success behind Apple and Amazon.

In the case of Apple, of course, there are a number of areas to point to, including success as an online aggregator (iTunes) and top-quality, innovative products (iPod, iPhone, iPad). Starting from a very different beginning, Amazon has benefited even more as an online retailer and aggregator but has also shown unexpected innovations in the hardware market with its Kindle line. So, how does this relate to the learning content market?

In a new report, our CEO Josh Bersin compare, an online training library with more than than 1,350 courses, to the "Apple of video content," given its high-fidelity, studio-quality presentations. He notes that high quality stands out in era when we all flooded with relatively low-quality content and video. And he points to the fact that offers an app for both the iPhone and iPad, which fully plays and tracks all of its courses.

He writes, "For many buyers, the e-learning market seems to have collapsed. Many of the pioneers, such as DigitalThink (my alma mater), NetG, KnowledgeNet, ElementK, 50 Lessons and others, have been acquired or forced out of business by larger brands. This has spawned a huge industry of smaller companies which continue to build highly innovative content – often based on simulations, characters, games and other modalities. But, when you want a vendor that has a large library which is professionally developed, it has become harder to find companies other than SkillSoft that can afford to innovate in new areas." He believes that is a disrupter in the marketplace.

Another interesting company in the marketplace is OpenSesame, a startup whose VP for Business and Community Development Tom Turnbull has been quoted as saying, "We're creating for courses." What strikes me as particularly interesting is the company's initiative to distribute e-learning sans the traditional LMS platform. OpenSesame will work in any SCORM-compliant LMS but will also deliver courses via email. In essence, this opens up e-learning to companies that don't have an LMS and need a simple way to distribute courses. The service not only can deliver individual courses but track them as well.

These kinds of developments are bound to make some technology businesses a tad nervous, but it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. Will such trends start to make conventional LMS irrelevant or will they actually help the LMS business by giving small or medium-sized firms a better gateway into learning content that will make them eager to adopt a more mature, high-powered learning system?

I don't think anyone yet knows, but it's a trend well worth watching. In the meantime, I think we'll see plenty more would-be Apples and Amazons in the business of learning.

If there are any you can recommend to us, we'd love to hear about them.

Dani Johnson

Dani Johnson, Vice President, Learning & Development Research, writes about the evolving L&D function. Specifically, she focuses on the necessary changes in how L&D approaches its responsibilities and allocates its resources (people, time, and money) to have a lasting effect on both organizations and individuals.

One thought on “Seeking Apples and Amazons in the Learning Content Market

  1. I wonder if products like Articulate or Adobe Captivate are also contributing to this overall trend. These tools allow non-technical training folks to design and deliver scorm-compliant e-learning relatively quickly.

    As it becomes easier for learning professionals to create their own customized (and sometimes higher quality) content, these the off-the-shelf course libraries can appear less attractive.

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