eFront as a SumTotal alternative

boxing glovesThroughout last year we worked with an important Canadian customer on a transition project. The client was using SumTotal as its backbone LMS and was in need of a comprehensive and efficient alternative solution. After an exhaustive research process, the client chose eFront.

In this post I will describe the business needs that made it imperative for the client to make the transition, and why eFront was chosen. I will also describe the project and its challenges.

Why change from SumTotal

The decision to move away from SumTotal was not an easy one. SumTotal is one of the leaders in the LMS space for numeral reasons. Its products can be found in almost any vertical industry, spanning from mining to health.

Still, SumTotal produced a number of headaches for the customer which I will outline below:

  • Inflexibility: SumTotal comes as a closed source model. This means that any customization needs to come either as plugin or through SumTotal directly. No matter how extensive a system is, as the client size and needs grow the customization may span several system layers. Having the ability for “deep” customization is not something that any closed-source project can offer but “big” customization projects require it in order to produce a coherent result. Most importantly, big LMS players are indifferent when it comes to such customization projects as they do not justify the cost. They prefer to sell licenses where the margins are higher and there are fewer headaches.
  • Cost of ownership. This one is obvious. SumTotal is an expensive product with recurring annual fees. It is not only the license that costs more, every interaction with Sumtotal whether for support or training is expensive.

Why choose eFront

The client considered a number of solutions. A no-vendor lock approach was imperative for them as they would like to be able to customize the product in great depth. This “hard” requirement reduced the potential pool of LMS providers to those who offer the code source to clients and have robust enterprise functionality. At the end of the day, eFront was chosen for the following reasons:

  • Ease-of-use. From the beginning eFront emphasized a flat, icon-based interface. eFront, when compared to most “heavy”, “industrial” LMSs or open-source alternatives, looks fresh, modern and discrete.
  • Flexibility. This one is a no brainer. eFront comes with its source code unlocked and you can customize it directly to any depth. Still, in many cases, this is easier said than done.  The client asked our team to help them directly in customizing eFront to fit their needs (we made use of this opportunity to improve eFront in a number of ways as well – you will be able to check them when eFront4 is released later this year!)
  • Functionality & Maturity. eFront is a mature LMS, used by over 150,000 organizations around the globe. Its functionality is comparable, if not superior, to what high-end commercial LMSs offer.
  • Scalabity. eFront has been tested in real-life in some very demanding scenarios in recent years. We now have customers with more than 300,000 users. Through those challenges we had to adapt and optimize the system so it can support that load even with modest server infrastructure.
  • Low cost of ownership. This is also a no-brainer. eFront is cheaper than Sumtotal in a number of ways (initial and recurring costs, infrastructure, specialized support cost, training etc.)

The Project

This was a demanding project that consumed a lot of our man-power for a prolonged period of time. The project’s scope was, from the beginning, too wide to be able to estimate a precise cost and timing. Incorrect estimations are a common problem with complex customizations. Sometimes, an optimistic time-to-delivery may be a prerequisite in order to secure a contract. In this case the estimation we made was proven to be non-realistic.

Nevertheless, as we considered the project strategically important we decided to allocate the required resources for as long as needed to ensure the best outcome. What we initially considered to be a 4-month project turned out to be double that. Double-than-estimated-time seems to be the norm with these kinds of ambitious projects.

The Outcome

As I write this post the project is officially live and the customer is happy. They now have a solution tailor made to their needs that can grow together with their organization. Despite the prolonged deployment time, the total cost of ownership is only a fraction of what they were paying for SumTotal and the flexibility is limited only by their imagination. Moreover, the user experience is highly streamlined producing better retention and satisfaction ratings.

Do you own a very expensive, non-flexible LMS? Perhaps it is time to consider eFront as a viable alternative. Contact us for a free demo consultation.

How online learning is applied in the workplace (blog series)

We are often asked about how learning technologies, such as the eFront LMS, can be applied in the workplace so we recently put together a series of blog posts to explain the concept:

  • Part I: Customer service: Offering customer service training to employees has been shown to drive sales and give businesses a strong competitive advantage. This is why it is imperative that businesses invest in quality programs.
  • Part II: Sales training: Good sales training courses can lead to an increase in activity levels; sales volumes and order size; improved sales force retention, employee motivation and engagement and a greater receptiveness to change.
  • Part III: Safety training: The main benefit of online training when it comes to safety and compliance is that employees can be reached everywhere, all over the world, at any time. Such virtual safety training leads to a decreased risk of on-the-job injury and accidents.
  • Part IV: Product training: There are many benefits to online product training including: flexibility in terms of pace, time, location (multiple locations are possible and in different markets), convenience, and preferred device. Trained staff are more efficient and up-to-date with applicable knowledge leading to greater efficiency, productivity, and increased profits.
  • Part V: Healthcare training: The benefits of elearning are: decreased costs, increased adoption speed, and compliance and tracking amongst others. ELearning can complement or even replace in-person training in many cases.

Looking back – the last 12 months at eFront

In a year full of product updates, special awards and recognition, and new collaborations, we decided to look back at 2013 as a prelude to the launch of our latest LMS, eFront V4, later this quarter. By EOY 2013 eFront had over 150000+ downloads and more than 1000+ customers worldwide – all thanks to you, our users and customers! So a big thanks from us :)
Check out a year at eFront in this infographic (for more details and a 2014 preview please scroll down!):

Here’s a brief look back at 2013, as we look forward to 2014!

efront_elearning_2013

Overview:

February 2013: eFront partner CLICK&LEARN wins customer satisfaction award at LEARNTEC in Karlsruhe, Germany, one of the largest international trade fairs for Professional Learning and IT. For more read the Press Release.

March 2013: eFront V3.6.13 released with Tin Can support, several UI improvements, a WordPress integration plugin, a new introductory course, and a number of additional enhancements. For more check out this post!

May 2013: For a third consecutive year, Epignosis, global provider of Enterprise and Open Source learning management systems, was named a finalist for the eFront LMS at the Best of Elearning! 2013 Awards in the category ‘Best Open Source Solutions.’ Read the Press Release here!

July 2013: eFront sponsored the Open Source eLearning Network Event in Birmingham, England which took place on July 12 – a day of practical case studies, sharing experiences and debate. For more information: http://www.elearningnetwork.org/events/open-source. After the event Wyver solutions posted a blog post about eFront – they discuss eFront’s key stand-out features and summarize: “For straightforward, content-based online learning eFront is hard to beat.” Read the post here.

September 2013: Epignosis joined CloudBeat in San Francisco September 9-10, with the CEO participating in CloudBeat’s ‘Learning Gets Cloud Powered’ breakout session. More in this PR!

October 2013: eFront was voted in the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013 – the results of the 7th Annual Learning Tools Survey. The list was compiled by Jane Hart from the votes of 500+ learning professionals from 48 countries worldwide See more here.

November 2013: eFront, in collaboration with TalentLMS, releases a free eBook to download entitled “eLearning 101 – concepts, trends, applications.” The eBook covers all important and relevant concepts, trends and applications of elearning. To read more about it check out this post or just download the eBook directly!

November 2013: Epignosis Ltd., creator of eFront LMS and TalentLMS, and OpenSesame, the world’s marketplace for online training courses, announce a new partnership to connect eFront’s LMS customers to more than 22,000 online training courses through the OpenSesame marketplace. For more please see the recent Press Release.

November 2013:  eFront welcomes its latest partner on-board: RM Education is a leading provider of ICT solutions to the UK Education market. Headquartered just outside Oxford they deliver everything educational establishments need to deliver technology-enabled learning. They also work with assessment bodies throughout the UK and internationally providing exam marking solutions. For more please visit their website http://www.rm.com/home

April 2014: eFront to release eFront LMS V4, a major eFront upgrade that brings support for Instructor Led Training.

What 2014 will bring:

Exciting plans regarding eFront LMS:

In April of this year eFront is set to release eFront LMS V4, a major eFront upgrade that brings support for Instructor Led Training. It also brings a number of important improvements such as the following:

  • Extensive support for Instructor Led Training (Classroom courses with start-end date, Sessions, Waitlists, Express-interest and related Audiences, Locations)
  • Revamped Curriculums (Rules & order between Curriculum courses, Completion criteria & Prices)
  • Revamped Ecommerce (Support for Paypal Pro, Contracts, Approvals, Group Accounts, Price tracks, Cancellations)
  • Revamped Course Catalog (each course can have an image, filters/search based on a number of criteria)
  • Introduction of Audiences (dynamic groups based on rules)
  • Revamped Interface - All fluid interface to fit any device and screen & scalable images to look crisp on retina screens
  • Revamped Internals – moved to JQuery, Bootstrap and Gettext translations, rewritten Notifications & Calendar
  • Revamped content editor – simplified and expanded editor based on TalentLMS experience

With this upgrade we will integrate several key new elements and combine them with architectural changes (without persisting on compatibility with aging browsers or retaining former eFront architecture). eFront 4 will be based on clean MVC architecture. The interface will also move from Prototype to Jquery which reduces the complexity for several end-user tasks. All in all eFront will get a new, more polished look with a better and more consistent UI, and processes will be simplified. For more on eFront V4 check out the eFront V4 blueprint outline on our wiki.

How to add videos to your eFront lessons

Do you want to make your content more appealing and interactive? You can enrich it by adding videos to your units! There are two ways you can do this:

  1. Upload your videos to the lesson’s file manager. While editing the unit place the mouse where you want to insert the video. Open the file manager, search for the video you want to add and simply click on the blue arrow: video-post-1The video is now inserted and you can change its dimensions by dragging its edges. video-post-2Otherwise you can use the editor’s button video-post-3 to specify the dimensions: video-post-4You can even select the player that will be used through this window: video-post-5
  2. If you have already uploaded your video files in YouTube for example, you can embed them in eFront directly. All you need to do is to find your video in YouTube, click to share and then select the embed option: video-post-6

Copy the code that is inside the box marked “embed”, move to your eFront unit, toggle editor/HTML mode and paste the code: video-post-7

You can change the videos dimensions through this page or by switching back to editor mode you can resize your file by dragging its edges.

That’s it! Save your unit and you are ready to go.

Some tips you can use to make your embedded videos look better:

By using HTML you can specify several parameters for your embedded file. Here are some examples:

We have edited the YouTube embed code as such:

<p><iframe width=”800″ height=”530″ style=”display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;”src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/UpONzeZAmc?rel=0&amp;iv_load_policy=3&amp;modestbranding=1&amp;showsearch=0&amp;showinfo=0&amp;wmode=transparent&amp;vq=hd720&amp;autoplay=1″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”"></iframe></p>

  1. rel=0: in order to remove related videos from the end of the video I insert “&” then “rel=0″.
  2. iv_load_policy=3 Setting to 3 will cause video annotation to not be shown by default.
  3. showsearch=0: Setting to 0 disables the search box from displaying when the video is minimized. Note that if the rel parameter is set to 0 then the search box will also be disabled, regardless of the value of showsearch.
  4. showinfo=0: To hide the YouTube header bar   insert the character “&” and “showinfo=0″
  5. autoplay=1: it allows for a video to immediately start when a page loads (the value “1″ enables this).  To insert this into the embed code, you would simply use the “?” character and then “autoplay=1″

You can find many more tips here: https://developers.google.com/youtube/player_parameters

About the Author

EleftheriaEleftheria Papatheodorou is responsible for after sales support, customer training and beta testing at Epignosis (eFront). She holds a BSc in Management Science and Technology from Athens University of Economics and Business. She can be reached via Twitter @foyska or LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Infographic: LMS demographics

We love having fun with infographics so the eFront team put together an infographic on LMS demographics with data collected over a two year period!

Here are some highlights:
1. Regarding global interest, LMSs still dominate in English speaking countries with interest from parts of Asia and, surprisingly, Europe lagging behind.
2. The LMS is still largely considered a solution for educational institutes however corporate usage is catching up!
3. More than 50% of institutions prefer to host their LMS internally and small installations dominate.

LMS Demographics

LMS Demographics

Customer story: Mentor Graphics

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Epignosis eFront customer Mentor Graphics. With headquarters located in Oregon, Mentor Graphics Corporation is a world leader in electronic hardware and software design solutions, providing products, consulting services and award-winning support for the world’s most successful electronic, semiconductor and systems companies. Established in 1981, the company reported revenues in the last fiscal year of nearly $1,090 million.

Their objective was to ensure that all technical staff were up-to-date and trained with the latest knowledge and practices in order provide the best technical advice on the capabilities of tools to customers. Mentor benchmarked eFront against several leading LMSs and in the end chose eFront as the best value solution for their specific requirements.

“eFront rated best in several categories including the support we received from the Epignosis team during our evaluation and the hosted plan (up to 500 users) which was selected as best value.”

Read the customer case study here:

eFront in Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013

Thank you to all our clients and users who voted for us!

The Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013 list (released 30 September 2013) was compiled from the votes of over 500 education and workplace learning professionals from 48 countries. For a fuller analysis, please visit Analysis 2013.

In this year’s list, Twitter retains its no 1 position – now for the 5th year running – then comes Google Drive/Docs at #2. PowerPoint moved up to #5 and Evernote moved into the top 10 at #6. Google + and Hangouts moved into the top 10 at #10 and eFront moved up 19 places to #67.  You can view a text list of the 100 Tools here along with the Slideshare presentation.

top-100-tools-efront-2013