Ben’s in the Fold

People often ask us to recommend an LMS for them. We shy away from doing so because we don’t want to pick favorites amongst our clients and potential clients. More significantly though, we really don’t know all that much about the functionality and utility of a particular LMS beyond its SCORM interface.

“Well then,” the inquisitor asks, “who has the best SCORM interface?”. Well duh, our SCORM Engine clients of course.

“Come on,” he presses, “who else is good at this stuff?”. One of the first names that comes to mind has always been SumTotal. That judgement is far from a scientific; we don’t go out and technically audit the details of every LMS’s SCORM implementation. Rather, it is an empirical judgement based on how many problems our content customers report with an LMS. More than that, though, it is the experience in working with the vendor if a problem is found. Are they receptive and supporting? Do they have a pragmatic attitude that leads to collaboratively fixing the problem rather that just passing blame?

Historically, we’ve rarely had to deal with SumTotal problems. That bodes really well for the quality of their implementation. On the few occasions where we have had occasion to iron out a problem, we’ve had the pleasure of working directly with their lead SCORM developer, Ben Clark.

SumTotal is closing its Bellevue development office and sending Ben’s job over to India. When we heard the news, we jumped at the chance to bring him onboard. He accepted and will be starting with us next week!

The guys here often joke that I am “one of the top ten SCORM professionals”, well in my mind, Ben is a fellow “top-tenner”. We’ve worked together on the ADL Technical Working Group for several years and Ben has always impressed me with his insight, knowledge and reason. He’s equally adept at seeing the big picture and navigating the technical weeds.

SCORM is at a crossroads now. It needs to evolve and needs to be improved. There will be a lot of work done at ADL, LETSI and others over the next couple years. We plan to be heavily involved, contributing our time, energy and vision to ensure SCORM’s successful evolution. Ben will be joining me in this effort and should enable us to provide a lot more bandwidth to standards development activities. We’re looking forward to great things to come.

  • Hi Mike

    I really trust your judgment, and am sure Ben is a good guy and excellent with SCORM. However, I feel compelled to say that as a current SumTotal customer, their support has been a very big sore spot for us. Very very big.

    I don’t think I’m at liberty to divulge details in public, but suffice to say I’ve personally felt cheated several times, and have had countless technical problems with their system. In my experience their level of support has been along the lines of ‘do as little as possible to get things working’. Their communication is terrible.

    I have never worked with Ben — our support staff appears to be based in India, so we probably missed the chance to work with Ben — but I would *never* recommend SumTotal to a friend. Too. Many. Issues.

    Sorry for the rant, I just felt the need to offer a counterpoint to an endorsement of SumTotal.

    As for Rustici Software and SCORM, I’m loving what you guys are doing, and really like the direction you’ve taken and the demos you’ve done with LETSI. I’m sure adding Ben to the staff will increase the awesomeness. I can only hope that most LMSs (and whatever might replace LMSs in the future) will be as detail-oriented, customer-focused, and open to new ideas as you guys. Kudos.

  • John Campbell

    Having worked the last 5 years banging heavily on SCORM implementations, I can concur with Mike’s statements. Rustici and SumTotal stand alone atop the 2004 mountain. I also don’t judge the LMS outside of the SCORM functionality with this statement. For us, playing the content was key, and no LMS came close that we found (and our testing was pretty broad). FWIW, the 5-10 times I sent our clients through official support, we had no complaints. Feel free to contact me outside this thread for details.

    For SCORM 2004, we’ve had two real choices: SumTotal or LMS X + Rustici. I’ve watched countless organizations struggle solely due to the impact of their choice with this.

    Ben is a real win for you guys. He gets it and always has.

    Congrats. Now go change the world.

  • Ethan Estes

    I have to say as well in my one experience as a vendor to a former client (large auto maker) that had SumTotal in place-it’s been exactly as Phillip described for that client. One never ending headache.

    The real question for SumTotal is: Is it technically an issue with the LMS or how they respond and treat their customers through the support process? I’d lean towards the second as my client was never able to get past that to even figure out if it was a technical issue. This tends to be common from what i see with the big LMS guys.

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