Rustici Software's
SCORM Blog

Subscribe

 Subscribe in a reader

Enter your email address:


Archive


Tweets by Tim Martin



Topics

Authors

At ATD 2017 this year, our CEO Tim Martin had a chance to talk about Content as a Service (CaaS). This conference was my first in eLearning, so I was excited to hear how companies are thinking about CaaS (or if they even know what it is). Out of the 125 attendees in Tim’s session 90% were from organizations, 5% were vendors and 5% fit into a category that was neither (or both!). On the organization side, the majority of attendees had more than one LMS and one poor soul had 10 LMSs to contend with in her company.

Tim discussed what Content as a Service is and how it solves the challenges of distributing courses across multiple systems by centralizing content in order to control and better understand the learning experience. (Sidenote: if you’re looking for further resources on CaaS, check out these blog posts). He also had a chance to answer some pretty common questions, such as…

How can an organization better distribute one piece of content to multiple LMSs?

For organizations who distribute content to multiple systems via individual files, content is not traditionally housed and managed in a central location. CaaS allows you to host a course in a single location and create proxy files to share with multiple LMSs that point back to that original course. When you update or edit your course, you edit a single file that is automatically available from each LMS.

What level of reporting is possible with CaaS?

CaaS enables you to see the usage of your content across all of your LMSs. Previously, any usage data or reporting was trapped in each LMS. With CaaS, the content and its corresponding data are centrally housed, allowing you to track both general utilization and deeper reporting like question-level analytics. Remember, reporting is always dictated by the eLearning specification you use.

How can vendors benefit from CaaS?

One of the coolest things about leveraging CaaS to distribute your content is that it empowers you to create unique, relevant experiences suited to specific learners. This is especially powerful for vendors who offer dynamically generated content within their system, which is hard to package and ship to an LMS.

Content as a Service also allows vendors to ensure the highest level of quality by consistently providing access to the latest version of a course. Financially, vendors are able to enforce the content licenses and subscriptions.

How can Content as a Service apply to a instructional designer?

Meet an instructional designer and you’ll quickly understand how passionate they are about creating eLearning content rooted in both design and science. With CaaS, an instructional designer can make sure the user always has the latest, best version of a course. And, they can finally understand how learners are interacting with a course (see reporting details above) so that they can adjust their content accordingly.

How are other businesses using CaaS?

If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the SANS Institute, who uses CaaS to help them efficiently manage and understand their eLearning content. If you want to know how Content as a Service can benefit you specifically or if you have a question about how it works, reach out to us.

No Comments | Post a comment »



Last week we were incredibly excited to share a brand new, Content Controller case study for The SANS Institute. The case study describes the success they have using Rustici Software’s eLearning content distribution solution Content Controller to help them distribute and manage training content. When we were publishing the case study, we couldn’t help but reflect upon how wonderful they are as a client. SANS has continuously inspired us, encouraged us and collaborated with us. We’ve created a better product, and are a better company, because of them.

We started talking to SANS about their eLearning content distribution challenges two years ago during ATD ICE 2015 (Side Note: Tim will be speaking at this year’s ATD conference!). At the time, Content Controller was a glimmer in our eye. We had begun thinking about what it would mean to help companies better manage and control their content through eLearning content distribution solutions, but we hadn’t worked out what a product entailed.

We were therefore lucky to start chatting with SANS, who shared that same glimmer in their eye. At the time, SANS was struggling to effectively release version updates for their customers and they felt like there had to be a better way to manage content.

Worlds collided; the timing was perfect. Content Controller was born.

Since those first conversations, SANS has been a collaborative partner involved in the development, launch and evolution of Content Controller. We have had meetings in person to discuss product mock ups. We have picked their brains about how they use the product. We have supported feature requests inspired by their challenges.

Point of fact, SANS was the inspiration for one of our most popular features, Equivalents. SANS customers were finding it cumbersome and time-consuming to manage multiple languages of the same course. As a solution, SANS wanted to enable their customers to present a single course to a learner and let the user select their language. Equivalents solves this problem precisely and our product is better for it.

Last year, Content Controller was awarded a Brandon Hall Group’s Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Content Management Technology. This award granted to Content Controller for revolutionizing content management and delivery could not have been possible without fantastic customers like the SANS Institute.

We are unbelievably thankful to SANS for inspiring us to create a better product and making our days more enjoyable through collaboration. And we can’t thank them enough for being champions of our company.

So, two years later, we’d like to say, “Cheers!” to SANS. We’re glad to know you and incredibly happy to work with you. Here’s to many years to come.

No Comments | Post a comment »



The parallels between television and elearning are abundant. I mean, who doesn’t love sitting down on a Friday night to watch the best elearning they couldn’t get to all week?

Really, though, there are plenty of legitimate parallels, and one of the things I like is watching elearning evolve in similar ways to television/movies, albeit a few years behind.

One fashion in which that evolution has occurred is the actual delivery mechanisms.

1. Video Industry
1. Elearning Industry
film-reel

“Let’s go to the movies!”
 

People gathered together in a movie theater to see the film of the day. It was a compelling shared experience, and allowed each participant to see something they hadn’t before. For the studio, this provided scale that far exceeded that of a stage play. For many attendees, though, this meant that seeing the movie was incredibly expensive or completely impossible. And one crying baby could ruin the experience for everyone.
instructor-lead-training

In Person Training
 

Like the movies, people gathered in a single location to learn together. Unfortunately, this meant that everyone had to be gathered together in the same place, at the same time, and probably at great expense to the company providing the training. Rather than teaching each person individually, the subject matter expert could teach several people at once. For many learners, though, this meant that the training was either inaccessible or hugely inconvenient. And one cry baby could ruin the experience for everyone.
2. Video Industry
2. Elearning Industry
vhs

“Blockbuster”
 

“I want to watch Goonies tonight. At 7:45pm. And eat pizza. On a couch.” It required a trip to something called a “video store”, wherein you hoped to find the specific movie in stock that you wanted to watch. And that was a real risk. The beauty of it, though, is that if they had your movie, you were in control. Start time? That’s up to you. Location? Your choice as well. And the world was your oyster as far as what you were eating and drinking and sitting on. Several beloved standards helped this work. VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc, DVD… these standards allowed us to buy machines for home that knew how to play whatever movie we brought home.
scorm

SCORM Package Delivery
 

Yes, learners could now watch content in an LMS when and where they wanted. This was a big leap. Barriers of travel and cost were substantially reduced. But getting a specific piece of content into your system wasn’t really possible until SCORM allowed for it in the early 2000s. With the advent of SCORM, learners were now able to consume widely varied content from their desk at work or at home. And subject matter expertise was available at a scale that was inconceivable in the instructor led training world.
3. Video Industry
3. Elearning Industry
itunes

iTunes
 

One online store with all the movies and tv shows and all I have to do is click a button!? When streaming became a reality, we no longer had to leave the house to acquire the content, and we didn’t have to worry about whether someone else had claimed that movie first. There were just so. many. options. And finding a movie to watch became less of a problem. Instead, finding the right movie to watch was a challenge. How do you curate an massive pile of movies?!
content-consolidator

Content Consolidator
 

Companies like Skillsoft and Mindleaders before, and Open Sesame today, have collected massive libraries of content from which companies and learners can choose. Finding a relevant piece of content gets easier all the time, and it can be procured at a known price in a matter of minutes. Compatibility has become less of a concern (although Skillsoft’s OLSA standard isn’t exactly that). Learners and companies alike have access to great quantities of quality content, and subject matter experts have a easy and convenient way to get it to them.
4. Video Industry
4. Elearning Industry
netflix

Netflix
 

Today’s Netflix is fundamentally different from prior delivery models in several ways:
Netflix’s “all you can consume” model allows a customer to pay one price per month and watch lots of varied content at their leisure. Viewers can try a show with no risk, move amongst them freely, and watch as much as they want. Shows can be released in their entirety on a given day, rather than strung out over months. Advertisement is no longer a part of the equation.
Netflix also provides their own content. They are creators as well as distributors. Shows like House of Cards, Bloodlines, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt show a care and crafting that isn’t necessarily present in commodities acquired from other providers. Netflix has a clear incentive to create groundbreaking content. If they build remarkable content, then their customers will stay and new ones will join in.
Netflix has every reason to make their user experience better. If their app is easier to use than NBC’s, then Netflix benefits, and they get more viewers, customers, and money.
content-controller

Content Controller
 

Invested content providers who can centralize their content have distinct opportunities from other providers.
They can correct, analyze, and assess their content in a way that others can’t. By centralizing the content, they can see how it’s being used across clients. They can assess questions and their efficacy, they can discover and correct mistakes, and they can evolve content directly.
Providers can manage versions and deployments much more effectively.
Providers can explore possibilities like offering a subject matter expert to multiple clients via online chat or something similar.
More than anything, though, it puts the content provider in a closer relationship with the learner and the customer. Rather than throwing a piece of content to the wind and hoping, the content provider has visibility and a manner in which they can affect the relationship.

Content Controller is the next-generation method of delivering content. It’s the elearning equivalent of what Netflix is to the video industry, and we’d love to talk to you about it. Learn more at the Content Controller web page, and get in touch with us if you have questions.

No Comments | Post a comment »



Back in January, Mike and I sold Rustici Software to a British company called LTG. One thing I “learned” in that process is that recurring revenue is very valuable to a company (or its owners). As a business, we sell several products on term licenses, either through our Cloud offering, which is SaaS, or our on premise products which require term licenses as well. Our recurring revenue and high retention rates meant that LTG had to pay a premium over what they would have for a services business.

Take a look at the impacts of aaS on the valuations of several software businesses.

This valuation premium that SaaS gets can be seen more precisely, when we compare cloud software companies to the more traditional on-premise software providers. SaaS companies get higher valuations at all levels of revenue growth rates. For example, looking at the charts below, the median revenue multiple for on-premise software companies that grew their annual revenue 30-40% is 5.1x, while the same multiple for a SaaS companies that grew revenue at that same 30-40% rate is 9.2x.

From https://blog.intercom.io/a-closer-look-at-saas-valuations/

This group of companies was worth 80% more than their non SaaS brethren.

We’ll talk more about Netflix in a subsequent blog post, but they’re a perfect example of a Content as a Service business from outside the elearning world. And they are recognized for their ability to generate recurring revenue and retain customers.

It’s time for elearning providers to do the same. Find a customer, serve them well, provide updates, control the content. And if they do it well over a period of time, both the company’s revenue and value will rise.

No Comments | Post a comment »



I can’t think of a single LMS that handles language support elegantly. Yes, many of them have a setting whereby a person who speaks another language can reconfigure the interface to reflect their preferred language. But very few LMSs allow a learner to switch the courses offered to them from a default language to their own. Some allow an administrator to make efforts to manage this, but it is incredibly difficult as reports don’t understand that “Basic HR Training (French)” earns the same credit as “Basic HR Training (English)”.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 11.50.30 AM

LMSs often assume that the content itself can handle this, and some pieces of content do. They embed multiple voiceover tracks, or language resources, and allow the learner to make a choice from within each course, switching to their preferred language. But this is hard to do in a single piece of content, and the reality is that almost no content vendors bother.

Truthfully, this is the kind of thing that content providers are better suited to than LMSs and their administrators. Content providers are invested in learners’ ability to grasp the material. Content providers have reason to make their content better than their competitors, whereas LMSs have less incentive to do so.

These are my beliefs:

  • LMSs should not have to understand that different courses in different languages fulfill the same requirement.
  • Learners should be allowed to take their training in the language with which they are most comfortable.
  • Content providers care more about content and its applicability than LMS vendors.
  • Content providers need to be able to use their preferred authoring environments and tools.

We built Content Controller to accommodate these beliefs. When a learner launches a course from their own LMS, Content Controller offers the learner the choice amongst the supported languages for that course. Their LMS knows nothing about the fact that there are multiple supported languages, just that it needs to launch the course.This means that the content provider can create the course using whatever tools they wish. Then, they create an equivalent in Content Controller that relates all the language variations of a course with the respective languages. The learner makes a choice during their initial launch, which can be persisted in the application, and that choice determines which variation of the course is delivered to them. The magic here is the LMS never knows any of this is happening, just that the learner has fulfilled the requirement. Meanwhile, the content provider can guarantee for their customers that their learners are taking courses in the language they understand best.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 11.50.55 AM

This capability in Content Controller has shifted the responsibility for learner-course/language association from the LMS, which never does it well, to the content provider, who has the ability to offer multiple languages of the same course and manage it effectively. Better for the learner, better for the LMS administrator, and better for the content provider.

No Comments | Post a comment »


Older Posts »

Browse Categories

Using the Standards

Tips, tricks and solutions for using SCORM and AICC.

Standards Evolution

Our chronicling and opinion of the evolution of SCORM.

Rustici Software

Stories about who we are and what we're up to.

Products

News about our products. Notifications of new releases and new features.

Ideas and Thoughts

Miscellaneous thoughts and ideas about e-learning, entrepreneurship and whatever else is on our minds.

Software Development

Ideas about software development and how we manage things internally.