16 Months of Social Learning Platform Insanity: A Recap

My, how times have changed. Two years ago, people were scoffing at the term social learning. Three years ago, social learning was solely for the nerds like me, whereas four years ago it was a term used solely in academic circles. But during the past year and a half or so, social learning has become cotton candy at the fair. Everybody wants some.

In particular, there has been a fair amount of shuffling, repositioning, flanking and acquiring going on in the vendor space as it relates to our fluffy, sugary snack known as social learning. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to recap and provide some analysis on a few of the notable moves.

  • SuccessFactors (SF) buys Jambok, SAP buys SuccessFactors
    • If the SF move to buy Jambok didn’t start the “what’s my strategy” drumbeat in early 2011, the SAP move to buy SF was a full-on drum roll in late 2011.
    • It’s no secret the SAP LMS system needs a fair bit of TLC and I fully expect the SF product stack to find its way into a new and improved SAP LMS, although I suspect it will become more of a true social collaboration platform (on the cloud) for SAP customers.
    • SAP has other opportunities to beef up its social learning story including, but not limited to, Streamwork.
  • Taleo buys Learn.com, Oracle buys Taleo
    • Learn.com was a big boost to the product stack of Taleo by way of the Taleo acquisition move in late 2010, but that boost didn’t last long because just more than a year later, Oracle took a look at its horrendous LMS, talent management and social learning story and bought Taleo in February 2012.
    • Some may argue it’s a defensive play against SAP; that may be true, but I suspect it has more to do with Salesforce and wanting to get properly aligned to the budding cloud strategy on all things talent and human capital.
    • Yes, I believe Rypple was but one acquisition by Salesforce and I fully expect them to take a run at other social learning entities by the end of 2012.
  • SkillSoft re-releases SkillPort with inGenius
    • One of the dark horse social learning platforms out there is SkillSoft and its SkillPort cloud-based LMS. The latest enhancements come in the form of inGenius, a social feature previously found only within its Books 24×7 service.
    • inGenius, as it should, permits users to rank, comment, follow, search and generally interact in the social sphere of usage. Cloud-based LMS with social features? Hello Salesforce?
  • Saba, the “people cloud” company, upgrades and acquires
    • Not to be outdone in the acquisition frenzy, Saba CEO Bobby Yazdani recently purchased HumanConcepts, an organizational modeling and visualization company.
    • You’re asking yourself, “what does this have to do with social learning” right about now, but my bet is that Saba’s social learning story will be improved by the visualization component immensely. Imagine the semantic layer of social learning for a second displayed with out-of-this-world (and collaborative) visuals … all on its new People Cloud? Scrumptious cotton candy indeed. (Oh, and hello Salesforce?)
  • And what is going on at Blackboard and Desire2Learn?
    • First, Blackboard not only begins acquiring companies like Moodlerooms and NetSpot to keep its feet firmly planted in the academic vertical, but it also doubles down on the corporate sector by a) improving its social learning feature set and b) partnering with … you got it, Salesforce to launch Blackboard Learn – an integrated Blackboard social LMS experience into the Salesforce experience.
    • Not to be outdone, Desire2Learn not only completely updated its platform to become a true social learning engine (including integration with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn), but it also recently hired Dennis Kavelman as COO to complement visionary CEO John Baker. This Canadian outfit is one to watch in the social learning space.

There are others I’m watching as well, but I’ll save those thoughts for another trip to the cotton candy counter.

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