by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 20 June 2013
E-learning offers convenience, scalability and flexibility. No wonder, then, it has become a popular tool with small businesses to educate their employees and disseminate information. This week, we will review a solution that adds SaaS benefits to this mix. We will review LearnUpon - a cloud-based e-learning solution. In the LearnUpon review, we will look at its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.
The good news is that LearnUpon is backed by substantial experience. Its founders have implemented over 100 Learning Management Systems and have an experience of over 25 years in the industry. "We used that experience to design and develop an easy, streamlined solution that would be highly configurable and one that would meet the wide ranging needs of businesses but you wouldn't need a PhD to be able to work out how to configure various options," says Brendan Noud, co-founder of the solution.
Launched in May last year, LearnUpon has already racked up more than 45 customers across multiple geographies. According to Noud, their customer base is split between first-time users of an LMS to experienced customers frustrated with existing on-premise market solutions. The broad range of their customers expertise is testimony to LearnUpon's usability, says Noud. "While our product is still improving every week with new feature releases, we already feel we are well on our way to achieving our vision of providing an LMS that customers love to use," he says.
LMSes are still substantial investments for small businesses and mid-sized organizations that typically work with financial constraints. Given a choice, they would much rather invest in a face-to-face meeting. Noud says such meetings are not really as effective as they are made out to be. "Our experience is that attendees tend to pay different levels of attention, the message/knowledge delivered by different instructors can vary and the end result is that staff come away with different understandings of a particular topic," he explains. On the other hand, e-learning can ensure consistency through focused content and rigorous testing with sample audiences. The iterative improvements in e-learning can also be leveraged for auditing purposes, according to Noud. "If there is a dispute down the line, at least the company can show that they did everything in their power to ensure staff were properly trained on the matter," he says.
Noud identifies LearnUpon's combination of client portal, course licensing, and eCommerce functionality that distinguish it from other, similar players in the market. This diversity finds reflection in the use cases outlined by Noud: SMBs are using LearnUpon to deliver internal staff training while professional training companies use LearnUpon to sell and manage the delivery of their online courses via LearnUpon's client portal functionality. He says the company has noticed a steady increase in customers rolling out video-based learning that LearnUpon supports. "We expect the popularity of this type of video-based tutorials to continue to increase going forward as companies move away from static materials towards more engaging content," he says.
The e-learning process in LearnUpon begins with branding your portal which can be quickly done by uploading your logo or banner image and selecting your header and navigation colors. Immediately after the portal creation process you can start creating your courses. This can be achieved by quickly importing your existing content, be that PowerPoint, PDF documents, video, audio or SCORM content. LearnUpon also lets you build your own exams and surveys which you can add to your courses as required. You can then either individually create your users or use LearnUpon's csv batch upload process to create them all at once. Once you have your courses and users created you start enrolling them in the courses they need to complete. LearnUpon has the flexibility to allow you to either enroll individual users in courses or alternatively assign courses to groups of users.
At the solution's core, however, lies the course creation feature. Each course is associated with modules and certificates and credits. You can create courses by entering a combination of text, images, and video. One of the more interesting features of the solution relates to its ability to import pre-configured material from existing formats. Thus, you can create your course offline in another format (such as PowerPoint or PDF) and upload it into the system. Building course modules in this manner reduces the development time required for each course. If required, LearnUpon also allows you to configure assignments for each course. The evaluation loop for assignments is closely aligned to real world scenarios with assignments that flow between tutors and learners providing a true blended learning approach.
Knowledge Checks and exams enable you to test students before, during and after completing their course materials. . Each question can be tagged and associated with multiple courses, again, shortening the course development time. Once you have created questions, there are multiple exam options for each user. For example, you can create timed exams or knowledge check tests (which are not counted towards a final credit). You can also set pass marks or configure attempt options.
LearnUpon also allows training companies and course developers to design and sell custom courses on its e-commerce storefront. Thus, if you are an instructional designer or e-learning consultant, you can use LearnUpon to sell or license your courses through your branded LearnUpon portal using PayPal.
There are several reasons to like LearnUpon. Perhaps, the most important one is that it is targeted at multiple and varied use cases. Thus, it is useful whether you are a corporate professional, small business, or simply a training company looking to sell or license your courses. LearnUpon is also easy to use and has a pleasing, tabbed interface. This allows for easy navigation and, also, reduces the need to constantly look at help documentation.
However, I was a bit disappointed at the limited analytics offered by the solution. As someone who has worked in the e-learning industry, I know that e-learning offers a wealth of analytics for corporations. Currently, users can generate six reports from LearnUpon. It might be an idea for the solution's developers to consider extending LearnUpon's capabilities. It is worth mentioning however that the reports offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to running them. They can be run / filtered by group (or groups), one or more courses statuses and also by any of the custom user fields setup on the portal. Also they have plans to introduce an ad-hoc reporting tool later this year.
In addition, LearnUpon's awesome e-commerce capabilities can extend the solution's capabilities. For example, ranking of popular courses will help users simplify their search for appropriate material. In addition, it might help developers with ideas for new courses.
LearnUpon's pricing plan is based on the number of users and client portals required. The higher the number of users / client portals required, the greater the number of features bundled into the pricing, for example LearnUpon's Gold and Platinum plans come with the added benefit of white labelling. There are five pricing tiers in LearnUpon: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Starter with the Starter plan costing $99 per month.
As I mentioned in my introduction, LearnUpon combines the benefits of SaaS pricing with an excellent feature set. I would definitely recommend this solution to potential users.
Ratings: ease of use 5/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 4/5