Learning Management Systems Market Research Project 2010
You are a startup company looking for an online training system. Naturally you will research and explore many learning system vendors, collecting information, notes, demos, screen shots, sales collateral and expertise concerning as many vendors as possible.
You and a handful of recent OU grads – sports nuts of course - decided to get together and start an online service to educate, support, and certify volunteer coaches for baseball and football. Your target is little league and Pop Warner types. Other sports may come later. You call the project “MyCoachingClinic.com”. It is not directly affiliated with the University but all the partners are already OU grads except you.
You are the point person for the project, the other guys trust you to find and arrange for a good cost-effective training system. You have used Blackboard at OU, but you realize that is not a good solution for what you need. You want to make sure your training system handles videos, because you plan to involve local college and high school coaches in providing content. You also want it to be easy to use for building courses, to provide for online tests, and to allow the learner to print a certificate when he completes a course.
Your team has discussed budget, but not established any firm numbers. One of the guys has a funding source, and you expect to be able to put perhaps 10 or 12 thousand dollars towards the online training project. You might get a grant and a partnership with the athletic department, but that is unknown. Another guy in the group has a masters in coaching from OU (there is such a thing -- see ) and he will provide expertise.
Set up a Gmail account like . Go to the web site (your MCC web site) and build some content using the provided tools. Just borrow and paraphrase some stuff from sites like and build 4-5 web pages. Make sure it has the “Coming Soon: Online Training” in at least 2-3 places. It should be made to look like a startup company’s web site. You can “borrow” pictures from any site since you won’t be around that long. You should spend 30-40 hours on this – do a thorough job and it use all the tools.
Now you have a solid background story and a startup web site. And you are on the hunt for a simple, easy-to-use online training system. You might have your own server and you might want to use someone else’s. You might want to pay up front, or you might want to pay a monthly fee. Your mind is open to ideas from learning system providers.
The mission is to obtain as much information as possible about the sales methods, techniques, strengths, weaknesses, product features, and pricing for a number of training software vendors. The process for doing this is outlined below.
1. Fill out web forms for as many providers as possible, stretched out over time. If you fill out 20 forms in one day, they will all call you back at once and a train wreck will ensue. Try doing 3-4 forms a week. Most will call you back on your cell, I expect. People who only contact you by e-mail would be oddballs, and that would be something you would note (see Data Collection below).
2. When contacted, have a conversation with the company’s rep about what your needs are (summarized above) and the background story of your startup company. A pushy rep will ask a lot of questions about who you are (and this should be noted), but there should be no need to go beyond the background above.
1. Make a note of how long it took them to call and what questions they asked. How aggressive and what kind of sales process do they use? (Some lame rep may send you a URL to a canned demo and tell you to call him if you have any questions). Also note what he suggests as the next step – do a demo, talk to your whole team (no, thanks), walk through a questionnaire with you, etc. Most will want to mail you something, usually by e-mail. Collect all the emails and material they send. Some vendors will not bother with you because you are not a big company – so what. Any further conversations or demos should be scheduled at your convenience, not his.
2. Note answers to questions like “do they offer a hosted version and a subscription service?”. Is there a fee every year or just one time? How much for 1000 users? 250? Who is there typical customer? Consultants? Government? Schools? Corporations? How do you build courses in their system? What does it look like?
3. Even if you quit there and put everything in a binder with a tab for each vendor, you would have something of value. But you can go one step farter – do the demo with him. The demo might be using a web site, or using Webex or GoToMeeting. Make note of how a demo is done and ask good questions. Afterward, ask for a proposal to be emailed to you, or a detailed list of features, or whatever they have available. Even better, ask for an 7-day trial – if they are willing - and then go in and print off lots of screens. This is a gold mine.
4. You might have to fill out 20 forms to get 10 calls back and to get 3 demos and 2 trials, Who knows? Start with a good list of vendors and avoid free stuff like “Moodle”. Use Google and/or Bing to search for terms like Learning Management System or “training system” or “e-learning software” to find vendors.
Besides what you get from Google, be sure to hit:
As you go, adjust the number of vendors you are working with. If you are getting lots of activity, stop filling out forms. If most vendors are giving up without working with you, find more vendors fill out more forms. Adjust the scope to fit your available time. Try not to be right in the middle of a whole bunch of things when summer ends.
At the end of the summer, we should have a big fact binder with a good collection of info on how other vendors are doing business, as far as responses, sales process, pricing, features, and product appearance. And let’s use a new cell phone so you won’t have to worry about some corporate nitwit calling you during class to ask if your project is still “on hold”.
1. Get supplies.
I will send you a prepaid cell phone, a printer, some inks, and paper. You should be able to get an Ohio area code for the cell, so it looks normal to the caller.
2. Build the MCC web site. I registered the domain name MyCoachingClinic.com at a web hosting site called SiteGround. They do their sites in a toolset called Joomla, which allows us to use Joomla to easily build a web site (or so they say). You will get some good experience using the Joomla tools.
To work on the web site:
The web site has a “panel” of tools that let you create pieces of the web site without coding. Make sure you go through all the tools and helps, and understand them.