In our review of the Thought Industries Enterprise Learning Cloud, we found an excellent external training and extended enterprise LMS solution that’s really a leader in its field. This is a learning platform designed specifically for training external partners, organisation members or customers.
Thought Industries believe their learning management system is the most flexible and integrated training platform targeting external users on the market – and it’s hard to disagree!
Thought Industries Enterprise Learning Cloud includes Panorama, their full multi-tenancy solution, along with a powerful native content authoring tool. This is allied to an effective range of LMS ecommerce options for monetising your learning to suit a multitude of use cases, and an impressive and truly ‘headless LMS’ platform, in which the front-end user experience can be completely rebuilt by the client.
WHO ARE THOUGHT INDUSTRIES AND WHY ARE THEY MAKING SUCH AN IMPACT?
A US company based in Boston, but with a global presence, Thought Industries have a significant footprint in North America and currently have more than 20 customers in EMEA. They are set to grow significantly in this territory as they increase the size of their UK and Ireland based team.
Thought Industries offer an enterprise training platform catering to organisations with high volumes of learners and highly bespoke, segmented audience needs. However, their clients are not only big corporations – for example, they cater to training companies, membership organisations etc.
From the beginning, Thought Industries have designed a platform specifically for external use cases. This is not an internally focused LMS that has then evolved from the internal L&D use case to expand its market and use case appeal. It has been purpose built for external training.
This clear mission focus is proving to be one of their strengths, and Craig Weiss recently voted Thought Industries as the #1 “top learning system for 2023”. They have invested a great deal of effort into a very consultative approach, in order to create the right solutions for their clients from the outset.
It would be fair to say that they might have a very specific small corner of the LMS market, but that they are making a big impact within it.
WHAT’S THEIR TARGET MARKET AND WHO IS THEIR “IDEAL” CUSTOMER?
Thought Industries view their target market as any organisation with an external learning use case, and they believe it’s most suitable for mature organisations that already have a learning platform and are now looking to take their digital learning offer to the next level.
Their product’s typical use case might be delivering training to external organisations (e.g. B2B training companies or charities who train partners or other external agencies), extended enterprise learning (e.g. delivering training to supply chains, customers or partners) or delivering training to external individual users (e.g. B2C training companies or membership organisations).
PANORAMA – A FULL MULTI-TENANT SOLUTION
Thought Industries believe that their platform’s USP is Panorama – their full multi-tenant solution that includes elearning ecommerce to support B2B and B2C. This solution allows for the creation of sub-branded portals for segmenting the user experience and targeting different audiences.
These are really simple to brand and can be easily handled by your learning and development team. It enables full flexibility as a brandable LMS, including custom CSS.
There is no need to stand up multiple instances of the LMS, and indeed there is no limit to the number of Panoramas you can have in one instance. Thought Industries reportedly have one client with 30,000 Panoramas…
There is even the capability for new Panoramas to be automatically spun up on registration. The auto-upload of users and Panoramas can be handled during implementation and then tagging can automate the ongoing content flow into the Panoramas.
CONFIGURABILITY & CUSTOMISATION OF THE USER EXPERIENCE
Thought Industries have produced a platform that offers the versatility of both super flexible configuration for “dummies”, and deep customisation for the more “tech-savvy” using their headless LMS technology powered by Helium.
A common downside for organisations who might otherwise be tempted by the bespoke development and design opportunities of Open Source, is the reliance on the specialist in-house expertise required to achieve this. Thought Industries have cleverly navigated a path around this issue by providing three levels of building blocks:
- Level 1 involves configuring out of the box widgets and can be easily done by a member of your L&D team.
- Level 2 involves tweaking the CSS and is for the slightly more tech-savvy, most likely driven by your IT or marketing team.
- Level 3 uses developers who can develop a fully custom front-end build using the Helium development framework.
We’re tempted to ask the question: Is the sheer power and potential of this the perfect ‘Hybrid’, offering the off the shelf ease of SAAS, combined with the versatility of Open Source?
The platform facilitates two types of learning recommendation:
- a recommendation engine widget that after a short assessment pulls in content based on the answers given, directing users to content that is most appropriate for their needs
- a recommendation engine that is AI driven
Adaptive learning tools can be used to route learners through a learning pathway dependent on their needs, which can be identified through a configurable competency assessment that then recalibrates the learning pathway to target what the learner actually needs to do next.
It utilises gamification in the form of awards, gems, points, CPD, and rolling up to achieve badges, and it integrates with Credly for digital badging. There is also a button to click and share certificates to LinkedIn, providing kudos for learners and free marketing for your training products or programmes!
THE ‘HEADLESS LMS’ – THE FUTURE OF LEARNING PLATFORMS?
So what you might ask, if you don’t know already, is a headless LMS? In the simplest terms, a headless LMS is a learning platform that decouples the front-end presentation layer from the back-end services. For Thought Industries, what this means is that it allows their clients to build their own front-end user experience on top of the foundational LMS solution, and then extend it out to different channels and devices.
Their headless LMS software solution delivers powerful back-end functionality while leaving the front-end display layer completely up to the customer. This enables the customer to gain full control over developing a fully bespoke look and feel, and full control over how, where, and when users access and engage with the experience (enabling omnichannel learning options for learners that aren’t in front of a computer), as well as defining data and content pulled from elsewhere in their ecosystem.
Whilst some LMSs promoting themselves as headless just enable you to detach the back end and develop a custom front-end, Helium is Thought Industries’ developer platform, so customers are actually provided with the framework. Developer skills are needed for this, although if you don’t have them in-house then Thought Industries have a number of verified development partners who can step in and help.
A headless solution has been a big thing in the content management and ecommerce industries for years, but there is now a real feeling that it could be the future of learning platforms as well. Thought Industries certainly think so, and believe the unmatched flexibility of their platform makes it the only true headless LMS on the market.
REALLY IMPRESSIVE IN-BUILT AUTHORING TOOL
We found that the platform had a really impressive and intuitive in-built authoring tool, and according to Thought Industries, some 90%+ of their customers leverage this authoring tool in some capacity.
Your SMEs can create content with no instructional design experience needed, as it is a super-easy tool to use with a WYSIWYG interface. You can create different learning paths and content to support live learning events. Your content can be short form / long form / video / blog, some of it can be made publicly available, some you can gate behind a paywall, and you can plug and play what you want monetised.
We also discovered two massive USPs here. The first is SCORM Connect, which allows an organisation to deliver their own content to a customer’s existing platform (if necessary), but importantly the organisation holds onto their intellectual property rights and benefits from retaining all the reporting analytics. A must for many training companies with clients who already have their own LMS.
The second is SCORM Download, which allows all the content developed with the in-built authoring tool to be exported as SCORM content. This helpfully negates the usual downside of an in-built authoring tool, where content is locked into the incumbent platform and difficult to export should there ever be a commercial need to do so.
It also future proofs your learning content should there be a need to switch platform provider, making Thought Industries a more flexible option, while at the same time showing their confidence in their solution.
In addition to this great set of interactions and features, the authoring tool also boasts some other really nifty features. It provides a mechanism for allocating assignments and providing formative and summative feedback, and there’s also an LTI that can cater for externally procured exams.
Its Workbooks feature is a great way to digitise PDF workbooks, still a staple training resource for so many orgs. They could also be used as a learning log or reflective journal for learners to record their own notes throughout a programme.
Finally, Gallery is a neat social learning feature that could be leveraged for peer-to-peer learning, where cohort participants can post and share their learning and documents. This has great potential uses as a tile-based ‘evidence wall’ or ‘lessons learned’ forum.
Throughout the tool there’s a step-by-step wizard that can guide you through the process (we also noticed this flows all the way through the platform in the Panorama Admin view) and which makes for a great user experience for your Admins or subject matter experts.
POWERFUL ECOMMERCE OPTIONS TO SUIT A MULTITUDE OF USE CASES
Thought Industries have supplied a number of powerful elearning ecommerce options to suit a multitude of use cases, which when combined with their Panorama functionality can provide:
- One-time à la carte payments of one-off products or bundles
- Bulk purchases
- B2C subscriptions and purchases
- B2B subscriptions
- Buying on behalf of users and allocating seats
- Coupon codes for discounting
It can even be configured to provide opportunities for upselling by showing additional associated or related products in your cart at the point of sale.
It also contains some great functionality to help organisations market and monetise their training. It has the ability to allow learners to “preview” content, which can then become gated (for example, when they need to get their certificates), or you’re able to make the intro level free and then gate subsequent content behind a paywall.
This ability to provide access to quality, unlicensed sample material can be a big differentiator to help organisations monetise their offering.
ADMIN AND REPORTING
Lastly, let’s take a quick look at the reporting and admin functionality offered by Thought Industries. On the reporting side it’s powered by the Looker BI engine and contains both pre-built reports plus a powerful reports builder. Admins can set up reports and assign them to users and Panoramas.
From an Admin perspective, there are 6 different standard admin roles, and you can also create custom admin roles, e.g. instructor or SME. There is a full academy and help centre with live “office hours” help when technicians are on standby for Q&A with customers.
They also offer virtual platform training.
It’s exciting to see a learning platform provider that’s growing in the industry not through force of marketing, but through genuine innovation and adding great value to L&D and training providers.
If you’re looking for an external training and extended enterprise LMS to deliver learning beyond the four walls of your company – to partners, organisation members, customers etc – then Thought Industries Enterprise Learning Cloud should absolutely be on your shortlist.
Learn more about this powerful, modern learning platform over on the Thought Industries website.