What happens after great elearning is done? For many of the world-class instructional designers out there, a common and unfortunately bittersweet realization happens once a course or program is ready. More often than not, it will see no traction from the public. Which leads to disheartening realizations: Why, for example, lesser educational experiences can easily outsell and outperform? The envy won’t last long, though. “Flashy” marketing efforts can only do so much for long-term retention if the learning experience is not on par.
The simple truth of the matter is: It’s not easy to balance high-quality elearning with savvy marketing. But doing a great job on one foothold while disregarding the other one only makes unbalanced efforts moot.
Since 2002, Shevy Levy and Jim Yupangco have steered Lambda Solutions’ mission towards achieving educational and commercial needs simultaneously. In addition to know-how and powerful customizations on open source EdTech, they have also made significant efforts in raising awareness and educating the industry. Ideas that have proven to be a fertile ground of growth and innovation, 18 years still.
As a new decade lunges educators of all stripes into the vast —and vastly competitive space— of online learning, the insights that have led Levy’s customers to success are bracing for even greater challenges. In her vault, a thorough understanding of the corporate learning, top-of-the-line technology with Moodle and analytics at its heart; one of the savviest online marketing teams in the industry, and a touch of artistic sensibility make Levy and Lambda Solutions a force to be reckoned with.
Levy sat down with LMSPulse for an exclusive interview, where she shared about her roots, Lambda’s origins and her evolving “theory of learning,” which informs the company’s latest and upcoming eLearning + eCommerce offerings.
The following is a transcript of Levy’s answers, lightly edited.
An expat ahead of her time
Lambda Solutions was formed in October 2002 by Jim Yupangco and myself. Our combined expertise in delivering online learning solutions, such as Learning Management Systems and analytical reporting technologies, put Lambda Solutions in the ideal position to address the needs of an expanding and under-served corporate elearning market.
Prior to Lambda, I worked on pioneering research at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, applying multimedia tools to the instruction of Mathematics and Physics. This set the foundation for an entrepreneurial career that would take me halfway across the globe to Vancouver. At first, I attended Simon Fraser University, where I would later work as a researcher. I moved on to a position as a Product Lead at Click2Learn. (Eventually acquired by SumTotal.)
Lambda Solutions was established to operate on a B2B SaaS (software-as-a-service) business model. We started by focusing on adapting open source LMS to tackle specific needs of business and corporate contexts. At the time, LMS were meant to address the needs of the education sector. Since then, our field has since expanded and ventured into new markets: Corporate, government, NGOs, Healthcare and more. We consider ourselves pioneers in the transformation of the LMS towards the needs of these new markets. Among other things, we were among the first to integrate analytics reporting and ecommerce to elearning solutions.
A witness at the birth of Computer-Based Training
Long before the internet was launched, distance courses were being offered to provide students with education on particular subjects or skills.The term “elearning” has only been in existence since 1999, when the word was first utilized at a Computer-Based Training systems seminar.
In the UK, the Open University was one of the first to take full advantage of elearning. Their education model has always been focused on learning at a distance. Before the internet, course materials were delivered by post and students engaged in correspondence with tutors via physical mail. The internet enabled Open University to offer a wider range of interactive educational experiences, a faster rate of correspondence with students —via email—, and jump on the digital trend with great and sustained success.
We saw in the Open University several opportunities to move elearning into the corporate space. We were intrigued by the Open Source software concept that in the late 1990s enjoyed a vast popularity in key circles.
Beyond current experiences, we also saw key advantages from open-source technologies. There are 2 key factors that we realized were a perfect fit with the values we wanted Lambda Solutions to deliver, and which we stand by until this day:
Unrestrained innovation: The ability to change, adapt, and evolve at the ever-accelerating pace of technological innovation to provide the most effective learning experience, without having to compromise. Open-source technology achieves this by “opening up the hood” to a global community, for all of us to work on. It engages all of us in the creation of an ever-evolving platform that can adapt to the latest technological breakthroughs as fast as possible.
Unmatched value: Since open-source technology is available without expensive licensing agreements and contracts, it enables us to provide cutting-edge elearning technology while still allowing organizations to do more with their elearning budget.
An expert and reliable team is all you need to tap into the vast pools of Open Source ingenuity!
I would also add a third factor, which is becoming increasingly acknowledged: Big Data Analytics. We are currently set out to create a reporting solution, specifically designed to utilize all the learning data captured by the LMS, with the goal of providing deeper insights into the learning process of every learner. Early on, we have strived to take a more quantitative approach in what remains a mainly qualitative analysis of the factors in learning success. We are proud to say that in many ways this project helped set a tone, a language and a general understanding of what learning analytics are meant to be. It would eventually become our award-winning Lambda Analytics (formerly Zoola), which is now a cornerstone of our elearning solution offerings.
Integrating strategies to achieve educational and commercial goals in tandem: Shevy Levy’s theory of learning
The mission of Lambda Solutions is to transform workplace performance through innovative learning and talent management solutions that inspire, engage, and promote continuous human development.
For many years I witnessed such a vast gap in how organizations succeeded in capturing and retaining their “knowledge capital,” and how they failed to standardize content delivery. I decided that, from the beginning, my vision for Lambda Solutions would focus on addressing that issue: An “end-to-end” software solution that would extend from the confines of the classroom on traditional, brick and mortar settings, to the unlimited space provided by online environments. We would always seek ways to improve the quality of the online learning experience, to equip educators with better visibility into the performance of that experience (in tools as well as skills), and to integrate and standardize the full range of experiences.
To this day, we still seek to bring the best in learning experiences, standing on these two footholds: Strategies and technologies. For corporate learning, the strategy includes retention as well as promotion. For online learning, analytics and even SEO should be taken into consideration. These are only examples. We should always find the best way to tackle the goals from every vertical within one encompassing strategy, supported by the best software available.
Lambda Suite: The next frontier in business elearning
As technology continues to evolve, so too have the scope and needs of the elearning industry. However, even today, most LMS are not designed with the higher-end business concerns at heart.
Seeing that it was next to impossible to find a platform designed to manage, market, and sell “elearning as a business,” we set out to build a solution that would empower organizations to do just that. In the summer of 2019, we released our first version of our purpose-built Lambda Suite, as an all-in-one elearning business solution.
Lambda Suite combines a tailored open source LMS with Lambda Analytics. This enables teams to analyze all learning and business data in the same reports. Furthermore, with fully-integrated ecommerce functionality, Lamba Suite strives to perfect the “all-in-one solution” for any organization looking to build a sustainable elearning business.
Constantly refined to address common challenges and obstacles encountered by elearning businesses, Lambda Suite has been critical for organizations looking to maximize revenue, increase operational efficiency, and above all, deliver the most engaging and effective elearning experiences.
Exciting times to be ahead as an integral elearning innovator
I’ve always been excited to study the inner workings of our clients’ problems, and learner behaviors. I love doing my part in pushing the learning industry to learn more about the factors that affect learning outcomes and student performance; and how to implement analytics, KPIs and other forms of evidence into the improvement of education. I’m also keenly interested in reaching the full potential that analytics and integrated technology promise, so that we can continue to help our clients grow and thrive.
Personally, exciting topics I’ll be watching in the EdTech space are:
Data Interpretation: Computers will soon take care of most statistical analysis tasks, and will start to describe and analyze data to predict future trends in ways we can’t anticipate. Applying theoretical knowledge to numbers, and using human reasoning to infer logic and trends from these data will become a fundamental new form of literacy.
A new “Flipping” of the Classroom: Learners will have more opportunities to learn at different times in different places. Elearning tools will facilitate more opportunities for remote, self-paced learning. Classrooms will be flipped in more ways than one. Today, “Flipped” means the theory is learned outside the classroom, whereas the practical part happens face to face, interactively. This is just the start.
The Democratization of Learning: Learners will be able to modify their learning process with tools they themselves deem necessary. Students will learn through different devices, programs and approaches based on their own preferences. Blended learning, flipped classrooms and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) are important startup components.
Learners will also become more and more involved in forming their own curricula. Maintaining a curriculum that is contemporary, up-to-date and useful is only realistic when professionals, as well as the “youngsters,” are involved. Critical input from students on their learning experiences is a must for an all-embracing study program.
The Gamification of Learning: Proven to increase learner engagement while boosting lesson retention and learning outcomes, technology is just now starting to tap into the full potential that gamification offers. Elearning is particularly well-suited to take advantage of gamified and game-based learning practices, which are just as effective in corporate environments as they are in academic settings. This is an area of true innovation when it comes to evolving the learning process, especially with the emergence of Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies.
Security and privacy of user data: A hot-button topic today, and one I expect to remain as a major issue, as technology forces us to redefine our interpretation of public and private spaces. Privacy and security obviously go hand-in-hand, as without proper security there can be no true privacy for online data.
At Lambda Solutions we’ve made sure to stay at the cutting edge of encryption technology, ahead of the curve with the educational and business intelligence data, and on the loop with privacy compliance regulations.
We have designed Lambda Analytics to be enterprise-ready, with rule-based permission settings that still allow for complete analytical reporting, while preserving users’ privacy rights and making sure that the right data is sent to the right people.