Ostensibly a power player in the online education game, Litmos comes with its share of challenges, drawbacks, and shortcomings, as well. Between site glitches and a UI that leaves much to be desired, the apps we reviewed were frustrating for users and showed little promise for actually measuring trainees' learning. Check out our screenshots and feedback below.
Litmos is a web-based training system for the development and delivery of training courses. Courses are built by uploading videos, PowerPoint presentations, OpenOffice documents, and other content. Assessments and surveys are added to test knowledge retention and gain feedback.
We found course creation to be simple enough. In-browser survey creation was easy and quick. We were also able to embed multimedia content from other sites. However, the site failed to upload our own videos, and creating a slideshow through the site led to browser crashes and timeouts. Worse yet, adding users to courses was a tedious process that would be completely unusable for training or educational programs with more than 20 users or so.
From the trainee end, user experience was a disaster. Comments from our testers ranges from "lots of ordinary" to "hard to navigate" to "really, really bad." One reviewer said, "This might be the worst UI ever." We can't honestly disagree with any of these comments.
In addition to suffering through the usual navigational site bugs and tedious UI issues that plague newer apps, we couldn't find a way to test trainee knowledge through the site. [UPDATE: Litmos responded that there is a way to test trainees and that "we're approaching our 1 millionth assessment being completed" Ed] In other words, although we could survey those involved in the course, we couldn't designate correct answers or assign grades for individual users, nor could we view individual users' answers to our survey. This is a huge gap in the app suite's capabilities that cripple Litmos' ability to compete in an ever-more-competitive market.
Even the worst interfaces can be excused when innovations or integrations of technology promise to make a product greater than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, though, we couldn't see any evidence of outside-the-box thinking here. Litmos doesn't integrate particularly well with existing online groups or media, and it doesn't allow for easy importation of contacts via email or other social networks, even LinkedIn.
According to the Litmos blog, "People pay a lot of money to go to college, stay in dorms and get into the lifestyle. If students or parents realise that for considerably less money their kids can study online and not really miss out on anything, then the campus could be at risk of becoming obsolete for some faculties."
While we won't argue that college courses cost a lot of money, we also can't vouch for an online app or app suite - especially one with so many readily apparent glitches and omissions - replacing traditional instruction methods any time soon.
And while Litmos modules might someday be able to provide a welcome online companion to standard methods of education, we also know that most online education clearinghouses have their own tested and reliable proprietary systems in place for delivering materials. Litmos needs a major institutional partnership from either a well-known company training its employees or one of the new guard of online, for-profit educational entities if it is to be a major player in this game, and that kind of partnership will not come while so many UI problems still exist within the site.
In the end, many online training modules exist outside the startup realm. Although they may not be particularly innovative, neither is Litmos. And the tried-and-true products will at least work.