Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) vs LMSs – What’s the Difference?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a new product category emerge in the HR technology market. With the predicament that learning management systems (LMS) have not been very successful in delivering learning impact, the Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) have emerged to fill a need. However, from corporate L&D’s point of view, these two categories might seem very similar (an interesting observation on that later!). To clear some of the ambiguity, we decided to write up our own view on the differences between the two. We’ll also tie those differences back to potential use cases, depending on the state of your L&D ecosystem.

What is a learning experience platform?

First, however, let’s quickly define what the term means. In our book, LXPs constitute personalised open online environments with the capability to aggregate resources across a variety of sources to facilitate both formal and informal learning. They are also social platforms, leveraging on the employees’ intrinsic motivation and autonomous learning rather than a top-down “push” approach.

How are LXPs different from LMSs?

Although all the definitions of the product categories are slightly ambiguous, there are a few distinguishable key characteristics with the two.

LXP

  • Employee-driven
  • Open system, can accommodate outside resources
  • Personalised, adaptive learning paths powered by recommendation algorithms and AI
  • Enable participation and contribution by employees
  • Often enables curation-focused content strategy

LMS

  • Administration-driven
  • Closed system, difficulties in accommodating outside content
  • Defined, often linear and limited learning paths
  • Managed by the L&D, with little freedom for users to share their own knowledge and expertise
  • Often requires design-heave content strategy

Whereas the real appealing use cases of LMS may be limited to compliance training, LXPs enable a more holistic approach. These platform providers often invest heavily into user experience, which nowadays can be a detrimental factor in adoption. Furthermore, the platforms are much more learner-centric, focusing on the employee’s individual needs and learning requirements. This type of personalisation often helps to engage the users beyond the scope of mandatory training. Finally, LXPs also enable more curation (rather than design) focused approach to content, which enables L&D teams to do more with less.

Are LXPs going to replace LMSs?

Yes and no. While the problems of traditional (low engagement, difficult to manage) LMS systems are clear, they are still going to be around for a while. However, the advent of the LX platforms should be a wake-up call for many professionals. User experience, personalisation and learner-centricity are things that you can’t just brush off. These are, in fact, things that you should require even from your LMS providers.

However, LXPs don’t always allow for crucial things such instructors/trainers/coaches tracking, managing and assessing employees. At the moment, the offering for situations requiring complex set of business rules (certifications, expirations) is not quite there yet (although some companies are coming up with good solutions). Furthermore, as learning is going more into the workflow, it’s questionable whether these types of systems are the best to be deployed at such level.

Thus, the LXP often doesn’t yet replace the LMS but rather works in conjunction with it, e.g. by pulling internal content to the platform and passing on data. Some vendors are adding more LMS like features to their products (which is sometimes ironic, as the data capabilities of these platforms have often been far better than those of LMSs) to overcome the need to run multiple systems. For organisations who are making their first learning technology investments, it might actually make sense to look at some of the LXP providers who also deliver the required features for administering e.g. traditional classroom training activities.

Final thoughts

Overall, the direction of the market is clear. All the vendors have recognised the needs for more open systems and better user experiences. The inertia and the need to integrate with legacy systems will slow down some of the bigger players, whereas totally new entrants are able to develop truly innovative solutions from scratch. Besides the technology aspect, the marketing and sales departments of pretty much every vendor out there have taken up on the language. Unfortunately, we also see many companies who over-promise a fair bit (e.g. by introducing a barebone LMS with modernised UX as an “LXP”). Thus, a potential buyer needs to be careful when evaluating the different offering. So, vet the technologies carefully, and don’t buy all the promises of better tomorrow at face value.

If you think you need help vetting or selecting learning technologies, we are happy to help. Our experience with technology vendors enables us to cut through the clutter and find what works for your organisation. Just contact us here.

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