One of the challenges around designing and managing software for eLearning is the ambiguity in the names we give to categories of software. For example, I recently wrote an article that was about online learning platforms: “digital environments that provide an integrated set of interactive online services and tools for trainers, learners, and their managers.”

My discussion identified types of platforms based on their functions, such as serving as marketplaces, delivery of courses, the types of learning objectives they serve, and how learners and organizations use them. That drove the article toward consideration of utility, creation, and management of learning experience. It's important to note that the term "platform" can vary in meaning and scope depending on the context. Different types of platforms serve different purposes.

That article left out an important functional element—the evaluation of learning and recording of progress. That is the angle of this article: Frameworks and systems that possess certain other characteristics and provide a robust administrative foundation for running software applications, measuring certain activities, and results. For the administratively-oriented concerns, the key qualifications that make an eLearning product qualified for the label of “platform” mainly have to do with completion rates, criterion test scores, and specific learner performance data.

To add somewhat to the uncertainty, note that the names of the various types of administrative learning platforms are the same across all the functional types. The differentiation is in how you use them. You can use each category of learning platform to identify your learning needs and gaps in the skills you want to cover.

Here are the four most common administrative learning platforms and their uses. LMS, LRS, LCMS, and LXP are acronyms related to different types of learning and content management systems. Each serves a distinct purpose in documenting and tracking L&D activity. Here's what each acronym stands for and a brief description of its role:

LMS - Learning Management System

  • A Learning Management System is a software platform used by educational institutions and organizations to manage and deliver educational content and courses online. LMSs provide features for course creation, content management, student enrollment, assessment, and tracking of learner progress. They are often used for structured online learning.

LRS - Learning Record Store

  • A Learning Record Store is a component of the Experience API (xAPI) ecosystem. It is used to store and manage learning data and activity records. LRS systems collect and store data about a learner's interactions with educational content and systems, enabling comprehensive tracking and analysis of learning experiences.
  • LRS is typically used in conjunction with other systems, such as LMSs or LXPs, to capture and analyze learner data in a standardized format.

LCMS - Learning Content Management System

  • A Learning Content Management System is a platform designed specifically for the creation, management, and organization of learning content. LCMSs are often used by instructional designers and content developers to author, store, and update educational materials. They focus on content creation and maintenance.
  • LCMS platforms can be integrated with LMS or LXP systems to deliver and track educational content.

LXP - Learning Experience Platform

  • A Learning Experience Platform is designed to create engaging and personalized learning experiences for users. LXPs often incorporate features like content curation, social learning, and personalization to help learners discover and engage with relevant educational materials. They are more learner-centric and flexible compared to traditional LMSs.
  • LXPs focus on delivering a broader range of learning experiences, including informal and self-directed learning.

The selection of a platform depends on an organization's specific needs and goals for managing and delivering learning content and experiences. Some organizations may choose to integrate multiple systems to create a comprehensive learning ecosystem that meets their requirements.

The four systems just outlined are useful for identifying and documenting skill gaps that have not been addressed. The LMS highlights whether and how thoroughly specific skill gaps have been treated for individual learners and for organizational units. The LRS indicates the skill gaps that learners have treated through individual study and coursework. The LCMS and LXP highlights the skill gaps that have or have not been included in engagement through other learning experiences.

This is significant in planning learning for future skill gaps as they relate to organizational strategy.