Software today offers learning and development (L&D) an increasing number of ways to create, administer, and deliver instruction. In this article I will cover two important types of applications in the software stack that support L&D administrators, trainers, and learners: Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Experience Platforms (abbreviated LEP or LXP).
Learning management system (LMS)
For years, L&D’s principal technology application has been the learning management system. Most users of eLearning are aware of the LMS and its functions, although it may be called a "learning catalog" or other designation. The LMS is all about managing courses, not about actual learning.
The LMS provides a way for training managers, trainers, and organizations to coordinate, deliver, and manage learning. Organizations use LMS tools to develop employee training programs and to manage online learning assignments, as well as course management, certification, compliance training, and testing and assessments.
By encapsulating the learning process in a single platform, an LMS simplifies administration for instructors and learners, reuses digital learning materials to save costs, and creates more engaging courses leading to more participation and knowledge retention.
Unfortunately, an LMS does not help learners with the actual learning experience, including learning that does not take place through non-course solutions, including expert networks, social networking and collaboration, performance support systems, and curated knowledge bases. In order to account for learning that takes place in the variety of sources available, and the ability to create a personal learning path, a different application is needed.
Learning experience platform (LXP)
Today, developers focus learning and performance ecosystems on improving the learner’s experience and learning outcomes using a broad set of tools and platforms. To rectify the shortcomings of the LMS, in the last 10 years another type of software has been added to the L&D administrative stack: the learning experience platform (abbreviated LXP or LEP)
The LXP primarily serves the user of learning resources, including eLearning, video, print materials, and any other resource that employees use for learning. Where the LMS is confined to managing only the resources in the "catalog" and does not support a personalized learning path, the LXP is more flexible.
An LXP is software that helps employees access learning resources (not always eLearning and not always corporate). The LXP sits atop a software stack that supports learning so that no additional assets other than the resources (courseware or content of any kind) itself are needed. In other words, the LXP expands the range of training content to which learners have access. The LXP makes it possible for a user to select, engage with, and document the use of learning materials. As a result, the LXP provides a more personalized experience than a learner would have through an LMS. The LXP may often use artificial intelligence or other digital means to execute this function.
An LXP is not a replacement for an LMS. It is an additional layer in the training technology software stack. The Learning Management System exists below the LXP, as support for learning administration and management.
In some cases, the layers in the stack will not be separately visible. In other cases, the LXP will be independent and integrated with an LMS that an organization purchases separately, before or after the LXP is acquired. In either case, the LXP is there to improve training outcomes by improving the learner experience and providing the learner with choices and features.
LXPs may offer a variety of features that assist users in finding and using training content. An LXP may use artificial intelligence or other methods to suggest content that will be of particular interest to the user. These may include:
- Customized learning paths
- Collaboration with other learners through social integration
- Personalized learning playlists or paths for individuals
- A multimedia library
- AI-driven content recommendations
- User-generated content
- Contextual, on-the-job learning
In many cases, the LXP user will not be aware that the LXP is driven by artificial intelligence.
Choosing your administrative software: Feature sets
Organizations that add an LMS to their software stack increasingly add an LXP. In fact, an increasing number of LMS offerings include LXP features, something worth identifying during your purchasing process. As with other software additions, the best path to choosing the right software for your situation is by consulting online software review sites. Here are sites that can provide substantial help with selecting an LMS or LXP, and that support filtering so you can locate the software that comes closest to the feature set you need.