Learning platforms today provide learning and development (L&D) creators with an increasing number of ways to teach and support people under many circumstances.

Learning management system (LMS)

For years, L&D’s principal technology application was the learning management system (LMS). Most users of eLearning will be aware of the LMS and its function, although it may be styled as a "learning catalog" or other designation. The LMS scheduled, delivered, and tracked learning, but as I said in a previous article, it has a shortcoming. It is all about managing courses—scheduling, delivery, completion, and tracking of courses—not about actual learning. Unfortunately, these key features of an LMS are not relevant for non-course solutions, including microlearning, expert networks, social networking and collaboration, performance support systems, and curated knowledge bases.

To rectify this shortcoming, in the last 10 years, two more types of software have been added to the L&D administrative stack: the learning experience platform (abbreviated LXP or LEP) and the learning record store (LRS). The LRS, like the LMS, is primarily intended to serve the administrator of the learning system; the user may not even be aware of its existence.

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. The LXP primarily serves the user of learning resources, including eLearning, video, print materials, and any other resource that employees use for learning.

Learning experience platforms (LXPs or LEPs) are a relatively new software category. An LXP is software that helps employees access corporate learning resources (again, not always eLearning). The LXP sits atop a set of components (a software stack) that supports learning so that no additional assets other than the resources (courseware 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 your training technology software stack. Below the LXP, the training technology stack has two more support layers. The learning management system (LMS) is the middleware in the stack, as support for learning administration and management. The bottom of the stack is the learning record store (LRS), where learning data is organized and stored.

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 or LRS 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. In many cases, the LXP user will not be aware that the LXP is driven by artificial intelligence.

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

Learning record store (LRS)

The LRS documents the learning assets that an employee has accessed. This is primarily an xAPI application. Using the LRS may provide a variety of features that are useful to the learning system administrator and can also help instructional developers identify areas of a learning resource that give employees trouble (wrong answers, taking longer to respond, etc.) In addition, the LRS makes it possible to document and analyze informal learning, as opposed to the LMS which requires the learning materials to be organized in a specifically structured manner—in other words, formal learning.

An LRS can record activity and collect information from all the media with which the learner interacts, including interaction data with applications, social platforms, other websites, LMS platforms, and talent systems, and produces reports for a broad picture of a user's offline and online activities. This recognizes that learning happens in a variety of situations, not necessarily in eLearning, classrooms, or other formal settings. In most cases, employees will never see the LRS. It is only a repository of data collected during learning. The employee does not access an LRS, unlike an LMS.

The LRS is very flexible and more effective at storing and keeping records than most LMSs. The learning record store stores data about learning experiences from a variety of activity providers, in xAPI format. These include:

  • eLearning courses
  • Websites
  • Games
  • Simulations
  • Quizzes
  • Videos

The LRS is also able to track social learning experiences, which some LMS software cannot do.

Choosing your administrative software

Organizations that add an LMS to their software stack increasingly add an LXP, and many others will add an LRS. 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, LXP, and LRS, and that support filtering so you can locate the software that comes closest to the feature set you need. For learning record store software, there are not yet many offered, so there are practically no reviews online for enterprise application. It is recommended that you refer to the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative site for some guidance.

Capterra: Learning Experience Platforms

Capterra: Learning Management Systems

Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative: Choosing a Learning Record Store (LRS)

SoftwareAdvice: Learning Management Systems (Note: Use the Advisor service)

GetApp: Learning Experience Platforms

GetApp: Learning Management Systems