There are many choices of software available to support the administration and delivery of online learning. You have surely noticed that many of the offerings refer to themselves as “learning platforms” but you can also see that they are not similar in features or function. In this article, I will give a brief overview of the two most clearly differentiated types of learning platforms: learning management systems (LMS) and learning experience platforms (LxP).

Of the programs referred to as “learning platforms”, these are often actually either an LMS or an LxP, or attempting to be some kind of combination of the two. Some, you will find, are neither. I hope this article will help you to better identify what you are dealing with, and to make the appropriate choice for your situation. The choice may not be “either/or”— you may need both.

What follows will be most useful if you are new to the learning field and its technology support (and the alphabet soup of TLAs—Three-Letter Acronyms—used by experts and vendors) or if you need to explain the terms to someone who is not familiar with them.

I will not include learning content management systems (LCMS), authoring tools, or learning record stores (LRS) in this discussion. The first two are intended to support design and development of instructional content and the LRS is meant to provide a record and to support analysis of the learner’s experience. All three of these categories have been covered in past articles, and will be covered again in the future.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

This is the largest group of “learning platforms". LMS software does all the typical training administration functions in the typical L&D department: enrolling employees in courses, recording attendance, tracking training, and maintaining compliance data including CEU records. LMS software applications include not only employee onboarding, ongoing training, and sales training, but also training for channel partners and customers.

The largest piece of what an LMS does is to provide support for managing compliance training. This is a job that learning management systems have handled for many years; for example, Registrar, which may have been the very first LMS, was around from 1984 until 2000. There are hundreds of LMS products on the market. In spite of perennial rumors that the LMS is an endangered species, it does not seem to be running out of work to do.

Learning Experience Platforms (LxP)

LxPs are relatively new. LxPs curate and aggregate learning content in order to support personalized experience for learners. As more employees are involved in self-directed or self-determined learning, the LxP category is growing in significance and in adoption by organizations.

Important features of LxP software include:

  • Netflix-style user experience (the learner makes the choice of content)
  • Personalized recommendations for courses (AI-based, similar to Amazon and Google)
  • Gamification, including points, badges, and scoreboards
  • Microlearning: videos, flexible course structure
  • Predictive analytics for learners and also for management
  • Integration with collaboration tools, file sharing systems, and document creation software

Key differences between the LMS and LxP

Apart from features, the key difference is the focus of each type of software. In an LMS, the focus is on compliance. There will be an administrator who controls the content (the courses included in the LMS) and produces any required reports for management or external agencies. On the other hand, because so much learning happens on the job or is peer-taught, an LxP has a focus on learning and collaboration, giving control of learning to the learners instead of an administrator. The social component of LxPs further encourages informal learning.

More about learning platforms

On Thursday, July 9, 2020, Steve Foreman will present “An Insider’s View on the Future of Learning Platforms” as part of The Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions Online Conference. Steve will review the present and future capabilities of learning platforms, particularly with regard to the challenges of purchasing one that matches the nature of your online curriculum and your learners.

The Learning Solutions Conference & Expo is the learning and development event that takes ideas beyond theory and puts them into practice, and although it was unable to happen this year, The Learning Guild is bringing a piece of the conference to you online.

The Learning Solutions Online Conference on July 8 & 9 will feature top sessions from the full conference line-up, including Steve’s session. Steve will explore critical industry topics and look at exciting technologies that you can use to boost your performance and propel your professional expertise.

Here is a look at a few of the other session topics that will be covered in this online conference:

  • How games, characters, and storylines can be used to improve learning outcomes
  • How instructional comics can be used for self-paced learning
  • How to streamline your processes for branching scenarios
  • How to create viral learning with design thinking and storytelling

Don’t miss your chance to experience Learning Solutions online! You can register for this online event or get a Learning Guild Online Conference Subscription to access this and all online conferences for the next year, plus much more. If you had registered for Learning Solutions 2020 or Realities360 Conference & Expo, you will be granted free access to this online event.