Instructional designers and their managers, as well as workers who receive training, are already aware of the LMS (learning management system) and how it works. The problem for workers is that the LMS is a closed system or catalog that keeps them on a set pathway, learning track, or curriculum.

A curriculum provides a set of courses with set outcomes, written by an expert and delivered in a formal way, usually with criterion testing to confirm attainment of at least some of the outcomes. This idea of formal learning anchors one view of our practice in L&D.

Personalization is another approach that allows employees to choose their own courses, determine their own paths, and explore new learning goals. The learning experience platform or “LXP” (sometimes abbreviated “LEP” in higher education) offers content intended to support learning more attuned to the way modern learners engage with learning. First popularized by leading industry analyst Josh Bersin, a learning experience platform can be an important component of corporate upskilling by providing an environment where employees can continuously interact with content and each other, one that better encourages learning.

The LMS and the LXP sound a lot alike: both of them distribute learning programs, document progress, record completions and certifications, and support reskilling and new skills. The LXP does not replace the LMS; instead, it expands the range of training content available to employees. This can include a mixture of eLearning developed inside an organization, purchased proprietary content, learner-generated content, and instruction delivered by an instructor in a classroom setting. Content and features in an LXP are organized to give users a more personalized learning experience than what an LMS provides.

Most organizations that purchase an LMS will sooner or later add an LXP to meet learner experience expectations and needs. This means that a typical corporate learning technology suite will often include both an LXP and an LMS in order to catalog and manage the availability of learning materials available to employees. Between the LMS and the LXP, all training and learning—from courses taught in-house by training department instructors or by consultants to external public courses assigned to employees, to MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) courses, to eLearning online, along with professional certifications required by government and professional bodies, and more—will be included, not necessarily by both parts of the suite and not in the same way.

How is an LXP different from an LMS?

As the name says, learning management systems were developed to manage learning, with a focus on tracking and documenting compliance with business rules and government regulations, and on course catalog management. An LMS “pushes” courses to users.

An LXP is a content delivery system that makes content of many kinds (not just courses) easy for users to find and curate, as well as to consume, in order to facilitate valued performance and knowledge. Ease of use is made possible because LXPs are web-based, optimized for use on mobile devices. This is enhanced by incorporation of social media-like features: users can connect with and follow others with similar interests and they can leave comments and likes. LXPs support creating user-generated content that is learning experiences and making them available to other users. An LXP allows users to find courses and other content that they want and to “pull” that content to them.

Here are other features that appear in some LXPs.

Personalized recommendations

Many LXP’s recommend learning content to learners using regular algorithms as well as artificial intelligence (machine learning) algorithms based on user profiles, past searches, and content chosen by other users with similar profiles. This works in a manner familiar to users from shopping and entertainment sites. In addition to AI and algorithms, some LXPs use skill assessments and advanced learner analytics to make optimized recommendations.

Learning paths

LXPs provide curated sets of courses and other learning activities that lead to specific learning goals. Some of these paths may be provided “off-the-shelf” in an LXP; others may be added by LXP administrators or users.

Contextual learning

Some LXPs offer integration with other systems, such as Slack or CRM (customer relationship management) apps. This makes it possible for an LXP to deliver learning content in the workflow where it would provide specific guidance. Sales and sales support are frequent uses of this type of integration. An LMS cannot do this.

And there is more!

Some LXPs provide built-in support for course authoring, along with employee portals, multi-user collaboration, and support for mobile devices. The result is a flexible online service that provides employees with the learning and skill development they want.