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LXP vs LMS: What are the key differences?

First, we had the Learning Management System (LMS) and now we have the Learning Experience Platform (LXP). Both are learning platforms capable of delivering and administering digital learning. The question for organizations is how to distinguish between them and which to adopt for their digital learning programs.

What is an LXP?

With LXPs, the focus is the learning and learner ‘experience’. That experience part has three different aspects.

Firstly, it concentrates on how learners experience the learning they take.  Secondly, it addresses the notion that learning itself needs to be regarded as a continuous experience, and not a single event. Thirdly, the concept of experience applies to the readiness of learners themselves to learn in an LXP environment.

Learning with an LXP mirrors the way we seek out and engage with information in our daily lives: for example, searching the web and using social media and apps. It prioritizes the capacity of learners to seek out information for themselves as and when needed.

LXPs are about collaborative learning and knowledge sharing. LXPs are not prescriptive about the way we learn or how we access our learning. These platforms are about pull rather than push, demand over supply. And they recognize that a lot of effective learning occurs informally, outside traditional areas of learning such as the classroom or the course. LXPs offer a gateway to explore learning, rather than providing a prescriptive dose of it.

What are the main features of an LXP?

LXPs significantly expand the scope of learning platforms, namely:

  • LXPs can curate a wide variety of learning assets across a range of formats.
  • As well as internal digital content from L&D and off-the-shelf, third-party material, LXPs facilitate user-generated content enhancing the range of knowledge capture.
  • LXPs use Google-grade search functions to assist learners in navigating extensive digital resources.
  • The LXP platform uses AI-powered recommender systems to suggest content based on learners’ choices, requirements, and interests.
  • The LXP’s capacity to serve up relevant material delivers personalization of learning, moving away from an inefficient one-size-fits-all approach and replacing it with individualized learning paths.
  • LXPs come with powerful data analytics tools that can be used to identify and address critical skills gaps.
  • LXPs use xAPI to record informal and impromptu learning activities and build a more accurate view of a learner’s learning experience and trajectory.
  • LXP interfaces are intuitive and mirror the way we access and share information online today.

Learning lessons from social media and project management apps, LXPs create collaborative spaces that facilitate knowledge capture and sharing and promote social learning. The open, collaborative spaces offered by LXPs make it easy for learners to generate and upload their own content, capturing their experiences.

LXPs embody a more holistic approach that includes informal as well as formal learning and treats learning as a continuous process. The improves access to content and enhances learner engagement. The LXP increases relevance and accessibility by situating learning and training within the workflow.

What is an LMS?

With an LMS the key word is ‘management’. Learning management systems run, administer, track, and distribute educational content. An LMS makes it easier and more cost-effective to deliver full-length training courses. LMSs are designed to meet the training needs of sizeable cohorts of learners, especially in areas like onboarding and compliance.

What are the main features of an LMS?

LMSs prioritize the administration, management, and implementation of training in these ways:

  • LMSs deliver formal learning content and resources across locations and devices.
  • An LMS facilitates the signup and tracking of learners.
  • Using an LMS, admins in L&D and HR can ensure the regular updating and standardization of core training courses.
  • The LMS’s planning and reporting tools allow the tracking of learner enrolment and completion of learning content.
  • LMSs centralize learning content in a single repository behind a secure sign-in process.
  • With its focus on formal learning, LMS work well in a blended learning solution with instructor-led training.
  • LMSs offer assessment tools that can be used to assess competencies mapped to industry-wide or designated internal standards.

Learning Management Systems have been the go-to solution for the delivery of training to many corporate learners. The key strength of the LMS has been its ability to manage formal training for large groups of learners who needed to be trained to a designated standard. LMSs are used for the efficient planning, roll-out, and reporting of training and ensuring course completion and attainment of required standards or competencies.

LXP vs LMS: The key differences

Upskilling your employees

We can better understand the differences between an LXP and LMS if we contrast how they approach key areas of learning administration and delivery.

1. Main focus

LXP: Learners are facilitated to take control and responsibility of their own learning. Collaboration, self-paced and social learning are encouraged.
Management and L&D determine what content is delivered and how. Learning is mandatory.

2. Learning content

LXP: Personalized learning with access to a variety of digital resources including microlearning. Learning pathways are tied to personal goals and career progression.
Completion of longer form, formal course content with assessment tied to competencies.

3. Direction

LXP: Collaborative approach with learning by doing and on-the-job upskilling.
Clear and structured management of learning with clear learning outcomes.

4. Skills

LXP: Focus on individual goals and upskilling as part of career development.
Emphasis on attainment of standards and competence across a job function.

5. Analytics

LXP: A wider range of data available including feedback on uptake and learner experience providing insights into skills gaps. Facility to gather data on informal or self-directed learning.
LMS: Basic tracking of learner attainment and reporting of completion, progress and assessment data.

6. Approach

LXP: Proactive, agile response based on data analytics to bridge skills gaps.
LMS: Reactive and structured response to established training needs.

Choosing between an LXP and an LMS

The differences between LXPs and LMSs suggest gaps at the heart of Learning Management Systems from the learner’s point of view.

The implementation of an LMS tends to indicate a traditional approach to training increasingly at odds with business practices and needs. It is likely to treat training as a one-off event sealed off from the workflow. Learners sign up for the course, take it and then are considered qualified and done.

But these days we recognize the importance of learning being continuous and adaptable to changing requirements and circumstances. LMSs may make the lives of designers and managers easier, but they don’t necessarily meet the needs of modern learners. For that, we need to add LXPs to the training mix.

Is an LXP better than an LMS?

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LXPs certainly represent a way forward for digital learning. Modern learners and professionals want a say in what and how they learn. They want their learning to be personalized to meet their needs and to allow collaboration with others. They expect to be able to learn on the go on their mobile devices and easily access learning in the working environment.

The LXP responds to the requirements of modern learners by:

  • Being learner-centric and prioritizing the needs of individual learners.
  • Delivering personalized content making learning targeted and relevant.
  • Facilitating microlearning content that can be used as a quick how-to or refresher whenever it’s needed.
  • Enabling access to learning resources on mobile devices just in time.
  • Offering gamified and scenario-based learning.
  • Using evidence-based analytics to provide a range of data that can be used to enhance learner performance.
  • Allowing experienced personnel to share their knowledge by creating their own content.
  • Fostering a culture of learning in the workflow with collaborative spaces and apps.

Can an LXP replace an LMS?

With LXPs on the scene extending the potential of learning platforms is it time to ditch the LMS? The short answer is not necessarily. Instead of regarding the LXP as a replacement for the LMS, it’s worth considering the identifiable differences between the two types of platform as complementary rather than strictly either/or.

LXPs can work with existing LMSs from a technical, logistical, and educational point of view. LXPs can be integrated with existing LMSs, meaning you can retain and operate both in sync.

With the prospect of integration, it becomes less about LXPs replacing LMSs than about making the LMS invisible and enhancing access to it. One way of framing the LXP v LMS debate is to see the LMS as focusing on the back-end and to see the LXP as at the front.

What to look for when buying an LXP

LXPs generally come with a range of features and potential add-ons giving you the flexibility to configure the platform to best suit your organization’s L&D needs.

But there are some fundamental considerations for selecting an LXP:

  • Strong integration potential, especially with any existing LMS
  • Tools that allow deep personalization of content and learning pathways
  • Interface and navigation design that reflects the experience of search engines, social media, wiki sites and apps
  • Ability to use a variety of learning methods including scenario-based and social learning and gamification
  • Wide connectivity especially with mobile devices
  • Social and collaborative learning spaces and apps
  • Built-in AI for notifications, content selection, and recommendations
  • Ability to handle and leverage xAPI statements to gather data on informal learning
  • Data analytic tools to generate customizable reports
  • Specifications that meet your use cases: how a learner will interact with technology and the tools to make it happen.

LXP v LMS: the verdict

An LXP is about improving the learning experience and responding to how today’s learners prefer to learn. LXPs are about engagement. They move learning fully into workflow allowing peer-to-peer training on the job. They’re ideal for soft skills training, such as communications and leadership, as LXPs are designed and operate in a way that encourages the development of those skills. LXPs and make learning immersive, adaptive, and continuous.

But LXPs don’t dispense with the need for formal learning or LMS-delivered full courses and validation and certification. LMSs still offer value in areas like compliance, health and safety, and cybersecurity where there is no margin for individual interpretation and adherence and completion of approved material is mandatory and a legal requirement.

Deciding which is best for your organization

In some ways analyzing the benefits of an LXP or an LMS is a case of selecting horses for courses – and resources. The areas of focus for LXPs and LMSs are both linked and distinct. What’s not in doubt is the LMS’s ability to extend the reach of learning. For that reach to be grasped though requires a sustainable learning environment.

The LXP’s mission to deliver personalized and independent learning can only happen where learners receive the support to mature as learners. It requires the creation of a sustainable learning culture where learning is part of working and the sharing of knowledge and experience is considered best business practice. Then you have the best of both world’s where learning platforms serve both the efficient administration and management of learning and the needs and development of individual learners.

Interested in learning more about whether your organization would benefit more from an LMS or an LXP as your learning platform? Get in touch to talk to our team of L&D experts.

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