Learning Experience Platform – WRONG

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I’ll get right to the point.  I totally dislike the term, “learning experience platform”.  It really makes no sense, because anything and everything we do, can turn into a learning experience.  Secondly, it does a major disservice to any platform that is called by that name.

Allow me to elaborate.

I put together a tiny list (three) on learning experiences that I “learned” in just the last week:

  • One of my dogs, Voodoo has “learned” that if he digs a deep hole he will find the gopher tunnel, because he hears them.  Thus, a learning experience
  • I learned that a Doubletree I stayed at in London has a theft problem with people taking bottle openers, which is why I was told, no one has one in their rooms.  A learning experience, was never more present.
  • I learned that my neighbor seems to enjoy parking his cars in front of my trash can on garbage day. Thus, the garbage truck often misses it. If I had super human strength, I’d probably have learned how to pick up his cars and heave them over the hill I live on.  Sadly, I don’t, nevertheless a learning experience.

Now I ask you, would you want your platform to be defined as a learning experience?  Especially, when a buyer really has no clear idea on what this actually means?  I say this in all honesty. Because, I asked others in the L&D space what a learning experience platform meant to them, and each one had no specific response to provide.  Although one said to me, “isn’t it the same as an LMS?”

And here lies the rub, it has some functionality as an LMS, but it is by means, not an LMS.

The name

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this past year, exploring these platforms to get a real sense of what they are and are not.  There are multiple features/functionality that all of them possess, at some level.   Then on top of that, they go a little of this and a little of that way. 

What stands out right away, is that in all of them, engagement is a big driver.  In fact, I’d argue it is the key essential takeaway with each and every one of them.

Thus the appropriate name should be Learning Engagement Platforms.

And therefore going forward, I’m going to reference them as such. 

Before diving into the functionality they all possess,  I’d add a few points:

  • They are ideally suited as a “bolt-on” to an LMS, while they can be a standalone, in nearly all cases the vendors have told me, that the majority of their customers already have an LMS.   There are exceptions, but it is really few and far between.
  • They are a subset, a niche genre of the learning system industry.  The biggest player in the learning system space are LMSs (just an fyi).  
  • They are a growth market segment, but they will need to constantly evolve because the big player, LMSs are starting to add similar functionality to what Learning Engagement Platforms can do.
  • I will be developing and launching an RFI template specifically targeting the learning engagement platform space at the end of Nov.  It will be available for download and free to use.
  • Three of them are in my Top 50 for 2018. They are Learn Amp, Degreed and Grovo. 

The Functionality

Every learning engagement platform (LEP) is about engagement and content.  Content is the queen here, next to the engagement (king).   You need both with an extensive amount of content, constantly being added.  Content can be – video, audio (inc. podcasts), courses, micro-learning courses (a favorite among LEPs), documents, PDFs and various other types of files (depending on the vendor).    

As noted above, micro-learning is utilized or at least pitched often in an LEP. 

What all of them offer in terms of functionality

  • Modern UI –  It is a must.   None of them look like something from the late 90’s or even mid 2000’s.
  • UX driven –  User experience is another must.  This is visible immediately, when a learner sees their content (in an appearance vendors often note as “Netflix” like)
  • Under the “content” on the main learner screen

a. Content currently being taken or required to be taken

b.  Recommended content – can be an aggregator of the entire community and/or of your own company.  Some LEPs allow the administrator the choice of either, some do not.  If it is “not”, it is of the entire community. 

c.  Top content, popular content, something along these lines – A favorite among LEPs.  Again, could be based on the entire community or your own company (depending on vendor).   

d. Content Acquisition –  This is where a couple of vendors in this space differ – as in you buy the platform and they give you their content (you cannot go to a 3rd party and buy directly nor do they offer such an option to you).  As a whole though, LEPs provide you with a wealth, err extensive list of content providers, some are free (i.e. TED), the rest and thus majority are fee based.  An example of fee based is Udemy, which appears in some of the LEPs.  Another name seen is Lynda.com (but not in all of them).  

e. Buying the content, usually can be done within the LEP.  However, taking the courses/content from a third party provider (when fee based), usually occurs on the 3rd party vendor site.  There are exceptions, but when I say exception, I mean minimal.

e.  Extensive – an understatement here – on the amounts of content.  And it is noted in their marketing of the LEP. I mean having a small library isn’t going to fly.  You need a couple hundred at a minimum.  Some pitch “thousands”.  

  • Container is a popular – In essence it is adding pieces of content and making it a learning path.  Some vendors call it by another name, but the format is the same.
  • You can take your pieces of content or modules in a linear format or bounce around (admin selects)
  • Each module contains a listing of “items”.  Again, the vernacular may be different, but they all have the “items” angle as in multiple pieces of content, and yes they can be multiple courses are in the module, per se.  It could be a couple of lessons, micro-learning courses (in some cases, they are listed as chapters), materials, presentations, etc.  Again, the admin decides if you go linear or non-linear (bounce around).    And yeah, you can have assessments here too.
  • Tags and ability to search using “tags”
  • Social at some level.  A few LEPs have a strong social component, others have the moderate, even minimal (as in one). However, no one has hit impressive in the social category, and utilizing the social capabilities of late 2017, nor the soon to be 2018.
  • Links – Link to courses, link to content, link to web sites that have articles of interest, in other words, links.  
  • Topics of Interest – Most have the ability for the end user to list “topics of interest”.   The vernacular here can be different.  Nevertheless, it plays a role in LEPs, because the learner can then have/view courses/content that are in those topics of interest. 
  • Metadata search of content
  • Employee driven system.   Could you do B2B with this?  If your B2B is internal, i.e. franchises, retail locations, that type of scene, then yes.  If it is clients of yours, where you are willing to give them access to content you bought – and thus free to them, then yes.   But you cannot resell the content (although one vendor does offer this as an option – but it is their content (100%) – and it is via a 50/50 revenue split).   That said, these systems are employee oriented. 
  • Skills are presented – with the learner here, and thus content is tied to that
  • Ratings –  could be by stars, thumbs up – Facebook “like”, or other
  • Comments, usually seen when you click the piece of content.   One vendor did not offer the comments option, but as a whole, comments do appear.
  • Mobile responsive and mobile learning –  not everyone has native apps, nor on/off synch (rare), but you can view it on your mobile device.  Which is amazing, since you can view anything on the internet on your mobile device.  Whew, I was worried there for a moment.
  • Sharing of content at some level.  Sharing via social media.  What you (as the receiver) can actually view when you click the link to see the content is another matter, but there is a sharing component here.
  • Categories of content always include sales, compliance or similar nomenclature, customer service, tech, leadership development.
  • Uploading of your own content is a mixed bag.  Some allow it, some don’t.  The same issue with course standards, some allow the ability to upload SCORM courses into the system, others have you link to the SCORM course which is hosted by you somewhere.  Heck, there are those who do not accept any course standard.  If they do accept SCORM reigns supreme. 
  • For the freebie content, it can be viewed within the platform.  TED is a popular one vendors in the LEP space like to note (if they offer it).  One vendor told me that since TED has an open API they can view within the system, whereas with Lynda.com, it has to be on Lynda.com’s site.   Uh, okay.
  • Create your own content – They all offer it at some level.  None of these creator tools are robust authoring tools, so you can stop drooling. 
  • Analytics and Reporting –  In the reporting side, the common approach is downloading the reports and then view them.  Rather than viewing them within the system.  Again, exceptions here. 
  • Gamification –  It’s there.   At what stage, that is open to interpretation.  Seriously, just like the term learning experience – ha, zing!
  • Certificates –  A few allow the option to add your certificates to Linkedin.  I like that, although, I do not see the real value here, unless that certificate is tied to a topic whereas you need to improve your chances for a new gig or entice someone and showcase your level of certificate.  If I have a certificate in bowling, unless I’m about to hit the PBA tour, who cares?  Besides the PBA. And you local bowling buddies.

The players

There are four that really stand out in this space, and I’m going to add a fifth who no doubt will disagree with my assessment that they slide under the learning engagement platform market.  When I say standout, I should say, are solid, with two rising to the cream of the crop.

Here they are in ranked order.

Learn Amp – The best one on the market that no one has heard about it.

Degreed –  The dominator in the space.  Very good LEP.

Grovo –   Well-known and never really defined.  They started out as one thing, switched to another and now full charge ahead.  Good, and yeah, better than Pathgather.

Pathgather –  A platform that generates a lot of interest from potential investors.  Solid, not great.  There are better one out there (see above).  I should add they have changed their model, err approach, multiple times.  From an analyst standpoint that is cause for concern. 

Linkedin Learning –   I’m sliding you folks in this space, based on the functionality as a whole.  I’ve written about Linkedin Learning, here is one review (latest), and an earlier review.   Out of the five here, I’d rank them #5.

Bottom Line

I introduce you ladies and gentlemen, to learning engagement platforms. They are not learning experience, unless that experience explains nothing to me as the buyer, nor consumer of the content.

Engagement on the other hand,

Usually leads to marriage of two parties

Interest and Knowledge Attainment.

Presided over by Content.

Isn’t love grand?

E-Learning 24/7

No blog next week due to Thanksgiving in the U.S.

4 comments

  1. Hi Craig,

    I really appreciate thoughts and agree on terming it as engagement platform!

    Look forward to reading more in coming days from you

    Best Wishes
    Mahesh
    Founder Director – e-Next Solutions Pvt Ltd.

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  2. Great article. Learning engagement is a much more specific term that points to the real functionality of most e-learning platforms out there. They engage their students with interactive programs and quality content that is always being altered and updated, thereby engaging them more and more. Thanks for your clarity and insight on the subject!

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