When do u buy an LEP?

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LEP is the acronym for an learning engagement platform, which is a subset of a learning system.  Some folks refer to LEP as an LXP, which as noted in a previous post the term “learning experience” does a major disservice to the platforms and what they can do in comparison to an LMS or other types of learning systems. 

Because LEPs are new from the aspect of the public’s awareness, there is a lot of confusion on what they are, why you would want one, what is the pluses and minuses, and so forth. 

LEPs as a whole are not helping.  Some are pushing the narrative that you use only their platform for your learning because an LMS, is outdated, doesn’t do a good job for your employees, is compliance driven and other nonsense. 

In a recent discussion with Degreed and Pathgather execs, I heard similar points on the perceived minuses of an LMS – compliance driven or for compliance (a myth), people want access to content for employee engagement and performance (uh, any course you offer on an LMS, can do that, and if you want to buy 3rd party content you can OR you can get it from the vendor as more are adding marketplaces).   

The discussion noted something pitched as LMS 2.0.  Uh, that term was used about eight years ago,  so perhaps if you are going to use something then it is LMS 12.0 – which I wasn’t aware that we are now comparing LMSs to browser updates.   Regardless of my peeve on such statements, the fact is that LEPs serve a purpose in the e-learning industry.

Before jumping into why you would or wouldn’t want to buy one, please review my previous post on LEPs (as in what they are in terms of functionality, etc.).   Because there are less players compared to the LMS (largest niche in the learning system market),  the market is truly in an infant stage.  With that comes as with anything growing pains.  Folks who would have jumped to build an LMS or a “non-lms” which is an LMS, are eyeing LEPs.   Still when you compare the number of systems entering the market, LMS and similar far outweigh LEPs.   

I do not expect that to change in 2019, but I do anticipate more LEPs than in 2018, with my trendline indicating a range of 25-40 new entrants into the market, not including Performance Management systems reversing – as in adding LEP functionality to compete.  And equally, not including LMS vendors and other types of learning systems adding LEP functionality as well.

Thus, the onus of rapid development is on the LEPs, that which to say is that an LEP must think in terms not of trying to be an LMS (a massive sized market), but to be a stronger product in an inevitable expanding niche.  

Part of the LEP angle is who are they designed for – who is the ideal audience.  Based on discussions with numerous LEP vendors, the overwhelming target audience are

  • CLOs (primary) and L&D folks (more on this in a second)
  • Fortune 500 first and foremost, although there is trend of small business going LEP rather than buying an LMS for example, nevertheless 10,000+, or actually 20,000+ size companies is the ideal
  • Employees –  LEPs are not widely used by a B2B/B2C for providing customers content, regardless if someone is providing consumer training/education.  LEPs are employee driven solutions (what in the industry we would call for “internal”)

What did you not see listed above?  Training professionals, i.e. folks running training departments and the title containing training.   Yes, there are training folks who have LEPs and yes, LEPs will take you (no one is going to say, – you are running a training department, sorry, you can’t buy us), but again, in discussions repeatedly one will hear CLO and L&D.

I heard this multiple times in my call regarding the recent acquisition of Pathgather by Degreed.  It was so noted in the analyst call, that I even brought it up in our chat.  The response was in part tied to how Degreed sees themselves today and where they are continuing to go towards.  More on that shortly as it ties into the LEP market (as in where they fit).  

Before that though, it is clear that there is still a lot of misunderstanding or lack of awareness with the differences of roles of L&D versus training.  It is become so bad, that it is best to address it, so that folks who are not in L&D or training, will understand the differences, that folks who are in each respected area, are fully aware of the differences. 

If I am in L&D, running it or working in it, I…..

  • Likely have a background in organizational development, have experience in OD, might have taken courses in psychology of the workplace, change management, leadership development, knowledge of performance management or similar 
  • Provide and push learning to ensure that my employee understands, learns, retains and expands (hopefully) their skills to do their job better.  It is all about the current job role. 
  • Some only provide compliance training, which you know, will not drive folks repeatedly back into any learning system, regardless if it is an LMS, LEP, etc. 

This is again as a whole in the audience, but the first two points are consistent in the L&D world.  CLOs tend to be L&D folks.  That is an important point here and one where LEPs score high on that understanding.  

CLOs and L&D folks who are thinking outside of the box, are seeing the value in providing personal and professional development to their employees, recognizing (finally), that folks who are happy at their jobs, produce more and are more likely to stay.  This plays well into the LEP role.  And yes, there always have been L&D folks doing that (i.e. personal and professional development), but compared to training folks, the percentile is extremely low (in the past). 

If I am running or working in Training (and the term is used as a Training Department for example), I…

  • Believe that training is different than learning – from the L&D perspective ‘
  • Better suited for B2B/B2C external training (i.e. customers, regardless if it is e-comm or not) than L&D  (as a whole)
  • See my role as to providing training to employees so that they not only will do their job better, but they will acquire skills to go beyond their job, and lead towards either another job in the company (if the opportunity arises) or elsewhere (at a new company)
  • Repeatedly focusing on not only comprehension and retention, but synthesis – again building of new skills, upon previous skills – ever-evolving 
  • Provide personal and professional development courses beyond just leadership and development (again, training folks as a whole, because their are Training folks who do not offer P&D)
  • Not focused on the aspect of performance management,  because – see the earlier points –  performance management is limited – sure we want you to perform better in your job, but we want you to stay with us and we know that research shows that the number one reason folks leave companies is lack of personal and professional development.  Thus we offer courses and content in a wide variety of topics, not just only targeted in some way with your job role. 

It would then seem that LEPs could do well to target folks in training since it aligns to the personal and professional development aspect, yet, overall they do not –  and the reason for doing this is something that is trending with LEPs –

Seeing themselves ideal for employee engagement by way of performance management. Yes, it is the hidden word here – performance management.  But with a twist?  They are going after those CLO’s and L&D folks who have awakened (and I expect comments to disagree with the term – “awakened) to the fact that a happy employee – one who wants to stay (with all things being equal) by offering them personal and professional development that offers the employee the opportunity to select and read content whether it is articles, videos, web pages, online courses, etc. which is tied to their interest.  

It is something anyone regardless of who they are or where they are located in the world, does every day – read, watch, enjoy content that is of interest to them.  If it is of interest, then it is more likely to be retained.  Comprehended and eventually synthesized.  Common characteristics that training folks for decades and BTW one of the key factors on why the e-learning and LMSs were developed in the first place. 

It should be noted here that an LMS and other learning systems can do exactly the same thing, after all it is about the content here which comes from the client, whether they buy it or it is free or they allow their users to access the net at work to add links, read, etc.   

However, because of the rapid increase in the perception that an LMS is only good for compliance (which irks me, BTW), the LEP can offer a complimentary option. 

Degreed has told me that their clients see higher usage of their systems, especially on the return and use it side than LMS, because of the learner-driven aspect of it.  Again, any learning system can achieve this, so the onus on why it isn’t happening at those clients who say it isn’t – with all respect – it is because of you or your role and how you see an LMS or another learning system, in that regard.

Just as micro-learning isn’t new (its been around since e-learning first appeared in the 90’s), so is the case of courses online, no 3rd party course provider has 100% excellent courses.  It is mixed.  Just like you going to the grocery store to buy apples.  Some are nice and crisp, others have bruises and look as though they were used for food fights before arriving at your market. 

LEPs are

Best as an add-on to your learning system, whether it is an LMS or other type. It can be the front face to it, an integration to it, bouncing between the two, a bolt-on,  and so forth. 

Can it be your only learning system?  Sure. But they lack many of the standard functionality of an LMS (see standard functionality).   

Not all LEPs enable you to upload your own content – thankfully that is changing, but it should be identified.  Pathgather does not for example.  While the majority offer you the opportunity to access free content (including TED for example), buy content from 3rd party providers (as in “fee-based partnerships) within the LEP, and offer the ability to surf the net to read articles, watch videos and so on, it is not 100% across the space (i.e. everyone). 

LinkedIn Learning which straddles the fence between an LEP and a LMS, but seems more leaning towards an LEP (IMO), doesn’t allow you to upload your own content, nor select from a variety of 3rd party providers – it is Lynda.com content that comes with the system. 

Digital badging is a new trend in the LEP space, and it is not the gamification badging angle either.   Think of a digital badge as a micro-credential for completion of some course or courses depending on the topic.  I’m not referring to compliance content either.  Micro-credentialing is not new, but it is new in the online learning world. 

The key of a digital badge is what type is it.  That is to say, a digital badge from a university or an organization with recognition of value, such as acquiring a Microsoft certification digital badge is worth more to an employee then getting one from LinkedIn Learning, Degreed or some other vendor’s LEP, especially if it is going to be placed on their online resume or LinkedIn profile. 

Toolwire, the makers of TILE, I often cite because they have a partnership with Boston University School of Business.  When an employee completes a course (there are seven or eight) from BU School of Business, they get a digital badge which shows it is from said instution.  They can place this in the LinkedIn profile. 

Now, if I am looking to hire someone, who is seeking a gig in project management, and I see they have a digital badge, a micro-credential from BU School of Business, it will mean more to me – as a hiring manager, than one from some system, I may never heard of?   It is the same angle in terms of say being certified for XYZ from Microsoft  What would mean more?  A digital badge from Microsoft with XYZ or one from Blue Bird system?   

What can you expect to see from LEPs in the next year

Skiil ratings, whereas the learner rates their skill or skills on X, and then the manager can review (or the admin) to verify it is accurate.  From this you can utilize it for coaching/mentoring, but more importantly, tying it to performance management, a company could identify job opportunities within the company, who need those skill sets or a high number of them.  

The best way to do this?  Tie the LEP to the HRIS system, for quick integration between the two, whereas internal jobs can be seen and folks can apply thru the LEP (I expect to see this more in 2019).   

As with anything, there are companies who create red tape within the organization, so that it is difficult for the employee to seek a new job or job role within the company, and there are managers who for fear of losing them, will lack the desire of approving them (if the company uses this process) to apply for another job outside of their current role – as in you are in HR and want to get a job in IT.  The manager might approve you applying for another in HR, but IT?  That’s another story. 

And that is where the challenge will come with this.  Secondly, tied to skill ratings only works,  if everything is equal, so if my job requires these 10 skills and you have all 10 or nine of them, that doesn’t mean you will get the gig, rather it should mean you are in the selected pool for consideration – and there has to be buy-in from HR and the hiring managers in those departments.  Not an easy thing to do, especially in a Fortune 500 company.  As anyone will tell you. 

Digital badging will be on the rise.    Better data – more data – expect to see that capability in LEPS – in fact, I’d argue that a power for LEPs could be an expansion and high amount of data that is visible to the admin, than say most LMSs.   The best way to achieve this is to use/have an LRS within the LEP.   

It is interesting to hear LEP vendors note that the data is the way to show learning tied to business goals and thus results.   I say this, because IOL (Impact of Learning) which has been around for more than 20 years, and used in training (I used it myself as my key metric) does the same thing – as anyone who works in Training and/or L&D will tell, showing ROI is a form of a hocus-pocus.  Hard to define, so we are use to puling the cause and effect method as the way to validate. 

IOL on the other hand works, not from cause and effect (which does not exist – it is never a one to one relationship of validation), but from tying it to business goals and results of the company to that training. 

Bottom Line

In my 2018 Top 50 Learning Systems, four LEPs debuted – Learn Amp (#8),  Degreed (Top 20), Toolwire Top 20) and Pathgather.  Based on what I am seeing in the market, I can stated that is it highly likely to see at least six appear for 2019.

An LEP will not serve everyone, nor should it.  An LEP is not designed nor made to be used by higher education for example, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t try it.  

LMS vendors are adding more LEP capabilities, but they face a challenge in having L&D folks and especially CLOs (which I tend to find more with a traditional perspective – and I see slightly that changing), seeing an LMS as just a job role solution and have zero interest in personal and professional development. 

That said, there are plenty of employees to go around.  One interesting item to note, is the trend towards the number of LEPs in a company.  While is it common in F500 companies to have multiple LMSs, it is not common to have multiple LEPs.  Usually it is one LEP to multiple systems. 

Secondly, as of right now, loyalty with an LEP is higher than an LMS (on the whole).   This is an important trend, that should not be ignored. 

If I am an LMS vendor I should ask myself why is that?   Is it because LEPs have better support than an LMS? There is no indication of that – good and bad exists everywhere. 

I am a proponent of LEPs.  Especially when tied to an LMS or another type of learning system.  Especially if your LMS does not offer a course marketplace and extensions to other SaaS platforms in and out of training and learning. 

If they do, then an LEP has two options – one to try to be an LMS – a mistake iMO or two – continue to evolve. 

Not as LMS 2.0

Rather as 

NexGen LEP. 

E-Learning 24/7

Note: Degreed has stated that they plan to support Pathgather customers thru 2019. If you are still interested in Pathgather now, I strongly recommend you just focus on Degreed, since at some point in 2019 you will be migrated over to Degreed.  You can expect to see a new UI/UX in Degreed due to the acquisition of Pathgather.  This is noted, because one of the reasons folks pick Pathgather over Degreed is the UI/UX. 





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