LMS or LXP – Confused?

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In the past few months, pre-pandemic and in our current state, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people on the consumer side (i.e. not suppliers), on what they are seeking in a learning system, often noting the LMS and an LXP.   Some want a hybrid of the two, others want features that they believe may not exist in one system or another.  Some are unaware or unsure of what exists in an LXP, which creates added confusion and leads to the mythical hybrid LMS/LXP.

Sure a vendor can say we are an LXP, but an LMS too or vice versa.  Part of the problem is that many LXPs are adding features to make themselves an LMS, but still pushing the narrative we are not an LMS.   LMS vendors, on the other hand, are adding LXP features, to counter, and in some marketing may note, learning experience blah blah.  

I have seen a few posts on LinkedIn by people calling a learning system – learning software.  No, it is not learning software.  The Sierra Titles of the 90s and early 2000s were learning software offerings.  Who can forget, err remember the “Western Trail” PC version? 

I mention all of this because it adds to the entire quagmire.

At a high level (very high) –  LXPs offer as key components

  • Playlists (some refer to them as channels)
  • Ability to share playlists via social, within the platform to other end users, via e-mail – Some systems you can share specific content within the playlist

Common Playlists

  • User-generated – based on topics/interests and/or skills – most LXPs allow only for one user-generated (i.e. by that end-user) playlist. 
  • Recommended –  Supposedly based on what the end-user is taking and/or completing. Some LXPs require the end-user to complete the content, in order for the algorithm to push out recommended. 
  • Trending or Most Popular –   This is based on all other end-users in the system for that company/business/etc.   i.e. what content is trending or most popular by views (which honestly, shouldn’t be “most popular”, rather it should be listed as “most views”,  – popular is ambiguous with these playlists, because it isn’t necessarily based on ratings from end-users,  or likes/dislikes. 

One vendor Linkedin Learning bases it on everyone in the system, regardless if they work at your place or not.  Excluding them, though, the majority of LXPs it is based on the client’s employees/customers only.

  • Assigned – This is content assigned to the learner by the manager/whomever. The learner must complete all the content in this playlist.   It is not optional. 

Newest Adds

  • Suggested –  This may appear with some LXPs
  • Manager Recommended –  Starting to appear in LXPs,  optional, so many do not turn it on as a default.
  • Other user-generated – This is where you Learner – subscribe -vendors refer to it as “following” – to another end-user’s playlist of content.  
  • Vendor Select –  Only a couple of LXPs have added this option, which are playlists the vendor has put together for end-users to look at and either add to their playlist home screen, or just go into the content.   It is a work in progress.

LXP Commonalities Include

  • Netflix appearance.  It’s everywhere and yet, plenty of them also offer a horizontal old-school hierarchy view – yuck.  Stick with the grid look and the playlist view.
  • UI is very visual and slick.  Modern is the key here.  Fluidity is a necessity
  • Content marketplace/exchange – Multiple off-the-shelf content providers, some are free, most are fee-based.   You, as the client buy the content you want in the LXP for your learners to use.  Most LXPs, you (on the back-end) can see the off-the-shelf content providers in the marketplace and then move forward and choose to put into the system (via free) or buy and then it goes into the system.
  • Skills-Oriented –  Heavy into the skill development and growth aspect. Upskilling is big. Skill Ratings are not universal, but LXPs were the first ones to really utilize them.   The end-user rates their skills BTW, and some systems – not all, allow the manager to view and change the rating, and/or the admin too.  Plenty though, do not.   
  • Job-Role driven.  Personally, I am not a fan of job role driven angles, because when you do so,  you are changing the premise of an LXP which was all about personal and professional development and growth, which uh, doesn’t always synch with their job role.  There isn’t anything wrong with providing content to improve the skills of their role, or offer new skills to move up if they so desire, but the systems should be focused on their initial goal – personal and professional development which still utilizes skill development.    – This i.e. job-role driven – is a new trend happening in the LXP space as a whole.
  • Poor classroom management and event management.  Most systems do not offer these features.  It it slowly starting to change and I suspect most LXPs will have it by the end of 2020. 
  • E-commerce?  If you want e-commerce, an LXP is not for you.  They skew heavily towards employees.  I can count on my two hands the number of LXPs that have built-in e-commerce. 
  • Social – Most have it, but it isn’t anything that hits the WOW factor.  Trust me, I’ve seen better in some LMSs and learning platforms. 
  • Metrics – They offer it, but rarely will it be as robust as an LMS (as a whole).  If you want extensive KPIs, heat maps, data visualization, BI capabilities, an LXP is not for you.  Some are getting better, but they are not there yet. And to be fair, a chunk of LMS vendors aren’t either.  But generally speaking, reporting and metrics tend to favor LMSs, and some learning platforms.

LMS Key Components (Majority of them offer it)

  • Classroom management – including resource mgt, facilities management – CM is for ILT – as in a physical internment.
  • Event management – This is primarily for webinars, but it is also for seminars because it has a calendar, where events can appear on, details of the session, sign-up, waitlist and so forth.
  • Notifications  – Some offer SMS/Text, majority still do not – Event mgt tied to notifications is big.  As well as when someone signs up for a course, a notification goes out.
  • Compliance feature sets – Document management tool, digital signature, workflows, and so forth.  Many systems have at least five compliance features, some have more, and some have zero.  It is a common presumption to think that LMSs were designed for or built for compliance.  That is 100% FALSE.  And most people do not use their LMS for compliance/regulatory.   
  • Social – It is there.  
  • Competencies at some level –  nowadays the term being used is skills development/management – at I say “YEAH”.  Competencies always bothered me, sounds like your deficient at some stage, and who wants to hear that about themselves?
  • Management and Instructor areas and capabilities – Tends to be stronger on the LMS side of the house, especially Instructor.
  • Certification management – i.e. certificates assign to a course, a catalog, some can do multiple catalogs, multiple content.
  • E-commerce

I won’t state that an LMS is job-role driven, nor assigned role driven, because it really comes down to the client, and always has.  I built an LMS in 2000 (never do that), and it was for our customer training.   So, no on job-role, nor role-driven.  

Other systems that I bought, some were for employees, agencies; just as some were for customers and employees (using a multi-tenant), and even for an association.   Some of the content was proprietary, most was not. 

I have always been a believer in having personal and professional development content for my learners, even if a couple of required due to compliance was included. All the content if built, was interactive and engaging. Couldn’t always say that was the case with off-the-shelf.

The key here is “traditional” is a garbage term. 

I once had a five-level LMS with a gallery, library for checking out materials, “lounge” for chat rooms, and group rooms, ‘classrooms’ for instructor led, with a connection to a web conferencing tool for webinars. Oh and the system was in the “cloud”.  The year? 2002.  All skinned including the ‘carpets’ that end-users would see when they entered the system.  

LMS and an LXP similarities (they have these in common, but not necessarily as good versus the other, even within their own markets)

  • Learning and administration environments
  • Mobile 
  • Skills Management
  • Social
  • Off the shelf content marketplaces – More LMSs are starting to have them viewable for their clients, most still follow the “call us, and we will angle”
  • Gamification
  • Manager area
  • Reporting and Analytical data i.e. metric visualization
  • API integration
  • HRIS, HCM, Payroll, Salesforce, SharePoint integration
  • Machine Learning – Sometimes referred by vendors as AI.
  • Skill Gap Analysis – it has existed in LMSs since 2000, they just didn’t refer to it as the term.  Anyway, you can do this in any system out there. 
  • Coaching – LMS leads big here.  But it is not universal.  Some LXPs are trying to close the gap. 
  • Ask an Expert – LMS as a whole leads.
  • Content Curation – LXPs were the first ones to really take it to a new level, curation capabilities that is, LMS vendors are playing catch up, with a few matching and surpassing as we speak, but from the bookmarklet angle for content – LXPs are the leaders here.   Again, not the entirety of either market, as there are plenty in both areas that are poor in content curation.
  • UI/UX – LXPs lead with Netflix, but actually truth be told, the true leader was VLPs (Video learning platforms, specifically MediaCore, who were the first ones to be truly Netflix like-in appearance).  A percentile of LMS vendors are going Netflix in UI as we speak.   On the user experience side, LXPs as a whole lead.   Looking at market comparison to market comparison.   

For example, Absorb, CrossKnowledge, Brightspace and SAP Litmos have very nice UXs, just as EdCast and Learn Amp do on the LXP side.  Cornerstone continues to improve with each new release and depending on what they extract from Saba, could really shake things up a bit. 

Performance Management

It is rearing up once again.  Whenever a vendor tells me they are performance support, I become concerned, especially if they want B2B/Customer training market.   Performance support means performance management, which is employee-focused first and foremost.   If I want performance mgt, I will be an HCM or purchase a PM module.  Learning should be about learning/training.  

On another note, let’s end the term talent management.  Old school and outdated.  Replace with workforce development.  Then you can incorporate that for those who wish into their learning system, and thus it opens up more windows, as they say.  

Think This

If you are playlist driven and want an LMS, they exist out there with playlists. In fact, it is more than common these days.  What is the wild card, is whether they have their algorithm tied to them and what playlists are available. 

User-generated and share with others is available in plenty of LMSs out there, in fact, they were the first ones to offer it, LXPs as a whole have done a better job, but this is because of the topics/interests approach they went.

If an LMS vendor offered the ability for an end-user to pick topics of interests/skill interests, the first time, they logged into the system (which would require the client to have purchased some content in order for any content to appear), and then the learner sees a couple of playlists based on that selection, then you have a whole new ballgame here.

As of now, it is extremely uncommon.

I won’t get into custom domains, SSO (they all do it),  and other specifics, that is for next week’s post with the documents you can download and use. 

When LXPs started to appear they saw themselves as an add-on or bolt-on to an existing learning system, usually an LMS.  This still exists as the primary, but there are plenty who are now focused more on the standalone angle, which explains why they are adding common LMS features. 

If I was buying today, I would go my hub route (which is already in full swing, based on the folks I talk to), whereas I would have my LMS for my B2B/Customer Training, and then get a DLP (Digital Learning Platform – replacement term for an LXP) for my employees, and never use the “assigned learning playlist”.   Then my next spoke would be my cloud based Authoring Tool.

If I am an association, I’d follow the same route because the DLP angle would open up quite a bit.  Then I’d add my SaaS authoring tool (3rd party) as another spoke and so forth. 

By going the hub route with both systems you are now truly establishing a learning ecosystem.  And you may down the road decide to have your own contentplace with the content providers who are pushing their content to your learners on both platforms.  It isn’t that far fetch.

One area that is not mentioned by should, especially during the pandemic, is web conferencing, which folks are now referring to in as vILT (virtual ILT), rather than saying webinars. 

Regardless if it is an LXP or an LMS, 90% can integrate with a web conferencing solution via an API.

But, what many cannot do is extract/push out the data from the web conferencing solution back into the LMS or LXP.   Nor do the majority have an app for that web conferencing tool or vice versa. 

Some systems already have a partnership in place, so they have a preferred web conferencing vendor, and thus a tighter integration.  If you love Zoom, you can find vendors with integrations already with Zoom.

If you are doing a lot of webinars and/or vILT sessions, then ask the learning system vendor who they integrate with, and what data/information can be pulled from the web conferencing solution into their system.

Bottom Line

The duality that is occurring in both markets will not be going away any time soon.  What will make the change will be innovation on each side. 

And content. 

But in the end, something that so many people tend to forget is that regardless of what system you purchase, it is only a system.

The person who will either make it a success or a failure

is you.

E-Learning 24/7

To do a full comparison of LMS to LXP vendors go toFindAnLMS, register (if you have not yet done so), log-in, find and compare.
















  1. This is the most helpful breakdown of the difference between LMS and LXP I’ve read anywhere.

    I think the thing holding most people back from investing in one is not knowing what each is good for.

    I’ve always found, in my experience, that LMS’s are best for the administrator while LXP’s are best for the learner. Do you agree with this distinction?

    1. I don’t. I think it is up to how the client is using the system. I always offered personal and professional development for my learners, even customers. Too many folks use their LMS only for compliance, which no wonder, no one uses it, or when they do – it is just to take the content and never to come back. I’ve seen plenty of LXPs that are underwhelming, just as I have seen in the LMS space. It is like a car. They do similar things – cars that is, but in the end it is how the owner uses the car, that makes the difference. Do I use it as a drag racer on the highways? Or only take it out on Tuesdays with my cats in it?

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