The Broken Dream – LXP

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Bees. Wasps. Crows. They seem so different (besides scaring the beejeebees out of some folks). Two are insects. One is a bird. Yet, they all three have something in common (excluding fear phobias). Each of them can remember a human face. This means if they see the same human face multiple times, they will remember it. Not just that day, but way past that (far more than some humans I have met). Crows can remember too. Faces. People. Even actions – i.e. garbage truck shows up on this day and on this road.

Pretty amazing for two species that we (those of us who are not Ornithologists and Entomologists) would never assume could exist due to a couple of factors. Lack of awareness, misconception, and misperception. Even now knowing, would you change your behavior upon seeing them (assuming you can’t suffer death or serious injury if a bee or wasp stings you)?

Change is another tenet, not with the above example, but rather with humans. Anyone who has ever provided training at a company or place, where the employees do not fully buy into it, has experienced it first-hand. HR folks experience it when they ask a potential hiree how they handle or can they accept rapid change. If you want to get past the first cut, you say yes. Look today, at the number of folks who still hang onto ILT. They so buy into it, as the best way to learn X or Y, that there is a movement to add synchronous-based learning, back in the day, we referred to SBL as sticking the classroom teaching method online. That is definitely not changing.

What does the above have to do with an LXP, err the LXP sector, well, each of the four tenants presented above is the same four tenets that the LXP space failed to recognize. It was their folly if you will. Yes, LXPs exist today and will exist tomorrow. Yes, there will be many that will refer to themselves as such, and yes, their will be other learning systems that note that they have an LXP in their system. However, it does not mean that the LXP type (in the learning system space) is the same hot commodity it once was.

A Failed Premise

When the LXP market made its official appearance it was supposed to be the game-changer, the learning changer that the learning system was waiting for, the much-needed ooomph to empower learning and create a new existing way to gain learning knowledge. The acronym stood for Learning Experience Platform.

But what exactly was an LXP? What made it so different than anything else existing in the market at that moment? It was clear that buyers didn’t know – which lead to the growth obviously of the space. It was clear that not even LXP vendors (as a whole) knew – which explained why they targeted L&D, ignoring the other monster in the room, training.

On top of all that, the LXP vendors (as a whole) pushed a false pretense that the LXP was vastly different than say an LMS. Was it though really so different?

History Lesson

There were (and still are) LXPs who require the learner to complete the content, course, etc – yet, the whole value and reason for WBT (web-based training, now referred to as e-learning) were to identify what people knew and did not know – by observing virtually (thru analytics/metrics) gaps in their knowledge, and yes, skills. WBT design concept was simple – allow people to choose what they want to learn, whenever and wherever. Eliminate the inherent problems with ILT, which includes people afraid to ask questions, the session driven by the instructor, a step by step even if the learner/trainee has zero interest OR already knows and wants to know a specific section. All of these items are eliminated via asynchronous based learning (which was then and still is the prominent method of learning/training in the corporate market).

Lack of Awareness

The LXP market ignored the industry, not from a hubris standpoint, but rather not studying the history of the learning system space and recognizing pre-existing capabilities that were readily available for decades.

  • Formal vs Informal. LXP vendors loved to push the notion that LMSs (the dominant learning system type) only provided formal learning. The problem? It wasn’t true. First, as every vendor knows, it is how the client uses the system, and not the system itself driving the whole approach. Secondly, many systems in the early 2000s offered groups, chat, discussion boards/forums and other capabilities that are social in nature. They offered informal learning. If you wanted assigned learning, yes, they offered that, but nobody was forced to select only that option. If you wanted self-paced learning, congrats they offered it as well. One of my favorite early vendors was GeoLearning. The system I purchased, had five levels, that could be skinned with my logo, even the carpeting (yes one view, had a virtual appearance). I had a bookstore (aka library) where folks could view, and download courses or other types of content. Chat room? Yes. Groups? Yes. Discussion board/forum? Yes. A museum type of look, whereas we could add sponsors (it was an association), and folks could click the logo and go to the web site of said sponsor. It was a full and robust system, and yes, an LMS.
  • Learner-Centric. Did I mention that learners could select their own courses in a catalog if the client (i.e. buyer) wanted to go that way? And that if the client said folks didn’t have to complete the courses or required to, then uh, that is learner-centric.
  • Premise that LMSs were created for compliance and regulatory only. 100% FALSE. This was a big one for LXP vendors to miss, yet, many pushed this narrative. LMSs were created because people didn’t know what their employees, customers, members, students, hamsters (could be), didn’t know. You chose the courses (i.e. the client). If you wanted the LMS to only offer compliance courses and regulatory, that was/and still is, your choice. There was one, 100% LMS that was only compliance and nothing else. That’s it. One – Cobent. One out of a 500 plus by 2012.
  • Marketplace (i.e. e-learning marketplace or repository for 3rd party content/courses) – they existed back in the early days. As far back as 2000. The difference? You, the person overseeing training or L&D or whatever, had to talk to the salesperson and tell them you needed courses (now often referred to as content) in specific subjects. The vendor may have a partnership already with certain 3rd party publishers and thus, once you purchased, the vendor would just upload the courses, often via a CD or DVD (as technology advanced). Next, you as the buyer could do what you wanted with said courses. If you wanted to purchase 3rd party courses, and eliminate the middle-person i.e. the vendor, you would contact the 3rd party publisher, purchase the courses and seats (you could buy as few or as many as you want) and then the publisher would enable you to download the courses and then you, uploaded them. Hence the benefit of having batch uploading in your learning system.

The first vendor to offer a visual marketplace, by the way, was Docebo. Far before the LXP market ever appeared, let alone existed as a type. With Docebo, you viewed the course, decided if you wanted it, bought it right there without having to talk to the salesperson, clicked and it was in your system. Yes, they were the first.

  • Skills capabilities – Skill gaps have existed in the learning system space since well, the first online LMS ever appeared. And yes for those who used an LMS during the WAN or LAN days, there as well. The difference was that the person overseeing the system -i.e the head of training or L&D or whatever, had to view the metrics – which with some systems could be very segmented and detailed (more so than most systems today) and identify those gaps. You, the buyer would create courses that could focus on one specific topic or skill if you so desired.
  • Micro-Learning. Not a new concept. I was offering this in my learning system in 2002. We didn’t call it micro, we just called it short or mini-modules. Plus, duration is a misnomer. What takes you three minutes, could take me an hour, to retain the information and synthesize it. Duration sounds good because it is the way you learn in school.
  • Lots of content/course options, free and paid. Surprise, that existed in 2002. Again, not visible from a buyer perspective, but you could add free courses/content, and links to sites, in your system, just as you could add your own courses (regardless if you built it yourself OR hired a 3rd party) and could purchase courses to go into your system.

When taken as a whole, it leads to being unaware of the industry, and the market you are going to enter.

What an LXP did offer which was unique was taking all those other bits that already existed and shoving them into one platform. However, there were systems doing all the above, prior. Was it as strong as say an LXP? Well, it depended on the vendor themselves. Skill ratings? Degreed was the first. However, the LXP market as a whole did not roll out with skill ratings.

Playlists – recommended, trending, skill-specific, etc – LXPs rolled them out, again, though not every vendor in the LXP space had all of them at the same time. One could argue that a vendor, a learning platform vendor, LinkedIn Learning was the first to have all those playlist options, just as you could say Degreed too. Very close on either side. The UI/UX Netflix angle wasn’t across the board with the LXP market, and yes, there were learning platforms and LMSs that went GRID too. If you want to look at who really tapped into the Netflix angle first, it was VLPs – Video Learning Platforms. MediaCore’s look was similar to YouTube.

LXPs were not the first with mobile, nor the idea of learner-centric, nor advanced let alone metrics that really told the story of your learning or training. They were not the first to gather the whole spin of learning experiences – that my friend was an LMS in the EdTech space, Blackboard. A learning experience sounds all cool and hip, but it has existed since the first classrooms when you experienced a form of learning on whatever topic. Heck, you could pin it to thousands of years ago, the moment a Human tossed a rock at a Wooly Mammoth and said Mammoth gored them. Then, others in the pack, said you know, a rock isn’t a good idea, let’s go with sharp sticks. Tada – learning experience.

LXPs were not the first to take social to new levels, heck even today it is a mixed bag. Upside Learning’s group look was very similar to LinkedIn. That was again, far before the LXP space.

Misperception and Misconception

There is some weird fascination with people who decide to run with the bulls. The perception perhaps is that this will be a wonderful experience and in some manner of strength. The reality is you could get injured, even severely, or that the animals themselves think this is a rotten idea and see you for what you are, a human bouncy toy.

Misconception, which yes, I know is not the same as misperception could equally apply here because LXPs wrongly assumed that the other learning systems in the market wouldn’t adapt as quickly, let alone adapt in such a manner that it would impact the industry, far greater than one would assume.

From the misconception standpoint, if one understands the whole premise of an LXP, how they sought to differentiate themselves, beyond what was presented earlier, the flaws of what they could be, and now are clear.

The LXPs rolled out, seeing themselves as a bolt-on, i.e. add-on to an existing learning system (most pointed to the LMS). While privately, several acknowledged they wanted to be a standalone for learning, in this instance – a moment of time, they recognized that they were so new, that this add-on was a logical step in the industry.

The misconception for them, started early though, in that they focused solely on the L&D community. The system was tailored for it, so they thought. They perceived that the demand was so great for not just the present, but long-term, that L&D folks would see the pluses compared to say an LMS, and ditch the LMS. The misperception tapped into the whole learner-centric narrative (which has disappeared in marketing for some LXP vendors).

Part of their perception was that their system was tailor-made for very large enterprises. That all of these large enterprises already had at least LMS, if not two. That all of these large enterprises wanted a different way to learn, compared to what they were doing today. However, all of these presumptions were mistaken.

The client drives the system or systems in this case, resulting in a vastly different outcome. Yes, there are a lot of very large enterprises that have multiple systems. But it doesn’t mean that they are using them in the same way, i.e. using the LXP angle of compliance only. An L&D exec I met from a large global bank is a perfect example. They had/have assigned learning. They have compliance courses. And they also have, non-compliance, whereas folks can pick and choose what they want, with zero requirements of completion.

Another L&D exec I know has two systems. One for employees, and yes, one for customers. They are an outlier in the L&D space because overwhelmingly, L&D execs usually do not provide/nor oversee customer education.

There is a misperception that Nostradamus saw the future with his quatrains. The reason for this premise is that those who are strong supporters of the notion, fit the quatrain into their box, sort of a square in a circle attempt succeeding by shoving the square in such a way that it fits the circle.

There are strong supporters still to this day for the LXPs. This post won’t change that. However, when looking at and understanding the initial premise, the focus on the L&D segment only, and an overall lack of specific metrics, one can start to see a different picture if they truly look.

Change

Many moons ago, I had an employee that was a so-so employee. I inherited them when I went to work at a company, and despite numerous offerings to assist, to offer and provide additional training, and then having to start the process of warnings, etc. – they didn’t change. Well, let me say, they changed, but only for a short period of time. The change was great, they started to really excel, but a pattern quickly emerged. Warning – star employee. A few months later, back to their old self.

The workplace is full of such stories, and many of you, again, have first-hand experience with this, and in some instances, not just once. The idea that you can change someone is still IMO debatable because it is never just one change, it involves multiple variables, both seen and unseen. You can coach a player following the exact same processes and methods, and that player may start off well, but at some point, they will either return to their old ways, OR they will excel.

LXPs focused solely on the L&D area. The LXPs (at least the ones I spoke with) never fully understood what the term OD meant and how it was applicable to the way folks in L&D think and perceive. They never really grasp that there is a difference between training and L&D, assuming L&D was it. Nor did they fully get that people have habits, they prefer the same habit, and approach, over and over again, with some buying into “change” and others, not – but saying they can and are.

Excluding outliers in the L&D exec community, the OD background influences (as a whole) the decision-making process. If you as an L&D exec are using your existing learning system (let’s say LMS), heavily around assigned learning, what makes someone believe that by introducing a new type, i.e. LXP, that change to the methodology will exist, long-term? If you focus solely on compliance training content in your other learning system, what makes someone believe that you wouldn’t seek that in this new type of learning system?

If you go solo with an LXP, but believe in assigned learning as the main factor and way you want your employees to learn, what makes someone, assume you will adapt and change to a different way, i.e. self-paced, learner-centric? If you have certain features in your other learning system that you like, but add an LXP, because it is “different and new”, what makes someone believe that you eventually won’t seek out to have those same features or nearly the same for the LXP?

All of these tap into “change” or more specifically the lack thereof.

And it is what I saw early on, that told me, that the LXP was flawed was the moment the LXP industry as a whole added “assigned learning”. It was at that exact moment (okay, shortly thereafter) that the “learner-centric” premise started to disappear at least privately, and in short order for some LXPs publicly – in their marketing.

Take a look some time at the 3rd party content/courses that any LXP offers. How many sell compliance specific-content/courses? Now, if they sell it, and it is offered in the LXP (once you buy it), shouldn’t that tell you, that clearly there is a market for it, and thus, someone, clearly many is buying it? If you see something different, i.e. anti-compliance content, then the system shouldn’t offer any 3rd party publishers that sell it, regardless if it is the entire library or a few courses. But, that isn’t how it works. Because a client, again, a client drives the system. Not the other way around.

If you oversee L&D but want to offer only a pick and choose zero compliance courses, you can. With any learning system, not just an LXP.

A misconception rolled in here, with the notion that other learning systems wouldn’t start adding their own LXP. Thus, it is LXP solo and no one else. Again, flawed. I see quite a few learning systems that say they have an LXP (whether it is an add-on) or part of the system. The problem there is that many of them, have no clue really what constitutes an LXP, so they just say “hey we have a Grid look” and a playlist. Tada! LXP.

Next, you have a consumer market, that still today, generally speaking (again, not everyone) isn’t fully clear on what constitutes an LXP, and what doesn’t.

Take a look at an LRS. The LRS was created initially for the Dept of Defense (USA). Its initial premise, rollout to the learning technology community and thus learning systems is far different than what vendors use it today. The power of it is around content and learner specifically engagement. Tapping into metrics that tell part of the story, that you will want. An LRS is not a BI tool. Yet, as a whole, the consumer market isn’t fully aware, and thus, even if a system offers it, will never mention having an interest in.

What causes that? Well, lack of awareness for one. And secondly, lack of change. If you are happy with what you have in the past, then why change? Even if it offers way more benefit to your learners, and even with your job.

Bottom Line

Perhaps you continue to use pencils. In your drawer somewhere you have a pencil sharpener. They still sell them, and the ones I have seen (thank you, Amazon) are ones you wouldn’t necessarily use in a classroom.

The market is still there. The demand, whatever is left of it, is still there.

You may have been someone who tried out a pen because others went to the pen side. However, for whatever reasons (always variables, and not just one), you returned to your beloved pencil.

John Updike typed all his manuscripts with a typewriter, even though computers were readily available. That was his preference. He knew those computers were there, heck even word processors, but he stayed with the typewriter.

Change is hard to do, and when combined with misperception, misconception, and lack of awareness, will lead any company to flawed results and in some cases, catastrophic failure.

Polaroid learned this. Xerox learned this. And sadly, Digital Equipment Corporation learned it with severe results.

It can happen even with a specific product line or product.

Coca-Cola learned this, with their New Coke fiasco. All four tenants are in play.

There will be LXPs. Today. Tomorrow. Next Year and for the foreseeable future.

At some point, some may refer to themselves as something else, even though privately they may still see themselves as an LXP.

This isn’t a nightmare that the LXP market created for itself. Nor should anyone see it as such.

It is a dream.

Just one,

That didn’t recognize

The four tenets of human nature.

Misperception. Lack of Awareness. Change – lack thereof. Misconception.

E-Learning 24/7

4 comments

  1. Not to be too pedantic but you should know the difference between a “tenet” and a “tenant”. You should be using the former.

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