The LMS – Let’s Set The Record Straight

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Deep thinking question. Can you think or name one SaaS or non-SaaS solution where the market for that solution overwhelmingly believes it is only Legacy and thus an antiquated offering best found in the diggings of Troy; or outdated, non-useful because it is called “X” and thus the entire industry of said “X” is therefore not the “latest”; or that the end-user that accesses it, needs this or that, to enhance their experience, and the “Xs” can’t do it; or that “Y” which pitches ABC, but in reality, doesn’t entirely do all that, is still better than “X”?

I thought about it, and my answer was no. I can’t even think of a type of solution that still has a large audience base; a lot of folks love it and support it; it offers, as a whole, a lot of the latest capabilities and technology around it, and can offer a strong UI/UX for the end-user. Not one. I can’t think of a solution that does all that, and yet, continues to get pounded that it is none of that; or that just the name of the type is enough to make people think that it is none of those things. Not one.

Yet here we are. Naysayers continue to pontificate on information that is just wrong. The premise that an LXP, for example, does so much more than an LMS is 100% untrue. LXPs offer assigned learning. They, thus are not learner-centric, the moment the client decides to go assigned learning. If you want to provide only compliance content to your learners, you can. If you want to limit the scope of what they can take and experience, you can. The skills are, overall, not as strong nor advanced, compared to many LMSs in the market. The vast majority of LXPs today are within a learning platform, or an LMS or as an add-on option to either of those offerings. I should add the Learning Platforms is the second biggest segment because a Personal Dev Platform, or Employee Experience Platform, where learning is the core component, is in essence, a learning platform.

Regardless, the number of 100% true LXPs, as they were defined, is minimal in the entire industry of learning systems. The others? Some have a content marketplace; others don’t – but all claim they are an LXP. The core for them is the UI – which is either GRID or Playlist – and thus, they pitch they are an LXP. The funny thing here is that there are all types of learning systems, including LMSs that have that same UI.

Content curation? LMSs (as a whole) have a lot of capabilities around this, and ditto for many learning platforms. LXPs? Minute. Do you want to tap into a bookmark extension and pull down content tied around whatever content you have, OR 100% free? Besides the two original LXPs, I haven’t seen any others in the “we call ourselves an LXP” do it. I have seen a PDP do it and some LMSs. Do you want to find content on the internet and pull it right into your learning system (sans an extension)? I see this more with LMSs and Learning Platforms, than an LXP (again, aside from Degreed, and EdCast – and the latter does a so-so job on it).

Do you want the top level of skills and capabilities in the industry? The most that are out there (I base this on my template, which has more than 100 skill capabilities) is Cornerstone. An LMS. Higher than Degreed, the original LXP. Higher than EdCast. Higher than even Pluralsight, which is, uh, a learning platform. Docebo, an LMS, scores around 62%. Cornerstone, BTW is around 90%. Both are LMSs. Those other LXPs? Not even in the 35% range. Thrive, a former legit LXP, is now an LMS.

The best Learning Platform with a legit LXP in it is probably Juno Journey. They had it early on, and it continues to improve – i.e. the entire system that is, not just the LXP, which is there, does a good job, but the system is designed to go way beyond that. I would even argue that this Learning Platform could easily slide into an LMS. The second who does a solid job and is within an LMS, is Bealink.

Fuse does an outstanding job with bringing in content, free, and using a very cool search capability, has always had this unique UI/UX around communities, which, if they streamlined them down, could go cohorts, and their data visualization rocks. They are a Learning Platform, but again, can easily slide into an LMS (which I think they are, but that’s another story).

LMSs are coming into the market all the time. More in, then less out. If they were dated wonky systems that can’t do as much as an LXP, they wouldn’t be rolling in. I didn’t see one new 100% LXP at LTUK. Nor at DevLearn. The dominant player in each of those shows was an LMS, followed by a learning platform.

In my upcoming NexGen Leader Pack (coming in late July), the majority are LMS vendors.

The Comments

I posted on my LinkedIn Learning thread about this upcoming blog post and one about whether you really needed an LXP, and the comments rolled in. The ones that caught my eye more were the ones that presented such perspectives as (I am paraphrasing these)

  • Learner wants access to content in a moment of need; tailored to them
  • LXPs forced LMSs to upgrade their UI/UX
  • LXP focuses on learners and their continuous development (The LMS doesn’t do this)

These were both fair statements and not the first time, I’ve read such points of view.

Let me address each one

The learner wants access to content in a moment of need, tailored to them

100% agree, but any learning system can do this. Seriously, this comes to whomever bought the system, and how they want to use it. It’s not the system’s fault here. If I want to do assigned learning with specific due dates, I can do in an LXP, Learning Platform, EXP, Talent Dev Platform, PDP, and yes, LMS. If I want to offer my learners to pick the content they are interested in, I can, without assigned learning. My LMS did, back in 2000. And actually, even LMSs, I were aware of, could do the same thing. 100% of online courses were doable and available. As in time of need, this is precisely why an LMS was created. Because, ILT, on-site, was the only way, the main way to learn (excluding the guides nobody read) didn’t and still doesn’t offer that. Web-Based Training – the term coined back then to refer to e-learning which folks now misuse, was all about “just in time learning, ” “learn when I want to learn, 24/7,” “self-paced, not driven by someone else,” “you can re-learn or go back and learn over and over again, as much and as often you want.”

The systems back then, and especially the courses, were effective in instructional design and e-learning developed; thus, you could get really interactive and engaging content if you so choose. Or you could do total static (which I still see a lot of today). As the client, you could choose whether you wanted 100% let folks pick, some assigned, some picked, or all assigned. With any learning system on the market, you can still do this today. And FWIW, the majority of people in white-collar/office professions, access their learning system, outside of the workplace. This isn’t new. It was that way even back in 2000. I think as systems evolve with Gen-AI and the LLM, tailored can get even better – but we are still so very early; any vendor that says “100% we do it,” there are always, “What about this?” LLMs are not perfect. So never assume they are.

LXPs forced LMSs to upgrade their UI/UX

A common conjecture, I often hear. I often see this, whereas with new means better from a UI/UX. A fresh look is always needed, but while it might have a slick UI, the UX may be oversimplified, or ineffective. I saw a system, recently, that had a nice UI, really slick, and they used widgets (not new, BTW, but I digress). They noted that one of the widgets (which can be changed), is in this area. It turns out that they didn’t want to have any blank space, so something had to go there. Now is that effective? To me, no.

LMSs that went to a whole new level

GeoLearning – had a version that, on the user side, enabled you to have, say, not just your logo behind a desk – it was 3D the UI version, but also the carpet (colors all matched yours – now that is white-label). I had 3D desks (for ILT), a gallery (which offered a lot of options), a bookstore (with e-commerce), and two additional levels. If you want to move from one level to another, go via an elevator. So, very cool. I think that is pretty amazing. I owned it in the early 2000s.

Docebo was the first vendor to have the content marketplace visually seen, a very modern UI/UX, one-click buy and go into your system for content/courses – regardless of whether you bought them. This was several years ago.

Litmos, before being acquired by Callidus Cloud, which was acquired by SAP – UI/UX was highly modern. The system took off out of nowhere. With less than five people working there. Feature-rich. Oh, we were talking again several years ago.

The first vendor to have geolocation in their mobile app? ExpertusOne, in 2015. LMS vendor.

And if you want to get more specific about the whole playlist, YouTube or NetFlix-like appearance, and search for video – it was established by a Learning platform – Video Learning Platform – known as MediaCore. Eventually acquired by Workday, and was the core for Workday Learning. Surprise!

As for the LXPs, overall, pushing, LMSs forcing them to have a better UI/UX, I never saw that. Did they push the LMS market as a whole to go with more content curation aspects? Yes, but not every LXP offered that – to the level that a Degreed or EdCast did. The Playlist angle? LinkedIn Learning offered that once they rolled out, they are not an LXP, let alone a good learning platform. HA Plus, their content playlists are not fully aligned to say what the person seeks. I’ve written about that too.

LXPs failed in two areas that a lot of LMSs offered, metrics. They are overwhelmingly poor (out of the box, i.e. comes with the system). You want better with Degreed? Degreed Intelligence is it – and it rocks. EdCast? Domo. Both are additional costs. There were other problems they had, that a large chunk of LMSs didn’t have – one being multiple levels of approval (a nice capability to offer).

LXP focuses on learners and their continuous development (The LMS doesn’t do this)

This ties into another perspective around learner-centric methods and informal. LXPs offer assigned learning, which a chunk of their clients uses. Why you may ask did LXPs add this feature when they pushed the whole learner-centric and informal angle – to offset why you should have an LMS? (ignoring that any LMS can offer and does offer informal learning, and can go learner-centric – if the client wants to do that)

Their clients. And whom did the LXPs target and still do? L&D. Not training. Only L&D, folks who (as a whole), use assigned learning. You see, they had L&D folks who were using an LMS, and using assigned in that, and while they bought into the whole learner-centric, they invariably started to ask for more and more features they had in their learning platform or LMS. Rather than push back against this, LXP vendors capitulated in various ways and capabilities, which is why they became ubiquitous to a learning platform or LMS.

Any learning platform offers continuous development. I do not like the whole “continuous” angle around a job role. Because that job may not be around in a couple of years, OR that person leaves your company and starts a French Fries Sketch Doodle pad. Continuous should be personal and professional development and not just skills tied to job roles, or the “potential opportunity” they may get. The folks who are big fans of personal and professional development are folks with a training background. Again, not all, but it is one of the modality differences compared to L&D. LXPs, as you can quickly see, are all about employees. Yes, you can use it for B2B/customer training, or an association, but how many people do you know, whose background in L&D and thus OD, oversee customer training or association education programs? I never met one. The feature sets heavily zero in on employees, which is fine, but plenty of audience segments are not employees. When I say employees, it’s a white-collar/office workforce. Not blue-collar.

Bottom Line

For those who provided their perspectives, I truly thank you and appreciate them. I understand the reasons behind it, for you only see what you can see, or are aware of, whereas as an analyst, I see just way more, and have been around in the e-learning space, since the early days. Which totally dates me. No, I am not 221, though.

Enlightenment is a multi-way street, and I always love those who say, “What about this or that?”

To me, we can’t learn, unless, well, we learn.

In the end, though, your learning experience can be matched in an LMS, as it can be with a learning platform or any learning system that is out there.

LMSs, though, are not outdated relics. Do some have a UI/UX that rumbles out of the stone ages – sure, but plenty of SaaS offerings do not match up with the coolest new UI/UX out there, and people still use them. Ditto with Learning Platforms. And Ditto with LXPs – regardless if they are standalone, or a part of an LP or LMS.

They often say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

When it comes to your learning, that beauty is being driven, not by the end-user or system type, but by the person overseeing the entire system and/or department.

So, let’s put the blame, where it really belongs.

Because it isn’t the LMS.

It’s to those, who see the beauty of assigned learning, lack of learner-centricity, lack of tailored course/content experiences, and everything else you see as evidence of what is wrong or bad with the LMS.

And who are they?

The same folks who oversee the department/and learning system.

Or as we often refer to in the industry;

The client.

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