If you’re unfamiliar with the learning technology market, one trend that you should know is that the market has evolved into two distinct segments – the first segment is the traditional Learning Management System (LMS.)
An LMS in its most basic form allows administrators to create assignments, deliver training, track completion of training, and quickly and easily report over who has completed training.
The other segment – a more recent market entry that is gaining popularity is called a Learning Experience Platform, or LXP. This platform typically consolidates diverse learning resources into a single platform, designed to improve learner engagement.
Much like Netflix or YouTube feeds auto-populate based on viewer behavior, many LXPs have algorithms designed to keep learners engaged by constantly providing easy-access to compelling content.
Understanding the Benefits of Using an LMS
An LMS begins and ends with the administrator: training typically starts when an administrator identifies training to complete, and assigns it to a learner.
This is called prescriptive learning, meaning that training is prescribed, or assigned to the learner. This is also commonly referred to as “push” learning, as we are pushing the training to the learners.
Most employees are familiar with prescriptive learning – assigning homework in school is prescriptive learning, so most employees understand their expectations when interacting with prescribed learning.
This level of customization and control offers an array of important benefits for administrators. First, for many certifications, or compliance regulations, auditing and reporting are instrumental to stay up-to-date.
Proving compliance with government regulations or private/professional certifications is one of the best use cases for an LMS.
A BizLibrary client, PV Fluid Products demonstrates this use case in a real-world application.
Following an initial audit, and without an LMS, the company realized they only had training records to prove about 30% of their workforce was compliant with various industry regulations.
After partnering with BizLibrary, the company was able to assign compliance training to their entire workforce.
Suddenly, the team’s administrators were able to see who had completed training, and who still needed to complete their training. When the next audit came up, the company was able to easily generate training records, and within three months, 86% of the workforce was within compliance standards.
This demonstrates the key benefits of a learning management system: assigning, delivering, tracking, and reporting on training is simple and reliable.
That’s not to say that using an LMS doesn’t come without challenges.
Out-of-the-box, an LMS is a closed system, meaning that it doesn’t always integrate with outside tools.
This means that learning is mostly restricted to content that exists within the system – with many LMS vendors, this means working with a third party to purchase and upload content, although some companies, including BizLibrary, bundle content with their learning platform.
Finally, while an LMS is a great tool to ensure compliance when employees feel overburdened or burned out from compliance training, they may begin to see the LMS as a vehicle that delivers chores. When learning becomes a chore, you risk losing employee interest, and thus engagement with your learning program.
One important benefit of dedicating company resources and time to your training program is the implementation of a learning culture.
Training Industry writes that “An organization with a learning culture encourages continuous learning and believes that systems influence each other. Since constant learning elevates an individual as a worker and as a person, it opens opportunities for the establishment to transform continuously for the better.”
In other words, a learning culture implements a self-sustaining ecosystem, wherein organizations enjoy continuous improvement because each member of that organization is continuously improving their own skills.
When learners begin to feel that learning is a chore, however, the culture you are working to achieve becomes threatened, and the momentum you’ve gained will eventually dissipate. Therefore, it’s important to keep learning fresh, and learners engaged.
One of the best strategies to accomplish this is to improve the learning experience, which leads us to the LXP.
Understanding the Benefits of Using an LXP
While an LMS is administrator-driven, an LXP is typically user-driven. That puts control of the learning experience squarely in the hands of the learner, but a good LXP uses strong user interface design to influence user behavior.
While an LMS pushes content to learners, an LXP pulls learners in through good user interface design, user experience, and engaging content.
Going back to the academic analogy, if an LMS delivers core classes to learners, an LXP is where a learner goes for their electives.
Consider how YouTube influences users to watch more content (and thus, more advertisement):
As proponents of continuous learning here at BizLibrary, we’re big fans of TED talks, and for that reason, many of us see our YouTube populated with TED talks.
This is the first way that YouTube engages us through the user-interface: the system knows that we enjoy TED talks, and thus recommends more and more TED talks for us.
Additionally, the sidebar contains a playlist of other, similar TED talks that YouTube thinks we’ll enjoy.
This user experience keeps us engaged, and by the time we make it to the end of the playlist, we’ll have learned a few new skills and have key takeaways to apply to our day-to-day.
Coincidentally, YouTube serves as proof that learners are seeking out compelling learning content: according to data from Think with Google, “how-to” videos are the fourth most popular content category on the entire platform.
YouTube also has a “save” feature, meaning that even if we don’t have time immediately to watch this TED talk, when we save it, we can easily return to the learning at a central hub. We can even build a queue of videos to watch!
Learning experience platforms are often modeled after these consumer-level products, giving a sense of familiarity to learners, while making learning more engaging.
Here are a few other features that modern LXPs use to engage learners:
Recommended Content Based on User Data
Many LXPs have algorithms that categorize content users interact with, and identify content learners will most likely enjoy. Here’s an example of how BizLibrary’s recommendation engine populates content dynamically for users:
This BizLibrary user now sees recommended content auto-populated on their homepage!
Playlists That Build on Previous Knowledge
Playlists are a staple of an engaging user experience design: a strong LXP experience offers playlist support by allowing both users and administrators to design playlists that correlate for a given topic, skill, or list of favorites.
Here is one of BizLibrary’s Featured Playlists – designed to help new managers gain confidence and usable knowledge when they step into their first management role:
At their best, a good playlist offers structure to learners, meaning that when they’re ready to learn a new skill or get a refresher, they won’t have to guess what important lessons they need to learn.
For administrators, a playlist like this one offers a chance to craft the management experience, giving your organization an opportunity to design managers around your company’s management needs.
Increase Learner Engagement Through Social Interaction
Another option offered by many LXPs is increased social interaction – playlists that can be shared within an organization, content that can be easily shared with peers, and even features like gamification that extend the learning process beyond an individual and into a team are imperative to social learning experiences.
One of the best ways to pull learners into a system is to throw down a challenge.
Dale Carnegie, author of the timeless book How to Win Friends and Influence People outlines 30 principles for how to influence people – #12? When all else fails, lay down a challenge.
Incorporating point systems, badges, and leaderboards that demonstrate learners’ success is a friendly way to drive engagement, enthusiasm, and growth within your learning program and your workplace.
Ok, So Now What? Which Platform Is Right for My Organization?
Because both platforms – the LMS and the LXP—have their important uses, it can be tough to decide which platform you should pursue.
In a podcast episode on choosing the right LMS, Tom Braning told us that one of the first questions organizations should ask themselves is “what do I want to use this platform for?”
Sometimes, neither tool is best. For a company who can fulfill their training needs within a single classroom, going online may not be necessary.
For companies with geographically dispersed workforces, or who have several different types of employee training needs, going online can radically transform an organization, regardless of what platform they choose.
For those companies, it’s important to first narrow down goals. Are you trying to meet compliance needs? A simple and easy-to-use LMS with great content will fill those needs.
Are you trying to transform your company culture through learning, and develop a culture of continuous improvement? If that’s the case, you need a platform that will meet learners where they are, and encourage them to take control of their personal development.
If you’re somewhere in the middle, and most organizations are, your decision is even harder.
But What If There Was Something Easier?
We know that the training software market has diverted into two segments, but we believe – strongly – that this is a false choice. Administrators shouldn’t have to sacrifice control, and neither should learners.
The best solution for many organizations is a platform that can both push content to learners, and pull learners in – allow you to report over your compliance needs, and be a tool to foster a culture of learning.
BizLibrary’s technology is designed with this in mind – while reporting features are robust, and tracking and assigning content is simple through the administrator pages, a large part of our content is launched through elective, exploratory learning and is highly visible through customizable interfaces.
Ultimately, organizations shouldn’t have to ask themselves which platform they should choose; instead, in the immortal words of Tony Stark: