What’s the difference between an LMS and an LXP?Posted on: November 4, 2020
LMS, LXP, LCMS, LRS, VR, AR, AI…SOS! There’s definitely no shortage of technology acronyms out there in the learning market. Perhaps just as challenging as decoding each acronym is figuring out what each platform does well.
With more than 800 vendors on the market in dozens of categories and a sea of acronyms, figuring out which learning technology to invest in can feel daunting. But, you’re not alone. We’ve pulled together an overview of two of the most common platforms on the market—the learning management system (LMS) and the learning experience platform (LXP). To help you see what they each do well, and get your search started in the right direction.
What’s an LMS?
In the simplest of terms, an LMS is a software platform that helps an organization administrate, track, deliver and report on formal employee training programs. As far as web-based learning technologies go, the LMS is generally regarded as first generation. As the most established of the learning platforms, it’s also the most commonly used.
Learning management systems generally do a few things extremely well:
- Stores and delivers online courses
- Helps you administer classroom and online training
- Often acts as a system of record for completions and certifications
An LMS is ideal when you need to deliver digital training on core job requirements, including employee onboarding, functional skills, workplace safety and diversity, equity and inclusion. Specific content can be assigned by role and skill requirement, but most people doing the same job will receive the same training.
What’s an LXP?
LXPs are a lot like streaming platforms. They provide access to a wide range of content options and match courses to individuals using data and artificial intelligence. The LXP can be considered an evolution of the LMS. While the LMS focuses on content administration, delivery and tracking, the LXP focuses on discovery and user experience.
An LXP generally does the following well:
- Helps employees easily discover high-value learning content
- Pulls training content into one central location
- Provides a personalized experience through content recommendations and self-directed learning options
An LXP is ideal when you want to provide broad career development opportunities for your employees. People may select from a range of topics, including skills that are unrelated to their current roles. For example, a customer service agent may want to improve their web design or coding skills and therefore self-select into related online programs. Organizations may also use an LXP to deliver specific career development for employees seeking a promotion or new position. In general, it provides employees with open access to a large collection of content from a variety of online sources.
Similarities and differences
The LMS and LXP share a few things in common, like their ability to store and deliver digital content and pull together online learning paths. But they also differ in some pretty significant ways. The main difference between an LMS and an LXP is that an LMS is focused on push training and the admin experience whereas an LXP is focused on pull learning and user experience.
Push training vs pull learning
An LMS is concerned with push training. In other words, the learning materials are specially curated by the administrator and “pushed” to the learning participant, most often for the purposes of onboarding, compliance training and core skills training. The person completing the coursework has limited control over the lessons they choose. The lessons have been selected for them in order to promote or reinforce specific skills, and those lessons are often accompanied by quizzes. For example, Axonify assigns employees to learning paths based on their roles. Employees then complete a blend of online and hands-on training as well as an evaluation to make sure they possess the knowledge and skill needed to do their jobs.
An LXP aggregates content from a variety of sources, such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Cousera, TED and YouTube. Employees then search for and complete courses related to their interests at their own pace. This is usually above and beyond the core job skill training provider by the organization.
Structured content vs open sourcing
An LMS contains content developed by the organization. The modules are generally created by an internal Learning and Development (L&D) team or HR team and tailored to the instructional needs of the company. The goal is to cement a specific body of knowledge. Only an authorized content author or administrator can add, remove or update the courses in the system.
An LXP is an open system that can contain internal as well as external content. Depending on the system, you may have access to courses curated from third-party libraries or even user-generated content that is collaboratively developed within the system. LXPs are constantly expanding to include new courses, webinars, videos, quizzes and more.
Compliance vs skill-building
An LMS is typically associated with compliance training and onboarding while an LXP is typically associated with upskilling and reskilling. This is an oversimplification, of course. It’s possible to build compliance training into an LXP, and it’s possible to incorporate skills training into an LMS.
With that said, however, an LMS is still ideal for organizations seeking basic onboarding and compliance training. This information is company-specific and generally applicable throughout the organization. In addition, it would require significant resources to develop skill-specific modules for every team member. That’s why LXPs (which emphasize external teaching materials) are more commonly recommended for upskilling and reskilling and are less practical for onboarding and compliance.
Basic vs enhanced data analytics
An LMS gives you access to the most essential data. You can track which team members have—and have not—completed assigned courses. You can track detailed assessment results and determine which topics or questions caused the most confusion. This information is invaluable when it comes to highly regulated subjects like onboarding and compliance.
Because an LXP is much broader in its applications, it generally comes with a much wider data set for administrators. You can see which courses or lessons generate the most interest, analyze microdata about how employees engage with the content (e.g. desktop vs. mobile learning) and access real-time information about how your employees’ skills are developing in key areas.
LMS vs LXP: A side-by-side comparison
If you’re still not sure of how these two digital learning systems stack up, here’s a brief comparison chart.
|Store and deliver digital content||
|Store and deliver digital content|
|Curate online learning paths||
|Curate online learning paths|
|Focus on push training||
|Focus on pull learning|
|Built for compliance||
|Built for career development|
|Content primarily hosted and delivered within system library||
|Content primarily aggregated and delivered from third-party libraries|
|Content usually assigned by administrator||
|Content usually discovered by search or recommendation|
|More performance-based analytics (completions, scores, surveys)||
|More user behavior analytics (course preferences, social reactions, etc.)|
|Designated content authors and administrators handle most content upload and assignment||
|Users can upload and share content|
LXP vs LMS: which learning tech is right for your company?
Knowing what each type of platform does well is a great starting point to determine whether an LMS or LXP is the right tech for you. The truth is that every learning platform is different, and every organization is different too. So feature comparisons will only get you so far.
The most important thing you should think about to find the learning solution that’s right for you is simple: The employees you need to train.
Whatever you choose will only be effective if your employees actually use it. So it should be aligned to their realities, not a wish list of features.
You’ll want to consider:
- Who do you need to train? Do you support a large number of people doing similar jobs (LMS) or a group of specialists with unique development interests (LXP)?
- What do they need to learn? Are employees focused on core job skills and compliance requirements (LMS) or developing skills beyond their current roles (LXP)?
- What content is required? Do you rely on content that’s produced specifically for your organization (LMS) or do you leverage materials from a variety of external sources (LXP)?
- What data do you need to track? Are you required to provide completion and assessment data to regulators (LMS) or are you more interested in tracking employee engagement and skill progression (LXP)?
To learn more, check out some of our related guides:
- The Top 3 Benefits of a Learning Management System Built for the Frontline
- How Can You Help Your Frontline Master New Skills Faster?
- Your Top Learning Technology Questions Answered
JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect
JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify’s Chief Learning Architect.