What’s the difference between an LMS and an LXP?

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.

At its core, an LMS generally does a few things well:

  • Stores and delivers online courses 
  • Helps you administer classroom and online training
  • Often acts as a system of record for completions and certifications

What’s an LXP?

LXPs are corporate learning software platforms that provide employees with a consumer-like digital training experience. LXPs can be considered an evolution of the LMS. Every platform is a little different, but every LXP tends to have a similar purpose and design. Where the LMS focuses on content administration and delivery, the LXP focuses on discovery, user experience and engagement.

An LXP generally does the following well:

  • Helps employees easily discover high-value learning content with a slick user interface
  • Pulls content into one central location 
  • Provides a personalized experience through content recommendations and self-directed learning options

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. An LMS is focused on push training and the admin experience. Whereas an LXP is focused on pull learning and user experience. We’ve pulled together a quick comparison chart below to see how these two systems stack up. 

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
Complex, administrator-centric experience=Simple, user-centric experience
Looks and feels like corporate technology=Looks and feels like consumer technology
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
Basic data (completions, scores, surveys)=More robust analytics (search, preferences, likes, etc.)
Limited social capabilities=Sharing, discussion and rating capabilities
Closed: administrator handles most content upload and assignment=Open: users can upload and share content

How do I know which learning tech is right for me? 

Knowing what each platform does well is a great starting point to determine whether an LMS or LXP is the right tech for you. The truth is 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 you need to train: What does their day to day job look like and where will training fit in? 
  • How much time they’ll have to train: Can they spare time away from their day to day activities to complete training or should it fit in their workflow? 
  • Where the majority of your workforce will access training: Will they need to sit a desk to complete training or should they access it right from their smartphones? 

To help you get started we’ve worked all of these considerations into our product quiz. In just 5 questions and a few minutes we’ll help you figure out where to start your learning technology search. So you can ensure whatever you select aligns with the realities of the people who will use it. 

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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.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.