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What is an LXP?

A bit about me

I’ve worked in learning technology for two decades. Be that working on the client side, creating learning strategies which work, or the vendor side, implementing 100’s of LMSs and developing key functionality.

At THRIVE, we’ve built our very own Learning Experience Platform (LXP) from the ground up. So it’s safe to say we know our stuff.

LXP is a definite buzzword right now, but what exactly does it mean? Well, having built one ourselves, who better to walk you through the evolution of LMS to LXP.

In the beginning...

Before we dive into what an LXP is, let’s take a look at where it comes from. The humble Learning Management System (LMS). Now, we probably all think we know what an LMS is, but when you actually look at the literal definition, it becomes very clear what’s at the heart of it.

An LMS is for managing learning - tracking, administration and reporting. It’s all about making sure the right people have done all the right training at the right time. At no point does it actually mention the end user.

LMSs are traditionally focussed on the administrator and making sure they can prove they’ve ticked all the right boxes. And they’re very good at that. They’ve served us well over the years, but times are changing.

Natural evolution? Why LXP?

Like most things, naturally the LMS is evolving. I’m sure you’re aware everyone is talking about the LXP, and have been for some time. So, why is that?

Are LMSs not doing their job anymore?

Have expectations changed?

Has the environment changed so much that they are no longer relevant?

Here’s what we know...

1. User generated content

One of the biggest cultural changes over the past 10 years is the birth and accepted norm of user generated content (UGC). People trust UGC more than traditional media, yes it’s true, stats don’t lie:

92% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person over branded/official content

90% of consumers say authenticity is important

79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions

Consider this. The last time you did or didn’t go to a restaurant because of other people’s reviews. The fashion sites that show real consumer photos, as well as the ones produced by the brand. This is UGC. It’s authentic and comes without an agenda, so we’re much more likely to trust it.

This trend has had a huge impact on the way we learn. When I wanted to learn how to build my dog a house under the stairs, I wasn’t going to book onto a woodworking course that didn’t start for 2 months. I went straight to YouTube and found the exact information I needed from someone who’d done it before. And we must all do the same because 300 hours of video are consumed on YouTube every single minute. It’s the biggest UGC learning resource in the world.

And that’s had a massive impact on our expectations...

2. Consumer expectations

As consumers, our expectations of technology and services have changed dramatically over the years.

Personalisation and a good experience are now central to almost all the technology we interact with. Whether that’s buying something online, browsing through Netflix, listening to Spotify or even tracking our health and wellbeing.

UGC and L&D

Let’s go back to YouTube. I mean, arguably it’s actually lowered our expectations too. We’re so used to seeing UGC now that it doesn’t really matter if the camera’s a bit shaky, or the person forgets what they’re saying half way through, as long as the message gets across.

UGC is central to our everyday lives now and it should absolutely be a big part of how we learn.

But it also, naturally, seeps into our experiences at work, where technology is generally not on par with that of the consumer world. Our learners are used to interacting with all this great technology in their personal lives - for shopping, entertainment, social media. So how do we think they’re going to feel when we ask them to use outdated, archaic tools at work?

If we want to keep them interested, we need to be making each employee’s working experience a delight by removing all barriers to getting their job done and keeping up with their expectations.

3. Technological advancements

Now this seems like an obvious one, but it’s actually quite interesting. A lot of the technology we need to provide these improved experiences has been around for a pretty long time.

Amazon created the first non academic ‘item based collaborative filtering algorithm’ back in 1998, and it’s been improving ever since. Netflix gave it a big boost with the Netflix Prize. It challenged developers to improve their existing algorithm by 10% in exchange for a cash prize. This was awarded in 2009, and resulted in a huge amount of worldwide collaboration that’s had a real impact on algorithms today.

The main thing to take away is that, although the concepts remain relatively unchanged since 1998, both our understanding of how to store, analyse and manipulate data, as well as the sheer amount of data we now have at our disposal, has changed dramatically. In other words, data management is now a necessity.

So, what is an LXP?

Now we know the context which prompted the LXP to life, let’s look at what it is.

I scoured the web for a definition to find out if anyone had managed to quantify it. Based on this research - and my own experience of designing one with the team at THRIVE - this is what we came up with.

"A Learning Experience Platform (LXP) is a tool which enables end users to capture, share and consume content and knowledge from internal and external sources through means of a personalised and continuously adaptive experience.”

*Note the use of ‘end users’ as a key differentiator between this and an LMS.

But what does this mean in reality?

What would you find in an LXP?

Personalisation

To satisfy our evolving expectations, personalisation is at the core of any LXP. And this doesn’t have anything to do with a user being able to change the layout of their front page.

This is personalisation with a purpose.

SalesForce found that 52% of consumers will gladly hand over data if it allows them a more personalised experience. The same applies here.

So how do we let our users have a personalised experience? And how can we use their behaviour to better recommend content?

THRIVE’s LXP has a few different levels of personalisation:

• We ask users what they want to learn and what they can teach others

• We track behaviour to feed them content and people based recommendations

Learner led

LMSs are about the administrator. An LXP is very much about the end user - the learner. How do we give them the best experience possible?

LXPs are better equipped to allow users to develop themselves in all sorts of subjects, above and beyond mandatory training. Things the administrator has no control over. It’s not ‘you must do this training now’, it’s self-directed learning.

This is certainly a shift we’re seeing lots of clients try to make at the moment. And there are certain features of an LXP which are absolutely built to support this way of learning.

1. A way to find what they need: A great search lets learners find what they need, when they need it.

2. A way to discover new content: In other words, browsing - much like we see on sites like Spotify.

3. A way to explore things they might be interested in: Recommendations, to help users explore things they might be interested in.

LXPs are about giving people the tools and access to the content they need - to empower them to learn what they want, when they want.

Embracing all content

Speaking of content, it’s all well and good having an LXP with these great discovery tools, but if you have no content to find, they become pretty useless.

One of the challenges with LMSs being used for self-directed learning is they’re closed off and restricted. Only admins can post. Only elearning, events and files. Only internally created and approved content.

Part of an LXP is philosophical. It’s about being more open to external content in general. LXPs provide the ability to embrace many different types of content, from multiple sources and vendors. Videos, files, links to TED talks, YouTube, online quizzes… the options are endless.

An LXP allows you to pool together all these great resources in one place, and create a giant content library for your users to explore.

You can - as we have - go one step further and look at tools which can be used for auto-curation. Our integration with

Anders Pink and getAbstract allows content from the web to be drip fed directly into your LXP on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Learning that is fresh, up-to-date, and interesting - without you needing to lift a finger.

User generated content (again, it’s really that important)

I could talk about how good UGC is and all of its benefits all day long. But I truly believe the best knowledge in your business comes directly from the people actually doing the work. You don’t always need to scope it out, script it and formalise it into an official course.

I always say everyone has that one person in their team who makes you think, ‘if they left tomorrow, we’d be absolutely screwed’. UGC protects you, making sure knowledge is shared across the business and not kept in silos.

Why not let people share what they know, in their own words, where and when it works for them? People trust UGC more than official content.

It’s more authentic, passionate, and it’s in a language the learner understands.

So what can an LXP let end users do? THRIVE will let people post questions, videos, files, links, photos, quizzes, write articles and even set up events and create their own pathways of content. But not everyone will be ready. You could start with letting people ask questions for example and build up from there.

So much data

Finally data, the thing that everyone is talking about. This is the final big differentiator between an LMS and an LXP. Now, don’t get me wrong, LXPs track stuff too, they have analytics and reporting, but there are 2 key differences here.

The first being what they track. LMSs are all about tracking compliance and completion. LXPs will track that, of course, but are also very interested in engagement. Every view, like, share, comment, post, and tag is tracked. And for good reason.

This is more of a technology thing - LXPs are newer systems, built in a time when data processing is better understood.

An LXP is a consumer based product. Our clients need data that measures whether their users like it and how they can improve it. With an LMS, you’re generally telling people they have to go there to complete their learning. An LXP, you want them to go there of their own volition.

The second difference between LMS and LXP data is that LMSs only give you the data. It’s up to you to then use it. An LXP, on the other hand, will take the data and use it to make decisions based on everything it collects. Decisions like better recommendations, but also presenting data to the admin in a way that makes their decision- making process much easier.

THRIVE LXP, for example, has a page that shows an admin all the tags used on the site. The admin can easily see the most popular tags, how many people have said they’re interested in that topic, are skilled in that topic, and how much content exists around that topic. This allows them to quickly identify not only gaps in the content they have available but also skill-gaps. Maybe loads of people want to learn about knitting but no one is skilled in it!

Does it need to be either or?

So does it need to be an LMS or an LXP, or do you need both?

I believe that LXPs are the next evolution of learning platforms full stop. LMSs will soon become extinct, in the same way cars replaced the horse and carriage. It’s just the way of the world - environments change, technologies change, and people change.

So, if you’re currently looking for a new learning platform, future proof yourself with an LXP. It’s going to cater to your end users a whole lot better than an LMS.

That said, you’re probably wondering about all the compliance tracking you need to do. Don’t worry, some LXPs like THRIVE will support all the core LMS features you’re used to - they just don’t talk about them that much as they’re not as exciting.

So you don’t need to choose. You should be able to use just one platform for everything - which your users will really thank you for!

A heads up

One thing I would say on this point though is to watch out for add-ons.

There are quite a few platforms out there that, due to the popularity of the LXP, are trying to find solutions which fit into this category. Sometimes this can work really well, but often it’s just a case of putting a shiny layer on something which is fundamentally not fit for purpose.

The backbone of an LMS is not designed to support the front end functionality of an LXP.

That’s why we built THRIVE completely from scratch. LXPs are a whole new product, with different fundamentals and inner workings. They’re not just faster show horses, they’re an entirely new way of travelling.

Food for thought

An LXP might be the right decision for you and I hope that it is, but there are some things to think about and be ready for when it comes to supporting an LXP.

You need to think about your team members, the skills they have and their ambitions. Traditionally learning teams were made up of trainers, learning designers and administrator type roles. With a jump to a new system, the roles can evolve to suit an LXP, but the team needs to be excited to go on the journey. They have to believe.

Your team may need to develop some new skills. Content creation: making videos and infographics, not just elearning. Content curation: knowing where to find the best stuff online.

Marketing skills are also key to help plan and run campaigns to increase engagement and promote within the business. Remember this is something people will need to want to use, not have to use. It’s a big difference. And data analysis, you suddenly have all this data, but do you know what to do with it? This is another skill you might be missing. (But don’t worry too much, we have a team of Customer Success Managers dedicated to helping you make the most of it).

Finally, you need to think about the cultural change an LXP would mean. Your workforce are probably already one step ahead of you here, but it’s worth thinking about.

An evolution in learning

You could continue to force people to learn, pushing them onto your LMS with a whip and a chair. But do you want to?

I didn’t think so.

Explore how your organisation can evolve with your employees expectations and drive better learner experiences with THRIVE.

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