Do you need an LMS or an LXP?

Do you need an LMS or an LXP?

I’m currently developing a Masterclass webinar session for the Digital Learning Institute on ‘Digital Learning Platforms’. I delivered a similar session for the World of Learning show back in 2018. That was 6 years ago – so have things moved on much in the digital learning platforms space?

Well, the short answer is yes. There are even more platforms available today and an even wider range of features and functions. When I did my research in 2018 there were over 500 LMS products on Capterra ( Today that number has risen to over 1,300! A similar search for LXPs resulted in over 400 products.

What has changed?

In 2018 LMSs were dominant. Since then the arrival of the LXP (Learning Experience Platform) has forced vendors to re-think the role of the conventional LMS. Is it just a system to manage compliance training or can it also provide more engaging learning experiences for motivated self-directed learners?

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

There isn’t a simple answer to this question. However LXPs initially focussed on the user experience. They started with what an engaged learner would want to achieve and worked back from there. Largely they copied how Netflix presents on-demand entertainment. Like Netflix they also made recommendations based on the topics you were interested in. Courses were also much shorter (and off-the-shelf catalogues much bigger…though quantity often won over quality). LXPs and microlearning are a match made in heaven. LXPs used a ‘pull’ approach to engage learners (think carrot not stick).

LMSs on the other hand always focused on the management and tracking of learners. Learners were assigned courses depending on their role and courses were generally mandatory for compliance purposes. In this respect the LMS was more of a compliance platform than somewhere people went to actually learn anything. LMSs used a ‘push’ approach (think stick not carrot). I used to say to clients, with a wry smile, that the LMS was the last place I’d want to put our beautifully crafted learning content.

Today most LMS vendors position their platforms as LXPs and most LXP vendors position their platforms as LMSs. In practice LMS and LXP functionality has largely merged though the user experiences can be vastly different. Legacy LMS products can struggle to offer the user experience of new platforms built from the ground-up though things are definitely improving. LXPs on the other hand are getting much better at push as well as pull learning.

Comparison table of LMS versus LXP

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AI embedded

LXPs have always used some AI to curate and recommend courses but with the latest developments in AI (and particularly in LLMs), LMSs and LXPs are making much greater use of AI in two key areas – personalisation and content creation. The personalisation comes from the recommendation engine plus a much better understanding of what’s in a particular course (previously these platforms relied on manually entered metadata). Content creation is usually done via a direct embed of LLM functionality. Talent LMS, a popular low-cost LMS, now includes an Articulate Rise-like AI-powered tool that generates whole courses or parts of courses given just a few prompts.

Talent Management

Some platforms have a clear focus on certain aspects of L&D. Some of the larger systems aimed at corporate users focus on Talent Management and Skills Development. These often incorporate a competency or skills framework and increasingly use AI to recommend and curate content for learners looking to build their careers.

External facing platforms

Since 2018 there has been an explosion in platforms that enable course creators to market and sell digital courses directly to learners. These platforms provide a one-stop shop for course creators combining marketing pages, flexible course design options and e-commerce. These platforms also work well for smaller organisations such as professional bodies keen to market and sell specialist courses to external users. For these use cases a conventional LMS is often a poor solution since users aren’t a captive audience but simply sign-up to complete a discrete course on an occasional basis. I’m currently using LearnWorlds to develop my own digital courses but I also considered Teachable and Thinkific.

According to Learning News the LMS/LXP market is still growing strongly, so if you are in the market for a new LMS/LXP you won’t be short on options.

Get in contact if you think you might need some help!


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