Types of Learning Systems

Types of Learning Systems

Let me ask you an honest question.  What is your personality type?  Are you a Type A?  Maybe a Type B?  I was once told by a CEO, that I was a Type A ultra even more so then her. I felt honored.  I should have asked for a raise. 

The notion of types of personalities, aligns in some ways with types of systems, in that there is a lot of leeway in terms of what it actually means, with some folks saying this, when in fact it is that. 

There is no better place to see this then our fine world of e-learning, which was devised to be an umbrella term for everything that is well, online learning.  An LMS thus is under e-learning. Authoring tool? e-learning.  WBT? e-learning.  Nowadays though, vendors have changed the message to mean e-learning as in e-learning courses and not an umbrella term.  

Confusion Exists.

On the learning system side, I see it all too well.  Confusion.  What is this versus that? Why isn’t my LXP like an LMS?  What is a sales enablement platform and why if they pitch it for sales training, does it offer customer service training too?  Micro-learning platforms? Employee engagement platforms? Video learning platforms? Learning Platforms? Training management systems? Knowledge Reinforcement systems and/or tools?  The list goes on…  and we are not even jumping into performance management systems which has a learning or training component to it.

1300 Plus

That’s how many learning systems exist in the world today. And it continues to go up.

Niche is here, General is Gone

The days of saying you are “Not an LMS” are gone.  Sure you can pitch that, but saying you are not, and then not saying what you actually are – isn’t going to work in the long run.  No one is searching for “unknown system with training,” nor “learning platform”.

People want to know what you are, not what you are not.   We expect in today’s world, for brands to be definable and specific, not vague.   Anyone who has walked a trade show floor, will see this to be true.  How many times did you see a booth, and say, “What are they?”

One vendor recently told me they were not a “Soviet Era LMS”.  Another told me LMSs were dead (not even close).   But the LMS is dead vendor couldn’t explain in one sentence or even a few words what they were.  A couple of paragraphs yes.  Few words? No.

Market Share

In the learning system space (learning systems being an umbrella term),  the largest market by far are LMSs.  Next in line are the general learning platforms.  Then LXPs – which are the fastest growing segment.

Up after them, are sales enablement platforms for training and learning.  One vendor I saw recently, noted they are a “sales learning platform,” but upon discussion, agreed they are a sales enablement platform.  This is not to be confused with SEPs that have ZERO training/learning to them (although most do at some basic level).

Smaller niches are micro-learning platforms (which you could argue should be in the LP thing), video learning platforms, training management systems which are not to be confused with some folks who call themselves a training management system, when in fact they are an LMS, but think that calling themselves a TMS will solve that, because they do not realize that a TMS exists, but is not what they are.

If I add a PM system with learning as a component and/or module, then they would slide right about LXPs, but below learning platforms.

At the very bottom are LCMSs, which in reality, there is one that rocks and then a few (and I seriously mean only a few) that still exist.

Welcome our newest learning system

Yes, we have a new entrant to our learning system space.  They are IOL Platforms.  IOL stands for impact of learning (an actual term for metrics that is better than ROI).   An IOL Platform UVP (unique value proposition) includes

  • Heavy use of metrics – A lot of metrics and analytical analysis here – going beyond learning platforms in general, and depending on the LMS, might exceed that too. 
  • Has an LRS – this helps drive those metrics
  • Coaching component
  • Use of learning journeys or similar in terms of terminology per se.  
  • High engagement – beyond the content.  That is to say, the learner is using the system often, with its other components, beyond just the content.  

The IOL platform will have many of the same functionality  (in terms of learning environment and administration) of the majority of LMSs, but the expansion of the engagement aspect and again those metrics help set them apart. 

They may or may not have playlists, and they normally do not look like that Netflix like experience that has become overused.

One component that they are adding is a BI tool (business intelligence) as part of there make-up.   While, a BI tool or component will be a feature to watch (with LMSs adding it), for an IOL it will be a necessity.

There are already a couple of IOLs on the market, and based on what I am seeing, more to come.  Right now they are not calling themselves an IOL Platform, but I do anticipate that to change. 

IOLs examples:  MyQuest (adding extensive metrics this year, learning quests, reports 60% engagement level – not content related. Functionality is solid. They have a lot on tap)

Spoke which is listed as an LMS, easily can slide into the IOL Platform. Learning journeys, coaching power, BI tool – built-in, metrics abound.  I have Spoke as my vendor to watch in 2019.  And yeah, you can find MyQuest and Spoke on findanlms.com

Learning System Types – The ones you have heard of

Before jumping into the big question of LXP vs LMS, and hopefully stop folks from trying to compare Talent LMS to say Degreed or Learn Amp to Docebo, I’ll cover the others first.

Sales Enablement Platforms

So Spoke also has hub360 which is an SEP.  Others in the market are Allego, Mind Tickle! and QStream.  At one point, Axonify played in this space or at least pitched themselves into it, nowadays though, they have changed to something else, but according to a few vendors they still get match-ups with Axonify. 

What is an SEP?

  • Focuses heavily on “sales training” push BUT also customer service training too
  • Most customers use them for sales training and customer support training
  • Mobile used to play a bigger role, not so much, although honestly it should be the key piece to the pie – Mind Tickle! was heavy into this, now they tell me, most sales people do not use mobile when they are taking the training and prefer web (which is odd, because nearly everyone else I talk to who are salespeople are not hanging around the office)
  • QStream drives heavily on mobile, they use something called containers, which in essence is a combination of content, PDFs/Docs., files, lessons
  • Coaching is a component of the platforms  – Some do a better job than others, Mind Tickle! does a very good job with their coaching component
  • Sales content is available, some include it, some don’t
  • Metrics are streamlined.  Hub360 by Spoke is an exception, but the market as a whole, metrics is not totally impressive especially since it ties around sales training – thus if you are expecting a lot of metrics towards that endeavor say with heat maps and data visualization, for many of the systems, that isn’t happening
  • UI/UX is modern, but not everyone is going the Netflix route.  Allego has more of a playlist Netflix route than the others. 

Micro-Learning Platforms

These still exist? Ha, I made a funny.  As I’ve noted before, every learning system on the planet can accept micro-learning, so for the ones that pitch as though this is exclusive to them, it isn’t.

  • Short content – hence micro.
  • Streamlined system, not all the functions of an LMS in fact most lack functionality such as strong social, e-commerce is usually not there, administration usually is missing a few items, learning environment too. 
  • Content is a necessity here.   The biggest name in the micro-learning space was Grovo.  I state again, “WAS”.   They burned thru their raised funds and were acquired by Cornerstone.   Another one-time micro learning platform, was Pathgather, who then said they were talent something or another – anyway, they were acquired by Degreed.  
  • Axonify has noted in the past they are a micro-learning platform.  Axonify is a solid system with more functionality that the micro-learning market, who at one time had 10 of the standards of an LMS (out of the original 14). 

Mobile Learning Platforms

They are out there somewhere.  They also note they are mobile first! – yet many lack on/off synch with their native apps.  Anyway, every learning system is mobile responsive, and can use mobile learning.   Some do a way better job than others.   Thus, why MLPs still exist, is a question to ponder.

The next time you are outside staring at the sun.

Video Learning Platforms

In the mid 2000’s these were the upstarts. Their initial target market was education, especially higher education.  And today, they still heavily hit the education space.   The biggest player is Panopto who also is in the corporate space, but personally, i think VLPs didn’t innovate enough and drive forward with stronger video functionality. As a result, there are LMSs who have either caught up to them or passed them. 

Functionality though is not strong, this is after all, all about video.

MediaCore was a big time player, then they got acquired by Workday.  Workday Learning uses a lot of VLP components in their LMS.   VLPs often pitched themselves like YouTube, so if you think about it, they were the early playlist folks – truly Netflix before Netflix was the standard UI of many learning systems in the space.

Training Management Systems sometimes listed as Training Management Resources Systems

Example: Training Orchestra.   A training management system leverages heavily with scheduling of training whether it is ILT (a huge piece) or online.   Strong in event management capabilities, including resource management.  Usually lacking in social, gamification, a lot of NexGen functionality to be honest, because that is not their forte.  Metrics tend to be solid. 

They have certificates, administration functionality is there, and most of the learning environment too. 

Learning Platforms

If they are not in the one of the above buckets and they are not an LMS or LXP, they are here.  The gamut of names are literally all over the place. Employee engagement platform is an example of one.  Training system is another.   Regardless they tend to adhere to the following (as a whole)

  • Streamlined – this is how they see themselves – powerful yet streamlined.  I question the powerful component, but streamlined yes, although with caveats.  If you want metrics beyond some histograms or bar graphs, they are not for you.  Canned reporting are the basics.   Functionality – on the administration level it either is robust or minimal – just the minimum standards.  Learning environment tends to be strong.  
  • Does not come with a course marketplace – but that is slowly starting to change
  • NexGen functionality is a B in the grade scale.  Too many folks think “new system” means NexGen.  It does not. 
  • Mobile is the usual fare of mobile responsive and maybe native apps – but that is not universal. 
  • Lightweight is a good way to angle them. 

Nothing wrong with that, but many folks will say I do not want an LMS, then name of a dozen features they want, which turns out that they really want an LMS.  What they are thinking is that they think all LMSs are Cornerstone, Saba, SumTotal, SuccessFactors, and they are not.  These systems have a place in the industry, depending on your needs and requirements.  But I digress.

One area to watch within the Learning Platform space are API app platforms.  Basically you are buying a platform that consists of API apps which enables you to push training or have training/learning in your CMS, or digital publishing platform or on Slack or on some social site and so forth.  

Think Zapier with training focus.   You can purchase these platforms as a standalone or have it integrated into your LMS.  The best one on the market is xapiapps, who for some strange reason calls themselves an Learning Experience Platform.  Which in a second, I’ll show why that isn’t the case.

LXP (Learning Experience Platforms)

Here is my LXP RFI TEMPLATE – which lists all the functionality an LXP could have.  The content curation piece plays a massive role in an LXP, so under this section, they should have it all.

First, if you strip out everything related to functionality they are a content aggregator, which means

a. Content is available both free and fee-based

b. Content comes from multiple providers, which are viewable in what otherwise would be a content marketplace.  Content consists of videos, workbooks, assets, online courses, documents, ebooks and everything else.   Depending on the content provider, you may take the content within the LXP or be bounced out to take the content on the provider’s site.  Most exists within the LXP, but there are exceptions.  Free usually includes folks like TED (for example)

c.  They need to have a min. of 10 content providers.  Most of the LXPs have a lot more than that, but don’t assume that mass means better.  There is a lot of awful content.  So, let’s be careful out there.

Look and Feel

Definitely modern in appearance.  Most go with the Netflix appearance, whereas playlists exist (they are a must, regardless).  

Common feature sets

  • Playlists of content
  • Most popular, highest rated, recommended for the learner, playlists based on topics of interest (identified by the learner ahead of time, in most cases)
  • Assignments are showing up more and more.  Which leads to required content playlists
  • Pitches a learner-centric model, which if you have assigned required content, removes learner-centric IMO, but anyway..
  • Administration and Learning Environment functionality nearly matches that of an LMS (as a whole)

I found two features within the admin and LE that most LXPs are missing.  It was if everyone got together in a room and said, let’s not have these – and everyone was like, “yeah, great idea.”   Now thankfully, there are LXPs who have these two items, but as whole most do not.

The missing link of two are

  • Individualized learning plan and course catalog appear on the same screen
  • Allow administrators to set multiple levels of approval (i.e. no approval needed, manager approval needed, instructor approval needed, etc.)

I also found, that assigning system roles also a mixed bag when it comes to them being in an LXP.  For example, Degreed lacks it, but 360Learning has it, although they lack the missing two features (listed above).  

What is happening in the LXP space is that they are starting to add more and more functionality to match an LMS, which isn’t something they should do.

Other key takeaways

  • Targets L&D as their core audience and whom they focus upon to use the system. 

This is a smart move on their part, because L&D folks as a whole tend to use an LMS for required and compliance training, thus they are looking to use an LXP for professional and personal development, which leads to

  • Learner selects topics of interest or topics that want to know more about.  An LXP is all about personal and professional development, and thus pathways to achieve that exist
  • Skill building and skill development plays a crucial role.   Most have skill ratings whereas the learner can rate their skills of X.  Degreed does a good job of this for their skill ratings.
  • Video streaming is in the system, but video management is mixed – most lack automation of frames per second with video, video editors, even the ability to attach a quiz to a video.  Video bookmarking is mixed too.
  • NexGen functionality is not universal.  Most have machine learning and some form of coaching, but video management as listed earlier is all over the place. 
  • Content curation capabilities are extensive – check out my LXP ROI template to see the feature sets
  • Has some form of knowledge reinforcement as part of their platforms.  May appear in the mobile (my preference).  Native apps are not universal nor on/off synch.
  • Not universal -Can upload your own content (this is still new as a whole in the space) – thus many require you to link to your content (which is sitting somewhere else).
  • Social is a mix bag. Most are missing at least one if not two functions. 

Features you tend not to find (on the whole)

  • E-commerce
  • Classroom management
  • Event management is usually poor. Most will have the calendar and waitlist (but plenty do not).  Auto waitlisting is 50/50.
  • Compliance management – Not as strong as many LMSs on the market (and yes, plenty of LMSs miss the mark too).  Again, they will have some of the basics, but if you are wanting an LXP only for compliance learning/training, don’t. 

Reporting and Metrics

Depends on the system, but as a whole, it is just average. Reporting is average in terms of types of reports, and features such as email reports may not exist.

Let’s Compare

I did a search using Findanlms.com on a few LXPs to see where they are in terms of functionality.

Using the filter options on Findanlms.com, I looked for what was missing – (i.e. what the vendor does not have).  I went this route because the filtering on findanlms.com is extensive, for example in the administration section alone – eight to choose from – you can also select “all”. 

From the missing point of view, I looked at the features to see if I would find a consistency of missing

Who is missing what


  • Classroom management
  • Event management
  • Video management of auto detection frames per second, ability to add a quiz to a video


  • Classroom management
  • Event management
  • Video management of auto detection frames per second, ability to add a quiz to a video
  • Allow administrator to assign system roles


  • Individualized learning plan and course catalog appear on the same screen
  • Learners can enroll or request enrollment in course or cancel enrollment
  • Classroom management
  • Compliance management
  • Event management – no waitlist
  • Allow administrators to set multiple levels of approval (i.e. no approval needed, manager approval needed, instructor approval needed, etc.)
  • Cannot email reports

Filtered – magpipe

They are missing a lot.  But on the common misses

  • Individualized learning plan and course catalog appear on the same screen
  • Classroom management
  • Allow administrators to create system roles
  • E-commerce
  • Event management
  • Video management of auto detection frames per second, ability to add a quiz to a video

Learn Amp

  • Video management of auto detection frames per second, ability to add a quiz to a video
  • E-commerce

Percipio by Skillsoft

  • Classroom management
  • Compliance management
  • Event management
  • Video management of auto detection frames per second, ability to add a quiz to a video
  • Allow administrators to set multiple levels of approval (i.e. no approval needed, manager approval needed, instructor approval needed, etc.)
  • Allow administrator to assign system roles

And as of right now, you cannot upload your own content (but that will change here in the next couple of months, as they are adding that functionality).


Learning Management Systems.  Most systems in the learning system space are LMSs.  I’ve written in the past in terms of functionality including minimum standards and next generation.  You can have very robust systems that are not super pricey such as a SAP Litmos, eLogic Learning, Spoke, Growth Engineering, Melon, CrossKnowledge to name a few.

Most folks are aware of Cornerstone Learning Suite, SumTotal Learning Management, Saba and Workday Learning (all of which are on findanlms.com).   But they are just well, four of over 750 plus LMSs on the market. 

You can find LMSs based all over the world.  Croatia? Yes.  Bulgaria? Yes. Singapore? Yes. Australia? Yes. Chile? Yes.  Brazil? Yes.  Morocco? Yes. Saudi Arabia? Yes.  India? Yes. South Africa? Yes.  And I could go on. 

There is something for everyone in the LMS space.  Talent LMS is a very affordable LMS, yet has solid functionality for people to use (i’m talking even at 2,000 user base).  TOPYX has an all you can eat plan, in terms of buy it for unlimited users.  The system is average, but hey, you can get it for under 26K USD.

Open Source LMSs exist to.  Most folks think only of Moodle, but there are plenty of others out there, including Sakai. The key for an OS one is to find one with an active community. Documentation is mixed. 

If you want Moodle with some customization to it, and still want it at a low price point, look at Totara. You can find vendors such as Webanywhere, who is a partner in the Totara partner (i.e reseller market).  

The point is, there are plenty out there for you. 

Bottom Line

Yes this post is long, but I hope extensive enough, so that you can use it for future informational use.

You can look at the LXP breakdown before you go to an LMS vendor to look at their options.  My LMS RFP (also covers learning platforms) is a perfect way to do a comparison, when you match it up to the LXP one.  

Yes, you will see similarities. That is the way the market is going.

But you will see differences.

Just as you would expect

in the types of

Learning Systems.

E-Learning 24/7

Next post is March 6th, due to a biz travel.