What is an LXP and why do I want one?

What is an LXP and why do I want one?

A colleague of mine attended a session this past week at ATD that covered LMS, LXP and LCMS (why LCMS was included? no idea).  Anyway, he said that when the speaker asked how many people had heard of an LXP, only a couple of hands raised up.

I wasn’t totally surprised, because what I find is that some people have heard of the names of some LXPs, but do not realize they are in fact not an LMS, rather they are an LXP.

These two vendors are EdCast and Degreed.  Both of which are LXPs.  Are they the best ones in the market? In my opinion, no.  But, they do offer strong components, just as they have some weaknesses.   However, that is for another post.

Getting back to being unaware, I find the same issue with a few vendors in the learning system space who are really LXPs, but have no idea.  I ask them a couple of questions, if they say “yes” to all, congrats you are an LXP.  Yet, I have been in polite discussions with the head of sales at one system, and the CEO of another who adamantly told me they are not an LXP.   It reminded me of the vendors in the space who scream they are not an LMS, even though they hit all the standards of an LMS.  

The difference here though, is that those two vendors specifically, really had ZERO idea where they slid into.

Just as I have done in the past regarding standards to be an LMS, I will put forthwith here shortly, what are the standards I see for an LXP.

Before doing that though, I would like to provide you with some trends, that I am seeing including one previously mentioned on what is happening between the LMS and LXP market, to my sadness.

Trends in the LXP Space

  • Becoming similar to LMSs – overall that is, not everyone of them, but boy from a learning environment to administration to content curation they are getting quite close.  This is why I think folks find it challenging to discern which is which.  There are though key differences.
  • Mentoring isn’t in every LXP.  In fact, it is only in a couple compared to the entire market.  Learn Amp has some functionality in the mentoring angle, for an example, but many LXPs are still holding back.  
  • Similar content.  No surprise here, but gee-whiz how many content providers do you need that offer business leadership or Office 2016?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to find those with UVP (Unique Value Proposition) to offer to your audience?  I know of one foreign language provider who focuses on business with their foreign language content.  Plus offers “live tutors”.  How many systems offer that content provider? Zero.   
  • Mobile with on/off synch – the majority of LXP vendors offer mobile apps with on/off synch.  This is a trend that will continue.  I’d say their adoption rate to on/off synch with native mobile apps is quicker than it was with LMS vendors. 
  • Heavily driven by Skills – Skill development and skill-building.  It continues with anything tied to skills, but – and this a huge one, not skill ratings, where only a few vendors play to the extent they should.  Sure, anyone can add a skill rating, but to do so with some level of an algorithm, tied to numerous variables that can be defined by an administrator is slim pickings (although Slim Pickens was a fine actor).
  • Video Management – as it relates to auto transcripts is on the rise.  It will continue. Video bookmarking is a close second. 
  • Learning Record Stores – higher adoption rate in comparison at this stage to LMS vendors.  That said, the same issue that is plaguing LMS providers is happening with LXP providers – so few are activating the LRS.  Again – makes zero sense. 

They follow the same argument that many LMS vendors do – no one is asking for it.  Well, no one asked for Blu-Ray, and yet, surprise, surprise it dominated the market.  Oh, and how many people were aware of 4K video?  What about 8K (and yes, it does exist).  If I don’t know, I won’t ask, so why put the onus on the consumer, when uh, you as the vendor should be the experts.

  • Metric challenged –  Ugh it is bad.  Part is due to the lack of embracing LRS in terms of it being live, part is that if you compare them to an LMS (many not all, mind you), the robustness isn’t there.   I’m not comparing them to an HCM either.  A heat map is only as good as the information/data it is providing and the ability for the administrator to extract into useful insight towards training and learning.
  • Extended Enterprise – So many LXP vendors want into this segment, and so few are successful.  If I was an LXP vendor, this is a segment I would place resources into, so it can happen.
  • Who are you?  Content Providers and other learning systems are not familiar with the LXP size, revenue potential or growth potential.

Here is something I found really funny about Rosetta Stone – they had absolutely no idea on what an LXP was, nor where they interested in being in an LXP. 

Want to know why?  They never heard of an LXP.

They weren’t the only ones that fell into that trap.  Pluralsight, a darling of recent note in the e-learning space, were unaware of the LXP market too. 

I know this, because I talked to a top exec at the company, regarding them being integrated with an LXP, and was informed that they had no interest because they receive so few requests.  Oh, that makes so much sense (not really).

LXP Standards

Here comes the bride, all dressed in LXP colors. La, la, la..

Now I am aware that there will be people who will go, my LMS does the same thing, and yes, there is more overlap now than before, but LXPs still can be unique and they still seem to lack certain functionality, that from an LMS standpoint, is different.

(In no particular order)

Content – Content – Content Aggregator

In simple terms, an LXP must have at least 10 3rd party content providers that are either fee-based or free to the client (the customer, not the end user).  They are if you strip everything out, a content aggregator in basic terms.   Content drives the LXP.  Let me repeat that – content drives the LXP. 

Many LXP vendors still do not allow you – the client – to upload your own content you built and/or 3rd party content you bought that is not available in their marketplace/exchange or whatever they call it.  Now, thankfully this is changing in the LXP space, but it is not where it should be.  Degreed for one, a system I do like, does not allow you to upload your own content from a 3rd party authoring tool.  You can link to it from the platform to wherever you want to house it, like uh, an LMS for example. 

The linking angle by the way is more common that you think, a minus in my opinion. Again, it is not universal, and there are many that allow you to upload your own content after it was built in an authoring tool or purchased via 3rd party who is not in the LXP platform itself, but it is still not across the board – and by the way a difference with LMS vendors (who I’d say 85-90% allow you to upload your own content built in a 3rd party authoring tool – as long as it has the same course standards as the LMS).

Freebies include YouTube and TED – both of which are common.  On the fee-based side, the end user does not buy the content, rather it is the client who does.  For example, you – an employee works at WidgetRUS.  WidgetRUS signed with LXP1.  

LXP1 offers 25 different content providers.  WidgetRUS buys 500 seats of content from VooSpirit.  You, the employee, can now access the content from VooSpirit which appears in your catalog (what the end user sees) or via the channels (depending on how the vendor displays).

Just as in an LMS, the client does not have to buy seats to seats with the content.  For example, if I have 5000 employees, but only want 500 to have content bundle B, I can do that.  And so forth.

Target Audience

L&D.   That’s it.  Learning and Development is their target market in terms of an audience.  Oh, and within that, employees.  Extended Enterprise might land the customer – which they definitely want at some point, but in the standards piece it is at least L&D (with employees)

Bolt – not Tampa Bay

Sorry, had to make a funny to my friends who love the NHL Lightening.  Anyway,  Bolt-on, add-on is the primary for an LXP.  This is to say, they are an add-on or bolt-on to an existing learning system, usually an LMS.  Now, does this mean every LXP does this, no, but more than not, do.

There are LXP vendors who see their end game as being a true standalone replacing a client’s LMS, and therefore making themselves the only learning system in town (for that client).


It is modern, streamlined to a point.  But not so streamlined that you are bored in a matter of seconds.  I tend to find them, as a whole, not to adapt to drag and drop on the learner side, as much as they should, and on the admin side, ditto.  

Learner Topics of Interest or Personal Interest

A staple in every LXP.  The learner-centric model exists here in full play. End users select the content based on what skills they want to learn, what are their general interests, etc.  The whole approach is about personal and professional development. 

Channels or Playlists

It appears as a cornerstone in the LXP market.  Depending on the LXP vendor’s nomenclature, they might call it a channel or a playlist.  It is the same thing.

Most Popular,  Highly Recommended, Most Recommended

Content that is, and these are listed again, either as a channel or a playlist.

Other channels (or playlists) include

  • Highest rated or similar vernacular (might be called most popular)
  • Recommended (based on what the employee has taken, regardless if it is completed or not – uh, wait, let me restate that, on what the employee has taken, as some vendors’ algorithm requires the learner to complete the content, in order for the recommendation to be more effective, which, yes, as you can see, defeats the purpose of why e-learning was created in the first place)

Some vendors offer or have as their primary, crowdsourcing, which yes, in this case, sounds intriguing, but is really awful when it comes to recommendation, highest rated, most popular, trending (more on that in a bit).

  • Trending or similar terminology 
  • New or latest – depending on how the vendor pushes it out.  
  • Assigned – please, punch me in the eyeball.  I absolutely hate “assigned learning”, worse many LXP vendors are adding it, and even worse than that, if they offer it as an option, it is the default option.  Since many people never change defaults, you can see where this is going.  And assigned will appear either as a channel/playlist or right on the top of the learner home page. Please, pass the misery on. 

As noted earlier, administration and learning environment are pretty consistent to the LMS market, please see my LXP template as proof – and which contains everything that can exist in an LXP. 

Other musts in an LXP

  • Content curation – huge.  
  • Content capabilities

Specifically within the content capabilities:

  • System can use job roles and/or skills to identify and present recommended or suggested courses to the end user
  • System uses ratings or voting from other end users to identify most popular or trending courses
  • System uses learner’s profile (skills, topics of interest, etc.) to identify most popular content or suggested content
  • System includes “Based on interest (from the learner) to show content on the learner main page (their home page)
  • System continues to add more topics of interest, whether based on AI or by other means
  • Content excluding courses can be listed in the trending/Most Popular and/or Recommended
  • System uses only our company’s employees and/or learners to identify most popular, recommended, etc.  – I should note, that with “crowdsourcing” this goes by the wayside. 
  • System uses learner’s profile (skills, topics of interest, etc.) to identify most popular content or suggested content

Video management – specifically video streaming, and video can be shared on social media channels.  Auto detection FPS is not universal, sadly.  

Machine Learning – this is using an algorithm

Here are the standards for machine learning in an LXP

  • Can create a learning path based upon recommendations using algorithm over a period of time
  • Recommends courses/content based on job role, skill and/or additional variables
  • Recommends content based on learner’s personal interests or topics of interest (as defined by the learner)
  • Recommends courses based on previous courses in-progress/completed
  • Recommends content/documents/videos/etc. based on in progress/completed courses or content
  • Ability to include other items to enhance recommendation of courses/content
  • System able to push out higher level of content (learner interest or “recommended”) as learner expands their skill sets/knowledge

Other Standards

  • Widgets – some refer to them as blocks
  • Netflix like experience (at least for now) – this is achieved via the channels angle
  • Browser extensions or bookmarklets –  it is not universal, but many LXPs offer it, therefore it slides into the standards –  I should note that in the LMS market, the number of vendors that have bookmarklets is quite low.  Bookmarklets enable the end user to capture what is on that web page.  Some do a better job than others.  No one to my knowledge has yet conquered the capture this paragraph only and leave notes like a note book on that page for others to see and leave their notes and comments.  Nor have I seen the bookmarklet ability to tie into OneNote for example.
  • Playlists or channels can be shared via social media
  • Ability to assign courses based upon skills needed/required for job role
  • Ability to move the “recommended”, “trending” etc. to different areas, i.e. your system has “my topics of interest” – last, but we want it to be first, and want “recommended” to be last.
  • Administrator can change skill ratings that learners set themselves
  • Manager can view skill ratings defined by learner, and modify (i.e. change to more accurate rating as established by manager)
  • Built-in Knowledge Reinforcement Capability (inc. mastery of learning option)

Under the Analytics

  • Analytics include not only content within the platform, but also web site links, articles posted on the net, eBooks, etc.
  • Drill-down capability from a chart, graph or similar (i.e. graph shows data points of X, the admin can click on those data points within the graph and see additional information/specific information per data point)
  • Data visualization at some level

Skill Management

This replaces the term “competency management”.

  • Track skills by content
  • System includes skill ratings, whereas the learner can rate themselves
  • Allow for multiple attributes to be used for skill ratings
  • Allow learners to self-assess their existing skills
  • Allow learners to post on profile or elsewhere in the system, their skill rating on either one subject area or multiple subject areas

Why “Crowdsourcing” is not something I’d recommend be used in an LXP

I wrote this the other day on my daily posts on Linkedin, but based on reader feedback (numerous folks asked me to post it on my blog, so here it is)

Crowdsourcing works this way – everyone on the system, regardless if they are an employee/client of yours or not, gets to rank/rate/vote on the content, and as a result, the “most popular”, “highest rated” are a culmination of everyone.

On top of that, the “recommended” which uses the algorithm is based on everyone, not just your employees, which clearly skews the results. Now, with the vendors who do this, the admin side will only show that client’s employees (results) and not everyone on the system, but that doesn’t resolve what the employee sees.

Here is why it is a bad idea

a. Bandwagon is achieved. It is a very successful propaganda technique, “just like you and me”, if I see that 1500 people like and rate high, Outlook 2016, I’m more than likely to go in and check it out. I might even rank it a plus, because others are.

b. People like to be just like you and me – another propaganda technique, which can sway folks. A lot of data backs this BTW. You might go in with a “yuck” and leave with a yeah, because how can so many people think yes, and you think yuck? Therefore it must be good.

c. Your employees have no idea that the results are cumulative of everyone on the system and thus will assume it is just their company. People tend to gloss over the numbers. They just see the content.

d. You as the client have no idea on who else is on the system, thus are they like you – in terms of your verticals or not? Do you really want to have your folks align to Mitch’s “Grim Reaper” funeral home employees or We make Baskets firm or the non-profit, “Ginsu Knives”?

e. Everything the end user sees is skewed. Thus, if you were looking on the front end, and not just your admin side, you would automatically think – “this is just us” – nope it is not.

f. Vendors who only offer “crowdsourcing” as the only option, should allow the client to make that decision, with the default being “client only” and if the client wants to do crowdsourcing instead, they make the switch.

Bottom Line

Whew. I know the post is a bit long, but providing an in-depth overview is not something that can be written in 1000 characters, nor should it be. 

Coming in July, I will be publishing my LXP Buyer’s Guide – which will be 100% Free to download, etc.  It will list every LXP vendor on the market, along with the latest info on this segment.

Soon thereafter, I will publish my debut LXP Grid and the criteria (this will appear on my blog).   In version 2.0 of FindanLMS, coming this August, you will be able to search by type of learning system, with LXP being one of those types.

As of right now, on Findanlms.com, there are numerous LXP vendors on the learning system search engine platform including

Learn Amp, Degreed, EdCast, 360Learning, Coorpacademy, Filtered and Looop. Coming in June, Instilled, the newest LXP to hit the market, can be found.  To learn more about each of these vendors and compare them, simply, register, authenticate (your e-mail address) and login.  100% free of course. 

With Learn Amp, Coorpacademy and 360Learning, you can send them your RFP and schedule a demo within the platform.

Until then, feel free to share this post with anyone who is curious about what an LXP is, even if they work at, well, you know.

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