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What is the difference between LMS and LXP?

LMS vs LXP is an ongoing question in L&D. We’ll look at aspects of an LMS and an LXP, defining both terms before asking the big question: what is the difference between an LMS and an LXP? 
Dom Murray, Content Writer

Most industries have jargon that would leave outsiders scratching their heads, and L&D is no different. We love a good acronym — starting with the name ‘L&D’ itself. At times, there can be so many acronyms that you feel like you need to keep a glossary nearby to remember them all. 

With this in mind, two acronyms that anyone working in L&D needs to be aware of in 2021 are LMS and LXP. Whether you’re whispering to yourself ‘what do those stand for?’, scrolling through your glossary to jog your memory, or just need a quick refresher, we’re here to help. 

We’ll look at aspects of a Learning Management System (LMS) and a Learning Experience Platform (LXP), defining both terms before asking the big question: what is the difference between an LMS and an LXP? 

What is an LMS? 

LMS stands for Learning Management System. In comparison to LXP, LMS is an older and more widely-known L&D term. It’s probably what you picture when you think of a digital learning platform. 

To demonstrate this point, Share Knowledge finds that 83% of organisations currently use an LMS, with 73% saying their LMS usage has increased in the past three years. What’s more, recent research indicates that by the end of 2025, the global LMS market will be worth $28 billion. 

Accordingly, it’s important for anyone working in L&D to have a firm grasp of what an LMS is. According to Training Industry, “most organisations use an LMS — a system designed for the administration, delivery, tracking and reporting of learning and development initiatives.”  

Similarly, Share Knowledge defines an LMS as “a software application that provides the framework that handles all aspects of the learning process – it’s where you house, deliver, and track your training content.” 

Totara Learning adds to this, noting that “an LMS focuses on the management of learning and users. Traditionally, learning management systems have focused more on formal learning such as compliance-based training.”

Basically, an LMS is the traditional industry standard. As the name suggests, it is typically used to house, administer, and manage users’ learning, focussing primarily on formalised learning processes such as certifications and compliance training. 

What is an LXP?

LXP stands for Learner Experience Platform. As the name indicates, an LXP places far more control in the learner’s hands, emphasising social and collaborative learning. Compared to an LMS, an LXP places less focus on formalised training and more emphasis on the overall learning experience. 

According to Totara Learning, “LXPs usually focus more on social, informal and collaborative learning. This might include allowing learners to create their own content that can be shared across the platform.”

In contrast to an LMS, a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) is a far newer term. Filtered Learning estimates that it entered the zeitgeist as recently as 2018. Even so, LXPs are rapidly gaining popularity. According to Instancy, the LXP  industry is already estimated to be increasing in value by $200 million year-on-year as of 2020.

Training Industry explains that an LXP “consolidates a variety of capabilities into a single portal, enabling a variety of methods to engage learners, such as personalised learning pathways and social learning.”

Finally, Unboxed Training & Technology adds that an LXP “is a platform where content is both curated and aggregated for personalised learner experiences.” 

Put simply, LXPs are all about the learner. The learner’s experience is placed front and centre with a far higher emphasis on personalised, engaging, and collaborative learning to enhance their learning experience.

It is also worth noting that since LXP is a far newer term, it is not as well-defined as an LMS. As such, the exact definition of an LXP is more fluid, so it can mean different things to different organisations.  

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

With this in mind, it’s worth asking the big question: what’s the difference between an LMS and an LXP? 

One of the key differences between an LMS and an LXP is push vs pull learning. An LMS relies primarily on push learning, where training content is delivered directly to the learner, or, in other words, ‘pushed’ onto them. In contrast, an LXP focuses on pull learning, where learners are pulled in and enticed to engage via collaborative, personalised content. Many strong learning cultures use both push and pull learning to fulfil different functions, enabling them to live side-by-side. 

Pull quote with the text: one of the key differences between and LMS and an LXP is push vs pull learning

Filtered Learning provides an excellent analogy to articulate this difference, saying, “an LMS is a system through which admins can assign and track highly structured training content. Conversely, an LXP is a consumer-focussed platform in which the user chooses their own learning from a diverse array of personalised content. If an LMS is going to a cinema, an LXP is going on YouTube.”

Training Industry elaborates on this, explaining that “while a learning management system is a useful tool for compliance and certification purposes, LXPs encourage learners to engage with training. LMSs are primarily administrator-driven, and LXPs are employee-driven, meaning that learners select which content they want to engage with.” 

Ultimately, both models have their value. While engaging, experiential learning offered through an LMX is definitely an enticing prospect, things such as compliance training and other formalised learning aren’t disappearing any time soon, meaning an LMS is still essential in many instances. 

Pull quote with the text: LMS and LXP platforms don't have to be mutually exclusive

Further, LMS and LXP platforms don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It is worth thoroughly researching your options, organisational goals, and learning needs to determine which option is most suitable for your L&D team, or even if a combination of both an LMS and LXP might be a viable option. 

What does the future hold for LMS and LXPs? 

Finally, it is worth looking to the future. While the L&D world is currently focussing on LMS vs LXPs, learning technologies are quickly evolving to defy these easy categorisations. 

We have already mentioned that LXP is a somewhat ambiguous term that can mean different things to different organisations. The soon-to-be-launched Microsoft Viva is the perfect encapsulation of this growing trend, stretching the definition of what an LXP is and what learning technologies can be. 

At its core, Viva Learning, which is one of 4 modules within Microsoft Viva, can be seen as a simple LXP. Although, it may stretch the term LXP further as a 'lightweight' LXP that's fully embedded within systems people use daily, such as Microsoft Teams. 

However, it is not that straightforward. Viva Learning can also work alongside an LMS or without one, plug into a content library (like Go1), plug into individual content vendors (like Skillsoft), or plug into your authored content. It's an interesting development in the L&D industry that's shifting how we think of the definitions for LMS and LXP that we’ve outlined above.

As Josh Bersin explains in a recent article, “You may know that the Learning Experience Platform (LXP) market is on fire... the Microsoft Viva Learning app is not only an LXP in disguise, it also lets companies publish and share all their internal videos, podcasts, and other user-developed content.” 

Filtered Learning adds to this point, demonstrating how Viva Learning blurs the boundaries between an LMS and an LXP. They explain, “Viva Learning will encompass LXP functionality (aggregation, curation, recommendation and search) alongside limited LMS functionality (managers assigning training to groups and individuals), all within Microsoft Teams.”

In other words, Microsoft Viva doesn’t fit neatly into pre-defined boxes like LMS or LXP. While this doesn’t make LMS or LXP platforms irrelevant — far from it — it stands out as an exciting trend that pushes the boundaries of how we think about digital learning categorisation. 

To find out more about Go1’s exciting new integration with Microsoft Viva, be sure to read our announcement blog

For more insights, be sure to subscribe to the Go1 newsletter to stay on top of all the latest L&D trends. Or, you can book a demo today to find out how Go1 can help with your team’s learning needs.

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