TL/DR. We have recognised that the LMS is no longer enough. Now, large organisations everywhere are seeking to procure products in the emerging category of the "LxP". But rather than a single product, the '"LxP" is better seen as an employee experience concept: the seamless navigation of a complex learning ecosystem. And you don't necessarily need a new product in the stack to achieve best-in-class collaboration, content discovery and channel management as part of your LxP. Just add magpie to Teams or Slack.
The LMS is still with us, increasingly as a back-end system to handle a variety of functions: learning content management, mandatory training, classroom booking, certification pathways (and more recently, gamified incentives and micro-learning bursts). But there's no doubt that now we’ve added a necessary software concept to the LMS: the learning experience platform, or LxP.
What exactly is an LxP?
The LxP is a long-awaited recognition by corporate procurement teams that the workflows required to compel employees to complete mandatory courses or to control access to scarce resources like classroom training are not useful for self-directed digital learning. The self-directed experience is all about browsing and receiving relevant recommendations, not about asking permission and receiving orders. As a product of the consumer internet, the LxP does not require specialist knowledge or even interest to navigate like a library does (previously, the library was the model we based elearning catalogues on).
Josh Bersin has written extensively on this topic and can take credit for introducing the term to the world (and probably thereby improving the employee experience for millions of people). Bersin got there by observing that learning had started to look like TV (in particular, it had started to look like Netflix or Amazon Prime).
But he went further than that. Players like Degreed show that the LxP is more than a catalogue with an interface like TV. Learning experiences can come from many places, and so the LxP is also a curation tool: it integrates multiple content libraries, searches them and also adds user-generated content. Players like Fuse prioritize user-generated material, making their LxP or ‘next generation learning environment’ into something more like a social network.
Learning is an activity with many possible dimensions, and we might now say that the LxP is ideally designed to encompass many of the ones that the LMS neglects. Often they do not do what the LMS did very well, since they have so much more to do. So they simply integrate with an existing LMS instead.
The end result is a list of capabilities which have made their way into LxP feature-lists. Instructive lists of such features exist, such as this one by Craig Weiss, but here’s my take on it. In addition to the core innovations of...
- Large scale learning content curation
- AI-powered learning recommendation
- Facilitation and tracking of self-directed learning
… the full-stack LxP also:
- Integrates with an LMS to handle compliance training and certifications
- Includes social learning capabilities: forums, groups, newsfeeds
- Supports synchronous learning with virtual classrooms
- Hosts any type of content, especially new video content
- Allows users to author content within it, especially video
- Reports on all of this activity and integrates with a business information reporting suite
- … and finally, has an elaborate system of admin levels and permissions that make it acceptable for very large corporations which must manage differing levels of permission across multiple groups and individuals to access content libraries, make large announcements and moderate channels
None of the second list of functionalities are core to what the LxP brings to the table. They already exist elsewhere, for different use cases. But they are nevertheless needed to handle learning in all its forms. In this sense, the LxP is not a product as such but an employee experience concept: the smooth navigation of a complex learning ecosystem that does all of the above.
Where do Slack and Teams come in?
My proposition is that these ancillary but important functions now exist in their most developed forms in Slack and Microsoft Teams, two workflow platforms that readily integrate with many other tools. Slack is more suited to small to medium-sized organisations, and large ones relying on Google productivity software (and also software engineering teams within larger organisations). MS Teams is the natural choice for knowledge workers at the multinationals who already rely on Microsoft technology. It has now surpassed Slack in user numbers.
These two platforms are also the place where work itself in general is either happening now or going to happen in the future. This is important because we also generally recognize that a significant component of learning happens during work (as Bersin and, before him, the Internet Time Alliance explained). To make an impact on this learning, the closer you are to the workspace, the better.
It follows that, when choosing your LxP, there may be no need to buy or build a product that does everything on this list. In fact, the majority will almost certainly be done better by Teams or Slack. They are dedicated collaboration and knowledge management platforms and the product of decades of evolutionary improvement in this domain. No LxP will ever match them, especially with the billions they invest in these core collaboration features (messaging, video conferencing, user-generated content and search).
I’d also like to draw attention to that neglected final requirement for complex and nested admin features to allow the learning ecosystem to be managed in hierarchical organisations. Slack drew upon the success of the messaging paradigm (a closed group, not a public newsfeed) to make this much easier. MS Teams is even more granular: every Team and Channel can have its own set of permissions. It’s the sort of mind-numbing, frustrating stuff - involving licenses for expensive tools or content libraries and often complex moderation requirements - that is perhaps the biggest hurdle for an LxP project.
But what about my LMS?
LMS integration is probably the one area where LxPs are ahead of Teams / Slack and will be for a while yet. But there are already low-touch integrations available for Teams via its Tab feature, and it's reasonable to expect LMS vendors to build integrations with these workflow tools. In any case, it’s easier to put a clause in an LMS renewal RFP to require a Slack or a Teams app than to try to reproduce everything the LMS does somewhere new.
If you build your LxP within Slack or Teams, you can focus your efforts on the functionality that isn't core to these workflow tools that you need: content curation, AI-driven recommendations and facilitating self-directed learning activity. This is where magpie focuses 100% of its functionality. Our proposition combines expert curation, at a large scale, with AI-powered recommendations, to drive more and higher quality self-directed learning activity. magpie brings relevance. Hence:
magpie + Teams/Slack = LxP
Not every organisation can adopt this formula because you need everyone to have access to Teams or Slack to make it work. In these cases, email can serve as a delivery channel that almost all of your team can - and already do - use. magpie can transform email into a proto-LxP that deliver personalised learning to their inbox, track engagement and demonstrate value.
And there will always be a healthy market for shop-floor collaboration tools (like Beekeeper) and full-stack LxPs for the sectors, such as retail and not-for-profit organisations, which generally fall into this category.
But for hundreds of millions of workers, including most of the world's largest companies, it's an intriguing option. We already have three customers trialling versions of this approach. Many are also in the early days of adopting Slack/Teams by migrating communications from email. But for countless small- or medium-sized companies, day to day work already happens largely in Slack, hence their tagline: where work happens.
How does it look in practice?
I see two principles to govern the UX for this concept:
- A dedicated channel for people development that integrates magpie, your LMS and any other learning tools (and perhaps all HR tools), with the user-generated content and social buzz around it. This is the one-stop shop, and variants of the channel archetype can replicate the experience with different tools included across different parts organisation with different permissions.
- Bot integrations into other channels and personal feeds to inject project or context-specific learning notifications into 'the flow of work'. Daily reminders to learn something are the starting point.
HR apps for small to mid-size companies show us what the near-future will be like: just look at the vast list of tools that integrate closely with Slack. Now, these kind of integrations will transform the way we deliver learning in organisations, finally presenting employees with a seamless, integrated experience that replaces the prescriptive model of the LMS. That's what the emerging category of the LxP means to me. In this age of APIs, with a tool like magpie to act as a connective tissue between your systems, you can build an LxP inside the tools that your people already use.