Author: Craig Weiss
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There is an old story about branding. It goes something like this. If after a few years, nobody can recall your name, or remember your name or even associate your name with the type of product you are, then you need to change your name.
Actually, it isn’t an old story. I just created it, but it is so true.
LXPs have this problem. A chunk of the audience doesn’t know what one is – i.e. an LXP. Another percentage is still trying to ascertain what is the difference between LXPs and LMSs. Another percent has never heard of an LXP and some people only are aware of a brand and thus refer to the systems under the guise of that brand.
Thus, the segment of the learning system space has a branding issue, but within the LXP moniker, some people can recall a couple of systems, by name, not by the type of solution.
I’ll have a Coke, Get me a Kleenex
It is not uncommon to hear in the southern part of the United States, someone asking for a “Coke” when the server says do you want something to drink. The “wink of knowledge” here is that restaurant may not serve Coke products, and the person is fine with whatever type of cola beverage is available, but their asking, they are referring all types of cola as a “Coke”.
In many places here in the states and even in Canada, I’ve heard people asking for a Kleenex, when in fact, they want tissue paper. I can’t recall the last time, I heard someone in the UK, ask for tissue paper – it is often a brand name, not the type.
There are quite a number of learning system vendors who say on their web site or in their marketing literature, “learning experiences”, when they are not an LXP, rather they are a learning platform or an LMS.
This only adds to the confusion of people wanting an LXP, which is referred to as a learning experience platform.
If the vendor says it provides learning experiences, it must be an LXP, would be understandable, to anyone who is unfamiliar with what is an LXP, but are able to recall, “learning experiences”.
I mention all these initial points because I believe that a branding change is in order. And that the new brand should be Digital Learning Platforms.
What is Digital Learning?
In its simplest form, it is content that includes or incorporates any type of media within it or as it. I initially (two years ago) defined it as “immersive media”, which may or may not include VR/AR/MR. It could as I wrote those two years ago, not have the latter of AR/MR/VR, but the content must have some type of immersive media.
Immersive media could be engaging (ideally) or any type of media, that is well a form of media. A video? Slides under immersive media, at the moment, that it takes “watching it” to a new level.
If you watch say a video, and it can then bounce around it, leave and come back to the same bookmark, be able to respond to questions or even hot spots within it, as a secondary component, then it is engaging the end-user, and is immersive at its most basic form.
When social learning stated, it was based on a “simple premise” of social media + learning = social learning. Nowadays, it has gone beyond that simple premise.
From my perception so too has digital learning.
What is a Digital Learning Platform?
- Types of content include media – which is either video, audio, or any type of immersive assets – a course that is interactive, a PDF that has mini video pieces, content that is engaging to the learner – in other words, pro-active not reactive
- Media plays an important role – the system can auto-transcribe a piece of media, with an output of a “text transcript” or the use of a search function that an end-user can type in the text and it goes to the video point – or a combination of both functions
- Video management exists within the system, video streaming – which is in essence media streaming appears. A video editor takes it to another level, after all, what is an easy way to provide an immersive experience, then the ability to edit a piece of media to how you want it to be seen and used?
- Machine learning which can see the types of media (content) and based upon someone taking (regardless of completing or not) the media, push out a learning path based on those pieces of content.
- Multiple media partners (3rd party content providers) who either are all “media-driven” such as Linkedin Learning or have a mix of media that is engaging with other types of content (Open Sesame) or a vendor that sells only immersive content and nothing else.
- Immersion brings about a strong tie to social if the social leverage the immersion of learning. It is not enough to have a “stream”, or “comments” or a discussion board or forum, rather the system offers an experience that includes a webcam recording and response mechanism (ideally, at a minimum it is a webcam initial or mobile video record, then publish and the coach responds in some fashion”, the end-user can screen record or bookmarklet content (engaging).
The experience may be as basic as other end users recording themselves and publishing to the system (with admin approval) as forms of media content. Then others may respond via various types of connectors or APIs that are associated with types of communication or digital workspaces, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.
A digital learning platform prides itself on offering a unique learning approach to engage learners in some mannerism. If you offer mastery learning, add media pieces that force the learner to think, rather than click or memorize. Bring in real-life – it doesn’t get more immersive than that.
Right now, there are way too many LXPs that are adding functionality that is similar to an LMS, which is a shame. The ubiquity is a factor that results in misunderstanding, but if you review what is a digital learning platform, then – assuming some feature sets are met – and immersive is expanded upon – an LXP would change.
Learning Systems Nightmare
This is by far the only industry that seems intent on confusing the audience as much as possible. Too many learning system vendors come up with messaging that rather than provide consistency, embraces confusion to such a degree. that their entire audience is left to ponder often in the wrong direction.
Today, the learning system market is zeroing in on specific department in the corporate space, the L&D department. L&D is all about employee learning, and every L&D person I know has a background in organizational development. The majority of L&D folks, see learning as “compliance and required” for their employees, and rarely offer personal and professional development (some do though).
There is also these thing called “Training”, and these folks do not have a background in OD, nor do they (as a whole) only focus on employees’ learning, especially if they also have customers (B2B external). I have found that when it comes to customer training, it is quite common to have the title of “Training” somewhere in there.
This is very relevant to the learning system industry because if a vendor is seeing only L&D as the entire target market, they are missing out on the other big segment too.
And thus, angling towards L&D, terminology pushes the boundaries to drive home the employee-focused terms, which expounds confusion.
Recent Spin includes
- Employee Development Solution – Bridge by Instructure recently jumped on to this term to identify their system, even though in previous years they were a learning platform or even an LMS (if you doubt this type in Bridge LMS on a search engine and it will appear often)
- Employee Experience Platform – Is another spin term that some LMS vendors are using, but amazingly, they are still keeping LMS as a search term on the web (why after all risk missing out on a customer searching for one)
- Employee Development Program – Docebo in their messaging, states they are a Learning Platform, LMS, employee development program, and learning experiences. Best to cover all the bases
Each of the Employee development or experience angle messaging states L&D driven only.
Other amazing terms are industry use
- Employee development software – when referring to a system
- Skills platform
- Micro-learning platform
- Video learning Platform (they are still out there)
- Learning Platform not to be confused with an LMS, because they argue they are different
- Learning Experience Solution – not to be confused with an LXP, because if you put it all together it says LES, which everyone is searching for these days on the net.
And I could continue. It is no wonder, LXP vendors are receiving LMS RFPs and LMS vendors are receiving LXP RFPs.
How many vendors these days are receiving RFPs asking for an employee development platform, and in that RFP, it is really seeking a talent management system? Because a talent management system/performance management is more aligned to employee development, than say training/learning systems.
Could one argue that an LMS is a digital learning platform, I’d say it depends on the functionality angle, and sure, just as someone could argue that a Hybrid electric car is the same as a 100% all-electric car. In some ways yes, in a main way, no.
Make is Easier, not Difficult
Why as an industry should we continue down this path of Anti-this, as though we must show a difference so that people seeking X type of system, are really seeking us because we are not that type of system?
Here is how I see it
Digital Learning platform replaces LXP and a learning platform. Digital Learning is easy to remember, and from there the vendors in the DLP space, could spin that their system offers employee development, employee experiences and so forth. Plus they could offer customer training, because let’s not forgotten that many LXPs I have spoken with (execs that is), have said they want into the B2B space, which uh, is often referring to customer training.
Learning Management Systems – One focusing on customer training will have feature sets that are not 100% the same as one focusing on employee training. Right now, there are plenty who do a crossover, but charge for extra tenets (i.e. multi-tenant system).
I know plenty of consumers who have dozens of LMSs, when in reality, they could get one LMS that offers a multi-tenant, and then use that, whereas, if you are offering customer training and employee training, one tenet the primary say focuses on the customer and one of the children focuses on employee. If you want your LMS to only be compliance, then find one focused only on employees (they do exist).
SEP – Sales Enablement Platforms, they do exist and are growing. They focus on sales training as their primary, although some go sales training, then call center/customer service training. But a Sales CRM and other sales functionality does exist and are essentials, beyond just the training component. It is one system though, not a set of mods.
Talent/Performance Mgt systems – In my learning system sector, I only have those who have learning as a component – included. If they do not offer it as part of their system (and not a mod, which is still in the system but turned off), then they are not a learning system.
So to repeat (for mastery purposes)
Digital Learning Platform, LMS, SEP, TM/PM with learning
And from there, you can spin however you see fit. Your DLP provides employee development or customer training or both. You are an association who wants to provide training to your members, go either DLP or LMS or buy both since a DLP can be an add-on.
Too many vendors are using learning experience as part of their pitch, their SEO to attract consumers who do not want an LMS. Not because they may not need one, but because they are receiving mixed messages.
And the people behind those mixed messages are the same people trying to sell you their system.
The first fix is the re-brand of the LXP. It isn’t working. Read any marketing book or publication and the message is quite clear – if the brand isn’t working, re-brand.
To a Digital Learning Platform
Simple to remember. Easy to explain.