Author: Craig Weiss
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It’s that time of the year. Awards coming out from analyst firms, sites, and anywhere and everywhere. It’s like Granny’s potluck. Some are delicious and inviting. Others are inviting but ensure that you can make it to the facilities in the fastest amount of time possible.
And yes, others that make sense. Seems scrumptious, after all, your favorite aunt made it from scratch. It has won all types of awards, best in the British Cake Cook-off. Best, in the Coventry Fair. Tops in the WebWorld recipe contest.
You feel thrilled. Oh, this is going to really be swell.
And initially it is.
Then three hours later, you are cursing your aunt.
Awards should be based on numerous factors, numerous variables to consider. The person or organization who is presenting the awards should know the industry inside and out. If an application is requested for submission, there shouldn’t be a fee to be considered.
That said, though with all the data and variables, there are intangibles to consider. How is their support? How forward thinking are they? Where do you see them going (from an analyst perspective or whoever is presenting the award)? Have they bought any body recently, and will this play a role in their future (regardless of what they might pitch to the public)? What is going on internally? Are they generating sales or losing? Gaining clients or stagnating? What was/is the impact of COVID-19 in their business model and sales approaches?
These all have to play a role in consideration.
After the top 10, I dive into some greater details about the LXP market, where I see it going, what caused this, and what you need to recognize.
And Yes they are in order (feel free to disagree, after all, your aunt swears by her casserole)
By far the most feature-rich LXP on the market by a wide margin. Can compete with any learning system out there, by the way. Extension bookmarklet is fantastic, the block widgets that appear on the top of the search engines (including Google) showing the content that aligns to what you are seeking is quite nice. You have to login to use the extension capability (but you need to do that with any system that offers an extension). Content marketplace is quite extensive, they even offer a search for Instructor option, although I found it to be heavily ILT.
Spark is their key system here, and will work for nearly everyone. Playlists which they call channels is abundant and so are the recommended content from their machine learning algorithm that offers a nice variety of content based on what the learner is taking (they are not required to complete it). In my LXP template, they have over 98% of the feature sets. Extraordinary.
They are one of only a few learning systems that when you are in Microsoft Teams it mimics what you see in the EdCast platform. The benefit? Your learner never has to leave Teams to take content, share, etc. – the data gets pushed back to the system behind the scenes.
Mobile mimics as well, a big thank you on that.
Metrics on Spark will be fine for most, although personally I wish they were a tad more robust, for any size of customer. If you are large enterprise (25,000 plus) you get a couple of additional features, not enough to scream yowsa, but you do have the ability to buy the add-on domo which is a BI tool. And you can do a mass configuration with your system. Not common in the LXP market.
The whole mapping thing for job roles is a bit on the funky side for me – its an extra cost, and again targeted more so for large enterprise.
E-commerce exists in EdCast. Classroom management and event management as well. They continue to add features that go across the board into the LMS space, which isn’t a bad thing.
Leader in the NexGen Grid Tier 4.
A dominant player in the industry. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
#2 Learn Amp – Another system that is very feature rich and continues to improve. They should not be underestimated in the industry. Calls themselves a People Development Platform, although they are a learning platform with some LMS functionality. For folks seeking B2B/B2C they can handle it. Employees of course the same. Has an MS Teams integration, and are working on the mimic aspect, although it is not yet available. Bookmarklet extension is really great. Metrics continue to improve, and based on what they have coming out in the next two quarters, will take it up a notch.
They lack a mobile app, something I constantly get on them about, but their playlist capabilities, including the ability to add podcasts is very cool. All the features you would expect in an LXP, plus much more.
What I really like is that they aren’t trying to be focused solely on the large enterprise space, which too many vendors across the industry see as the “mighty”. Rather small biz (5-500), small enterprise (501-999), Enterprise (1,000-10,000) are their strong spots.
Definite a player to come. And worthy of #2. NexGen Grid “On the Rise”. Top five learning system for 2021. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
#3 – Degreed – Extremely well-known, and a very solid system. Feature wise they are quite strong, but at this time, not someone to consider if you are into the B2B/B2C space or an association for that matter. Bookmarklet extension is good, and was for a time, the first vendor in the LXP market to have one, it has fallen behind the two leaders. Mobile app is good. Content marketplace is massive, with some free stuff of course, like TED. Despite the mass size of the marketplace, there are only a few 3rd party providers that really are the ones folks are buying.
Metrics is a bit of a mix. One side is very slick, nice data visualization, top tier. The other side, where it tracks articles (just how many you went to see on the web, not how long you were on it, per se) is outdated. Something that I have noted to them numerous times, that needs an overhaul.
They were the first vendor in LXP space to have skill ratings, again, others now do as well, but they continue to add functionality around skills, especially tied to job roles. The pick what you want for learners is still available, but assigned learning plays a bigger role than I would like to see in the system, especially when they play the we do not believe in the formal learning card.
Opportunities is an add-on and personally, I have mixed feelings about it. Look it is very slick and it identifies for example not just specific jobs at a company (i.e. client internal), but also say to be a project manager. It identifies the skills they learner has, and what they are missing to do that role/job. So, let’s say you have six of the skills, but the pm job requires 15.
It then identifies content that you will need.
The problem with systems like this, and including Degreed is that to a learner it could give a false impression, that if they have all these skills they are more likely to get that job or role. There are as you know always other factors involved, and subjectivity exists. It isn’t made clear that you having all these skills means you are more likely to get the gig, and I say this, because you can integrate with the Degreed system to an HRIS or HCM platform, so in theory, you could apply for say a job.
Degreed to me, is the vendor who is close to going more of a talent development system. In fact, I’d be surprised if this doesn’t occur by the end of 2021. Again, that’s their choice, and they have a right to fully disagree. But, there is just too much there to say otherwise. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
Not recommended for B2B/B2C space.
#4 Instilled LXP – Sort of a video learning platform that also supports SCORM content, PDFs, etc. Video editing is really good, from bookmarking capabilities to transcript output where you can search and select words to where the video goes directly to. Comes with Watershed LRS built-in, the best LRS on the market. They do not fully turn it on to capture everything, which an LRS can do, but there is more than enough for the majority of clients.
Metrics wise, wow. I love that you can drill down within a video, so that with a TOC (you can create one in the system), you can track how often, how many times, and where the learner goes within the video. That type of data is really invaluable when it comes to what other types of video content you can create that align best to meet the needs of your learners.
For folks into product training, Instilled is an ideal fit. Yes on the SCORM and xAPI content of course, but I feel its real power is video. Screen record (available in the system) with a tutorial on how to do this or that, TOC it, and then push it out to your customers, or clients, employees whomever. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
5. Stream LXP – Very good LXP, Learning Locker an LRS is available to be used in the system. Lots of capabilities and feature sets. Someone to watch in 2021. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
6. CK Connect – Really has upped its game since my review. I am a huge fan of the pre-assessment personality test thing, and the output of content that aligns to well, your personality. Metrics are far better than in the past, continues to get better. See Review. Not recommended for B2B/B2C , but could be a nice plus for an association, especially a professional one. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
7. THRIVE – Good LXP. Always liked them. Features are good, missing some items, seemed to bounce personally, as in they were ready to go places, seemed to slip a bit, and now has rebounded nicely on that path. Not recommended for B2B/B2C. Depending on the association might work. More along the lines of a trade association, for example. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
8. Juno Journey – Another solid pick. Features are very good, still missing a few items to really take them to the next level. But more than enough, to be in the top 10. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
9. Origin Fractal – Feature wise is good. Seemed lost for a few months earlier this year, not sold on the whole angle they are pushing towards. But still a top 10 system. Not recommended for B2B/B2C or association space.
10. Disprz – Everything is tied around skills. Feature wise is good, but another vendor who seems stuck on the job role angle a bit too much. Metrics are good. Not recommended for B2B/B2C or association space. System can be found in findanlms.com – great resource for feature exploration, comparisons, etc.
Something to Realize
The LXP market is changing dramatically, vendors who were in the LXP market are starting to re-list themselves as something else – learning platform, people development platform, Learning Experience, upskilling system, and so forth. This is where the LXP space is heading. Sure there will be vendors who will never re-state their category, but when you look at the features they are adding, you may start to wonder, are they really what they say they are? It’s one thing to say it externally, it’s another thing to say it internally.
As such, this will be the last year for specific LXP awards. Many of them are becoming ubiquitous to other systems, especially an LMS. And for the record, there isn’t anything wrong with that. An LMS nowadays (depending on the vendor) can do everything an LXP can do, and even do some things far better, and have features you may want in your LXP, that just doesn’t exist, because the LXP market really never embraced it.
For those who wonder what makes an LXP, well an LXP, here are the standards you tend to find across the board in the space. This will give you an idea, but again, this is the vast majority.
Why do I believe the LXP market is heading where it is.
Personally, they ignored that Training departments, and training exists. They focused solely on L&D. Many though, if you ask them or tell them that L&D isn’t the only game in town, seemed stunned. Tell them that L&D folks have a background or knowledge of OD, and they will say yes they know it, then ask you what it means. L&D is heavily in the employee side of the house, I surmise that less than 2% are providing B2B/B2C, especially if revenue generation plays a role. L&D and Training are different modalities, but vendors as a whole, are unaware, thus the problem.
Because every LXP wants the B2B/B2C space – at least they say it privately – but when you angle your industry with L&D only, that slides by the wayside.
LXPs were created to be a bolt-on or add-on to another learning system, usually an LMS. They were targeting folks in L&D that were using the LMS strictly for compliance, regulatory and required learning.
Thus the angle learner-centric came into play as a key – in fact – main reason to having an LXP. The whole “informal here, and not formal like an LMS there” existed. The angle that personal and professional development content was the reason for the LXP, after all, with an LMS, it’s all the other, equally played hard.
Even though it just wasn’t true. What you as a client want to use your LMS or whatever learning system you are using, is up to you. I always had personal and professional development courses in my LMS. And I wasn’t an outlier.
But, I digress.
When LXPs decided L&D only, they never in my opinion, really understood the inner thinking and workings of folks in L&D (as a whole). As a result, certain features started to appear in LXPs across the board, including assigned learning – that’s right – formal learning. You can say internally you are learner-centric, but if your algorithm for machine learning plays heavily with assigned learning, that isn’t going to fly.
If you push your system around only skills tied to a job role, please explain to me, how a learner who has an interest in something not related to their job role, have an opportunity to take it?
This is where the LXP industry is heading, and they are not alone, the learning system space is going this way to (exceptions in B2B/B2C and association market exist). It’s a trend that should be a wake-up call across the board.
Interests and Skills to me, are two different entities. I have a huge interest in British history, it has nothing to do with my job, zero to do with my analysis, it is just an interest I have. Let’s say though, I worked at a company, and worked in engineering.
And I as the employee have interests in topics that have absolutely nothing to do with my job role. Shouldn’t I be offered the opportunity to take this content? Wouldn’t this make me a more happy employee because it aligns with my interests? What if I want to learn a skill, that has nothing to do with my job role?
Can I or not?
When systems push everything around the job role, without giving the administrator the option to change that, then it becomes a problem.
And there are vendors in the LXP space who see their systems as performance support. Another real concern I have. When you go to the library or buy e-books, do you see that as performance support, especially if it is skills you want to learn?
When you go and fix your dishwasher and use YouTube to find out how, is that performance support?
There are performance support systems, they exist and have for two decades. That isn’t new.
But let’s not confuse learning and training with performance support. Because they are not the same.
And when a vendor spins the whole performance support, they can forget about B2B/B2C and the association space, what it says to me is that they are on the border of being a talent development system. Not just there yet, but close enough.
There is one system in my Top 10, who I see as potentially crossing the border in 2021. They have started already with a feature capability (that is an add-on) and with a messaging that really angles that way. Plus, with the buy of an HR system, they didn’t do it for its AI only, nor to leverage a part as the “opportunities” angle only.
Many learning systems today, offer a content marketplace, whereas the client – you, not the end-user, can buy courses/content from 3rd party providers to put into your learning system. LXPs by the way, were not the first ones to offer it, LMSs were, they just did it via the phone/e-mail, you reaching out and asking for blah blah.
The first LMS vendor to show it off visually for the client, was Docebo. But they were not the first to do it the other way.
Two of the top ten are in my top five for 2021, learning systems (to be published in January).
All of the above are worthy for your consideration, though. But, in the end, when purchasing an LXP or whatever category they now slide in, always ask
- What 3rd party content do I want and/or need for my learners? Can I buy it through their marketplace?
- How many integrations do I need or want?
- What makes it different compared to ZYX that isn’t in the LXP or learning platform for example, space?
- Is it truly nexgen or is that just marketing? Most of the time it is marketing, there are of course, a couple of truly Nexgen LXPs based on my Tier 4 feature set analysis.
- Am I pigeon holing me so much, i.e. fitting a square into a circle, because someone said to me, an LXP can do this and another type of learning system can’t? Yeah, I want these items, they do not have it, but you know, they seem like the “new thing”.
- Can I afford it?