LMS vs LXP Technology – or Just Google it?
When there is an immediate learning need to address, how do you go about providing content in the most timely possible manner? Ami Au-Yeung of Ezra's Impact Lab discusses the decision between an LMX, LXP, and good old Google.
How do you find the right content to meet an immediate learning need?
For learning and development professionals, this is the question that eats at us almost every day. And given the plethora of learning options that are available to us, this simple question can end up being the cause of a lot of sleepless nights.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “but hasn’t technology made learning easier by providing options on platforms within easy reach that we could have only dreamed about 20 or 30 years ago?” That is true. But learning environments today typically involve a patchwork of technologies and approaches that can be very difficult to sort.
There are Learning Management Systems (LMS), which typically describes software platforms on which you can create, deliver and track programs. Then there are Learning Experience Platforms (LXP), platforms through which learners get to engage and direct their own learning through a program they customize for their personal needs.
And then, there’s good old Google. When all else fails, a few keystrokes in the search window can produce an alarmingly broad array of learning options and suggestions.
Before you can decide which option is best for your people, you need to step back and undertake a more strategic analysis of your organization’s needs. The following is a step-by-step guide to identifying those needs so that you can unlock the option that works best for you.
Define your requirements
It’s important to get clarity about your learning requirements. Conducting a thorough needs analysis will involve asking yourself some very basic questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. That last point, how, is more important than ever given the overabundance of learning options and the broad ranges of ways in which technology impacts human behaviour. Specifically, you will need to fully define:
Organizational strategy. The best learning ecosystems are aligned with corporate strategy. Identifying the employee experiences that produce the best outcomes for the business is essential to developing your learning strategy. To get the most value out of learning programs, you need to know what kind of employee and what kinds of skills and behaviors produce the best overall performance.
Learners. Given that you’ll be engaging multiple learners at the same time, you need to determine how much personalization you need to provide to create a truly enriched learning experience. There will need to be space for learners to create their own content, along with flexible learner-content interaction. It’s a daunting task bridging these elements. And yet, when you create a learning experience that connects the right information to the right learner at the right time, you will get the biggest impact on performance.
Clear outcomes. What are the concrete learning outcomes you want to achieve? Be specific. For example, will your content be dynamic (more interaction, co-creation with learner but possibly shorter shelf life) or static (more consistent, standardized employing essential content that doesn’t need to be changed and has a longer shelf life)? If you’re clear on what you need, you’ll likely be more confident when you meet start meeting vendors that offer different options. Anchor yourself in concrete and precise details so that you can articulate strategy with confidence. It will be much easier for you to make decisions, be less distracted by the shiny objects, and cut through the noise once you are clear on your outcomes and requirements.
Think on the spectrum to make binary decisions
When you’re defining your short-term and long-term learning strategy use your spectrum thinking skills. Given the complexity of our workplace, you need to consider all the possibilities and everything in between. The alternatives are endless to help you find solutions that will best suit your learning needs.
You may need to use more than one provider or platform to accommodate your needs. Or, you may need to use both an LMS and an LXP to get the full and desired effect. The important thing is to avoid limiting yourself to one or the other. Spectrum thinking will help you check your assumptions and before making decisions. Once you’ve funnelled through the possibilities, it’s a great way to help you determine your priorities and revisit the options against your requirements.
Determine your priorities
Stack ranking is a great technique to help you prioritize your learning objectives. Let’s say you have 23 items to accomplish; it’s pretty clear you can’t address all of them at the same time. Stack ranking helps you figure out what to tackle first. A colleague recently asked me to stack rank about 40 items to help him prioritize. A much as I wanted to assign a ‘one’ to all the items I couldn’t! Each item had to have a separate ranking. This really forced me to look at what was truly important. Give it a try with your stakeholders! You may be surprised by the results.
Do your research
I love a good spreadsheet. So, before engaging with vendors I try to be as clear as possible about my requirements. On my spreadsheet, I will create a column for each requirement typed in bold at the top of the spreadsheet. Then, I’ll build the spreadsheet out to include all the information I will need to make a final decision. This could include:
- Name of vendor
- Type of vendor. Are they a LMS, LXP, CMS, content creator?
- What type of technology integration is required with my company’s systems?
- What fees are involved: per user; set-up fees; subscription or license fees?
- Details on all communication with the vendors and how they answered my questions.
This kind of template will help you avoid the shiny-object syndrome when a vendor dangles bells and whistles in front of you and focus on your organization’s needs. It’s much easier to find a vendor when you know exactly what you want and exactly what the vendors are offering.
There are other things to do before speaking to vendors. You should definitely review their website and, if possible, request a demo account.
As you dig deeper into your research and are exposed to more options, you may find that your plan changes. That’s ok! Allow yourself that flexibility and at the same time don’t lose sight of your north start – your true requirement.
Finding the right learning option can be a mind-numbing experience. But the people who do their homework and define their needs before agreeing to purchase a learning product will find that they achieve much better outcomes and engagement.
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