The fundamental nature of learning on the job has changed dramatically over the last few years. Today, every company is a technology company, enabled by digital transformation. Previously, corporate training was limited to a few mandated courses for regulatory or functional purposes. Now, learning must be continuous and self-initiated to meet the demands of rapidly changing job functions and requirements.

Traditional learning management systems (LMSs) primarily served the business need of sporadic, mandated learning. Such learning was management-initiated and, in many cases, was required to perform a specific job function. In this case, the LMS focused more on management needs, such as reporting. It directed learners to the courses they needed to complete, and then they would consume the course, take an assessment and move on, with little control over the content they were exposed to.

Now, the dominant motivation and initiation point for learning has reversed. Continuous upskilling has become a reality for employees facing job scope changes at a rapid rate in the wake of technological advancements. These changes have placed new demands on the software system that provides the basis for such learning. The software must offer a higher level of engagement, discovery, nudges and recommendations; seamless device accessibility; the ability to share opinions and engage with instructors; and access to diverse learning content from a range of sources. A new breed of software focused on these requirements has come to the market: the learning experience platform (LXP).

LXPs are relatively new, but they are gaining momentum. Companies that now offer LXPs include Degreed, Skillsoft, EdCast and Fuse, to name a few. These platforms have made inroads and built up notable customer bases because their fundamental appeal is to the end user. Learning and development (L&D) leaders want to provide systems that the end users will proactively use, and LXPs meet that demand.

Observing this trend, several traditional LMS vendors, such as Cornerstone OnDemand, SumTotal and Saba, have responded by focusing on the engagement-centric features and content aggregation capabilities of LXPs. These platforms now include personalized, engaging features that build on the offerings of a traditional LMS.

As LXP vendors mature, they also face new demands beyond aggregation and learner engagement. Customers are demanding other LMS features, such as administrative and reporting capabilities, support for custom content, and skills and roles tracking, from the LXPs. LXP providers are complying with customer demand and rolling out these features.

Some customers are procuring LXPs for certain use cases and segments of their learner population while using their LMS for others. They are creating seamless access for the end user via a single sign-on and enabling seamless reporting capabilities by merging reporting tools or by asking vendors to work together to streamline reporting and operations.

From a software capability perspective, the LMS and the LXP are beginning to overlap significantly, and over the next few years, the distinction may cease to exist. Customers will be able to assess features, engagement and management strengths of an offering and map them to their needs. As a result, we can be optimistic that a learning system will emerge to capture the needs of management and learners alike.