What Is a Learning Experience Platform (LEP)?

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Do I need a learning experience platform (LEP)? How does an LEP differ from an LMS? You have questions, we have answers.

header image shows a man standing in front of a screen with LMS? and LEP (checkmark) on it

If you’ve had your eye on a new learning management system (LMS) to give your employee training program an overdue boost, you’re in good company. With skills development being a top priority for a majority of HR leaders this year, the LMS market is absolutely cooking.

Look closely though, and you’ll see that another contender for your e-learning budget has entered the arena: the learning experience platform, or “LEP” for short. With any new tech, the same question arises. “Is this something I need to pay attention to, or something I can safely ignore?”

We’re here to tell you the LEP is a game-changer. So much so that Gartner predicts by 2023, 70% of organizations that purchase a LMS as part of a human capital management (HCM) suite will be forced to purchase an additional LEP to meet learner experience needs (full report available to Gartner clients).

That’s a significant investment, especially for cash-strapped small and midsize businesses. So, what is an LEP? How is it different from an LMS? Read on to get answers to these important questions and more to help inform your training technology investments.

What is a learning experience platform (LEP)?

A learning experience platform (LEP) is a software system designed to expand the range of training content learners have access to, while also providing a more personalized learner experience than one would typically have through an LMS.

Let’s get this out of the way now: An LEP is not a replacement for an LMS. Rather, an LEP is an additional layer that sits atop your LMS and the rest of your training technology stack to enhance the overall learner experience, as illustrated here:

A diagram of a typical corporate learning technology stack, with a learning experience platform (LEP) on top, a learning management system (LMS) in the middle, and a learning records store (LRS) underneath.

An example of a corporate learning stack from “Getting Started With a Learning Experience Platform” (full report available to Gartner clients)

It’s important to note that, for many organizations, this stack will be either partly or completely invisible. 360Learning, for example, sells a learning suite with an LEP, LMS, and LRS all in one that doesn’t discern between the different layers. You can also purchase an LEP by itself and integrate it with any LMS or LRS systems you already have (e.g., Hive Learning).

Regardless, the goal with an LEP is the same: Improve training outcomes through improvements to the learner experience.

What are some learning experience platform features?

As opposed to the typical administration features found in an LMS, the most common features found in an LEP are geared towards the learner, with the goal of improving training content discovery and consumption. Features such as:

  1. A multimedia library. Instead of having to package learning content into a comprehensive course, LEPs can accommodate any type of content on its own, be it podcasts, articles, videos, or otherwise. Typically, this multimedia is displayed alongside courses in a Netflix-like interface for learners to browse through and consume.
  2. AI-driven content recommendations. Employees don’t have to wait for managers or HR to assign them courses in an LEP. AI will automatically recommend the best courses for them based on the content they’ve consumed before, or content that similar learners have consumed or rated highly.
  3. User-generated content. Trainers and HR managers are no longer the gatekeepers of learning. In an LEP, rank-and-file employees get access to intuitive tools that allow them to create their own learning content that they can share with the rest of the company.
  4. Personalized learning paths. Learning content is tagged and grouped by skills, career progression, and a variety of other ways to give workers the best-preset path for their development. Learners also have the option to create their own customized path.
  5. Contextual, on-the-job learning. When integrated with other systems such as Slack or your CRM, an LEP can deliver learning content at the time and place it would be most beneficial. Imagine a salesperson seeing a module about how to pitch in an email at the exact time they’re doing that task. That’s what is possible with an LEP.

An example of a multimedia learning library in Headstream.

An example of a multimedia learning library in Headstream (Source)

Some familiar feature faces from the LMS world such as gamification, social profiles, and mobile learning can also appear in LEPs, alongside important tools such as skill assessments and advanced learner analytics.

Who should implement a learning experience platform?

LEPs represent a major disruption in the training technology market that many organizations simply aren’t prepared for. For some, like those still relying on manual methods for their training needs, an LEP likely represents a bridge too far that they don’t need to worry about immediately.

For others, though, an LEP is the logical next step to improve training outcomes. Here are those that should pay attention to this new tech:

  • Anyone underwhelmed by the user experience of their LMS. LMS systems have a notorious history of being clunky and frustrating for the learner. If the user experience (UX) of your LMS is so bad that it’s affecting learning outcomes, consider an LEP.
  • Those sitting on a goldmine of learning content. Again, the purpose of an LEP is to aid content discovery and consumption. If your best material is being underutilized or buried in the content mix, an LEP can fix that.
  • Team-based organizations with major skills gaps. The social- and user-generated content features of LEPs are critical if organizations are relying on team members to train and reskill one another.

For sheer scalability and efficiency benefits, larger organizations should also pay more attention to LEPs than smaller ones.

How should I prepare to implement an LEP?

If you’re convinced an LEP is the right move for your organization, it’s important to first take a step back and prepare.

As Gartner points out in its report, “Getting Started With a Learning Experience Platform,” organizations that have jumped headfirst into the world of LEPs have experienced a number of challenges: conflicts with existing learning cultures and mitigating outdated learning and development strategies chief among them (full report available to Gartner clients).

In the same report, Gartner offers tips for how you can properly get ready for an LEP:

  • Peer into the crystal ball. You need an LEP that can support the future needs of your business. To that end, a skills gap analysis is vital to discovering the necessary skillsets for your organization to succeed, which you can then align with an LEP provider. Depending on your skills needs, you may need an LEP with a specific premade course library or a feature set that lends itself better to closing specific skills gaps.
  • Find your guinea pigs. You should first pilot an LEP rollout with a targeted group of learners for six to 12 months to smooth out any personalization wrinkles and monitor the effect of the system on learning and business outcomes. Pick a team or department that’s super flexible with change.
  • Focus on the differences. The whole point of an LEP is delivering a customized learning experience. Start segmenting your learners now based on learning needs, preferences, and goals to understand where you may need more learning content or formats.

Which learning experience platform is right for me?

There’s a lot to consider with any new technology purchase: budget, features, support. That’s no less true of LEPs.

To find out which LEP is right for you, head to our learning experience platform (LEP) directory page. There you’ll find dozens of systems you can sort and filter based on your criteria. You can also read product descriptions and user reviews to learn where certain systems excel or disappoint.

If you’d like to read more like this, check out these other resources:


Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

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Brian Westfall

Brian Westfall is a Senior HR and Talent Management Analyst for Capterra. His research has been cited in various publications, including TIME, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Undercover Recruiter.

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