E-learning platform vs. learning experience platform: Which is right for your business?


When it comes to learning at work, many companies are moving away from more formal training and traditional education towards on-the-job learning. As part of this shift, organizations are using new learning technologies and strategies to keep their employees competitive and motivated—and keep their business resilient. After all, your employees want to feel that they’re learning the skills they need to remain competitive in their field for the long-term, not just for their current projects. 

But what type of online learning platform is right for your organization’s needs? To help you understand the changing organizational learning landscape and make a well-informed choice, we break down the differences between a couple common platforms: e-learning platforms and learning experience platforms.

What is an e-learning platform?

E-learning, also known as online learning, simply refers to using digital technologies to deliver complete learning programs. E-learning platforms come in many shapes and sizes—if you ask 10 different people to define them, you’ll likely get 10 different answers. We define e-learning platforms as web-based services that can be used to share structured learning materials and courses with an unlimited audience. 

E-learning platforms typically enable static content delivery rather than collaborative learning. These platforms allow companies to deliver and track theoretical knowledge, and they foster more independent study among employees. LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Pluralsight are a few examples of popular e-learning platforms. 

It’s good to note that some people differentiate between the terms “e-learning platform” and “learning management system (LMS),” while others use them interchangeably. LMSes can be seen as a type of e-learning platform that focus on helping HR and learning professionals organize, track, and manage employee learning initiatives. They can be used for a range of training programs from onboarding to professional upskilling. 

What is a learning experience platform?

A learning experience platform (LXP) is an online platform that allows organizations to facilitate on-the-job learning and deliver a personalized training experience to employees. 

As the name suggests, LXPs focus on improving the learners’ experience rather than just managing corporate learning programs from a business perspective. With more traditional learning management systems, employees might finish a learning module or graduate from a learning program. But with learning experience platforms, there is a mindset shift of continuous learning where individuals are engaged throughout their entire learning journey. LXPs allow you to put people in the front and center of your organizational learning programs. 

But not all LXPs are created equal. As with e-learning, many different types of platforms fall under this LXP category. Most LXPs make content recommendations based on users’ past behavior, roles, and interests, but don’t facilitate social learning and collaboration. There is a huge difference between these “Netflixes of learning” LXPs and social learning platforms like Howspace. The social aspect is key as it elevates the customized content and fosters collaboration, which creates a much more meaningful learning experience.

What are the key differences between an e-learning platform and a social learning platform? 

Let’s dive a little deeper into how these online learning platforms differ from each other:

Immersive vs. one-directional 

E-learning platforms typically feed participants a lot of knowledge, but don’t give them the context to help the information stick. Taking part in an e-learning program can be like drinking from a fire hose: you absorb as much information as possible, and are then expected to somehow go off into the world and apply it.

But the reality is that learning is hard—we most often forget the things we learn unless we take intentional steps to retain them, as revealed by the “forgetting curve” theory. We retain information by:

Most e-learning platforms are unfortunately disconnected from the participants’ day-to-day work, making it nearly impossible to retain and apply information. Social learning platforms, on the other hand, allow HR and learning & development (L&D) professionals to facilitate dialogue and democratize learning. Participants are encouraged to apply what they’ve learned on the job—which is where most learning happens—and reflect together with their colleagues. 

Ongoing vs. one-off 

Since Covid, many organizations have tried moving their in-person training days online. But more and more L&D professionals are seeing that these one-off events don’t create sustained learning impact. And whether in person or online, full-time learning days can be impossible to schedule. 

E-learning platforms can be great to build and deliver standard online education to a large group of people, but they don’t necessarily enable L&D professionals to create an ongoing learning experience. But with a social learning platform, companies can invite employees to personal learning journeys that span their entire careers. Thanks to AI, individuals can also connect with relevant people and discussions as part of their learning journey. 

Peer-to-peer vs. individual

An e-learning platform works well to deliver straightforward learning programs where individuals simply need to pass a mandatory course, for example. But for more complex topics where there are no right or wrong answers—such as leadership development or innovation—individuals learn better by practicing and discussing with their peers. 

For these more complex learning programs, it’s a good idea to create a virtual community through a social learning platform. Traditional methods don’t help people learn enduring capabilities, but when participants can engage with each other and reflect together, they’re able to make meaningful progress. 

How do you decide which online learning platform is right for you? 

To sum it all up, both e-learning platforms and social learning platforms (a type of LXP) can be used for different purposes. Depending on your goals and needs, you can use just one platform or both together.

Use an e-learning platform to:

Use a social learning platform to:

Use both online learning platforms in tandem to enhance the learning process

Many organizations have begun using e-learning platforms in tandem with social learning platforms. In this way, they’re able to provide employees with standard training programs they might need (through an e-learning platform), and then build a community with the participants so that they can engage with each other online (through a social learning platform). 

With a social learning platform like Howspace, you can facilitate peer-to-peer learning and maximize the impact of your business-critical learning programs.

If you want to learn more about successful organizational learning in a digital setting, download your free copy of the guide: 8 ways to Boost Engagement in Virtual Organizational Learning.

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