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The Learning Technology Ecosystem

Technology's Place in the Modern Learning Ecosystem

We all know that the learner is the center of the learning ecosystem — today, much of that learning ecosystem is driven by technology. 

But which learning technology tools do what, and which do your organization actually need?

Let’s explore the main components of the Learning Technology Ecosystem, what they do, and how they fit together.

Xyleme's Learning Technology System

The Center of the Learning Technology Ecosystem

Many organizations rely on their Learning Management System (LMS) to manage their learning content, and treat it as the central pillar of both their learning ecosystem and strategy. But in reality, LMSs don’t offer the breadth of functionality required to meet the needs of either the modern learner or the modern organization. By design, LMSs were conceived and built to administer learning content and track course completions from a compliance standpoint — essentially, a tool for Human Resources and Learning & Development teams to be able to confirm a required course was completed by a specific learner. 

But as the needs and expectations of both the modern learner and the modern organization have grown and evolved, the limited capabilities and scope of the LMS are no longer enough to support an entire learning ecosystem. 

That’s not to say LMSs don’t have their place — their primary function is to serve as a learning platform for certificate and registration management. If content volume, maintenance and scale are not beyond the reasonable ability of an individual or team to manage, and if detailed metrics aren’t required, LMSs make sense as a simple system to facilitate learning management.

If, however, an organization requires a more complex learning content management strategy — which can cause content deliverables to increase exponentially when multiple products, audiences, roles and languages come into play — a Learning Content Management System (LCMS) should be at the center of the Learning Technology Ecosystem.

Only an LCMS provides the robust features, capabilities, & integrations necessary to successfully author, publish, distribute, maintain & analyze content at scale & will integrate with LMSs to manage the entire content lifecycle.

Components of a Learning Technology Ecosystem

Each component of a Learning Technology Ecosystem serves a unique purpose. Let’s explore each component, looking at what they do — and don’t do.

Learning Content Management System (LCMS)

Learning Content Management Systems are platforms that support the entire content creation and delivery lifecycle through authoring, publishing, delivering and measuring content. An LCMS provides authors a centralized location to collaborate on projects so content can be synced and reused in a variety of outputs. Content becomes a single source of truth and assets can be assembled into courses, lessons, or more targeted microlearning or job aids, and reused in different ways to personalize content for different audiences and needs. 

Separating content from presentation unlocks content from a single format, so it can be synced and reused in a variety of outputs, eliminating duplication and rework. Tagging and metadata allow authors to tailor content to specific audiences with the ability to filter by role, region, product, etc. With an LCMS, content can then be distributed in or out of an LMS.

What They Do*

What They Don't Do

*This list is based on Xyleme’s LCMS. Not all LCMSs offer all features listed.

Learning Management System (LMS)

Learning Management Systems are platforms that manage learners and events. LMSs are primarily used for the assigned delivery and tracking of formal course completion and the administration of programs and competencies, including online, virtual classroom and instructor-led. Organizations may have multiple LMSs in place to serve the needs of different audiences.

Published content simply lives inside an LMS, and any content updates or changes are managed outside of the system. Any content that resides in the system is locked in a published format, as it is not a content or asset repository.

What They Do

What They Don't Do

Content Creation & Authoring Tools

Content Creation & Authoring Tools are stand-alone applications that facilitate the creation of learning materials, from simple documents to interactive, multi-media assets and simulations. They were initially designed to facilitate rapid development of eLearning materials in a WYSIWYG, or “What You See is What You Get,” format.

Content created in these tools are typically locked in their published format, and can’t be reused without manual duplication. Some tools are more complex than others, but all are limited to authoring and do not include any form of managed distribution. 

What They Do

What They Don't Do

Content Management System (CMS)

Content Management Systems are programs or sets of programs used to create, publish, and collect content assets like videos, articles, slideshows, images, and more. With support for indexing, search, and SEO, CMSs were initially created to simplify the development and publishing of digital marketing content for internal or external audiences.

CMSs do not include any features or functionality to support learning interactivities or assessments. They are not SCORM compatible and weren’t designed to support print outputs.

What They Do

What They Don't Do

Learning Record Store (LRS)

Learning Records Stores are applications that store xAPI records about learning. An LRS tracks exactly how users interact learning content — from the most popular content to question-level interactions. Analytics dashboards provide an accurate and objective picture of content engagement and performance, so users can identify trends and continue to refine and improve content over the long term.

An LRS does not support content development, production or manage users and learning activities.

What They Do

What They Don't Do

Learning Experience Platform (LXP)

Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) are gaining more and more traction as large organizations seek to provide a truly enriching learning experience for their audiences. LXPs bring learning  resources together from disparate sources into a single, user-friendly portal that is personalized to each individual learner. LXPs can do a variety of things, including aggregating and curating content, tracking learning activities, creating learner pathways, supporting skill development, and promoting collaboration. 

Modern learning can happen anywhere and can take any number of forms. LXPs help learners not only manage their assigned learning, but also discover new learning opportunities based on their interests and experience. 

What They Do

What They Don't Do

Building the Learning Technology Ecosystem that is Right for You

Each organization’s Learning Technology Ecosystem is going to look a little (or a lot) different. Depending on size, scope and future goals, the needs of both learners and content management teams can vary greatly. Organizations with just one or two audiences need less technology than organizations serving a variety audiences at scale. The larger the scope of an organization’s content strategy, the more technology tools they typically need to implement and manage it effectively and provide a user experience that meets the needs and expectations of the modern learner throughout their learning journey.

To position your organization for success in the face of ever-changing user expectations and emerging technology, it is essential to have the right tools in place. With all of these technology options, the choices can become overwhelming. It’s important to keep in mind that these technology tools are not mutually exclusive.

The first step is understanding and mapping out your content strategy and your current Learning Technology Ecosystem, and seeing how they match up. Many organizations are bogged down by the sheer volume of content they need to manage and maintain. Others simply don’t have the data they need to understand how their content is performing, making it impossible to measure the impact or effectiveness of their content strategy.

You may find that the tools that you already have in place are sufficient and all you need is some process realignment — or you may see some gaps right away. If your organization struggles with content management and maintenance problems and needs to streamline content authoring, publishing, delivery, and analysis at scale, you should consider making an LCMS the center of your Learning Technology Ecosystem.

So how do you know if an LCMS is right for you?

At Xyleme, we are proud to be the industry-leading LCMS provider, and are committed to the long-term success of our customers. We continue to invest in our solutions and services to help our customers drive innovation and re-imagine how content is authored, published, delivered, and analyzed at their organization.

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