There’s alway room for another Three Letter Acronym. So did I un-intentionally build an LXP?

Tannis Morgan first suggested so in twitter

and even more in a recent blog post.

But wait a minute- whatsa LXP?

As a TLA it sounds buzzword-ish. But because I know and respect Tannis, when she first blogged why these things could be of interest, that raises the bar a bit on consideration. Her blog leads outside the edu realm to the corporate learning one of Josh Bersin both big time consultant and a company, and heck, an academy too.

Apparently Bersin coined the LXP term in 2018 and is a “booming” market in 2019. Here’s his definition:

As I describe in some of the original articles, the LXP market exists because the paradigm of the Learning Management System is out of date. People no longer search course catalogs for “courses” the way the used to, and we need a way to train and learn “in the flow of work.” So while the category is a product category, it’s also a category of systems designed with a new philosophy: learning in the flow of work.

What this means is that LXP systems have a set of key capabilities:

1. They present content in a “Netflix-like” interface, with recommendations, panels, mobile interfaces, and AI-driven recommendations,
2. They accommodate any form of content, including articles, podcasts, blogs, micro-learning, videos, and courses,
3. They are social, and include social profiles which connect content to people to create authority,
4. They have paths or learning track or trails so you can follow content to a logical learning outcome,
5. They have some form of assessment and often badging or certification,
6. They make it easy to publish your own content as an individual,
7. They are mobile, fun to use, fast and easy to traverse and have great search and embedded learning features.

https://joshbersin.com/2018/09/the-learning-experience-platform-lxp-market-expands/

That helps some but it’s still not 100% clear to me what they do or what one looks like. He cites examples of EdCast (an “AI-powered Knowledge Cloud for personalized learning”), Degreed (“a lifelong learning platform that individuals and organizations use to discover learning content, build skills, and certify their expertise.”) , and Pathgather (“the learning experience platform for forward-thinking enterprises seeking to reshape their workforce and stay competitive in the digital world”). Those descriptions are from the google summary on search results, e.g. what’s in their web site description SEO tags.

From my brief foray into the space (mainly reading what a few others are writing about LXPs), content and experiences in an LMS are ones an organization/institution organizes, designs and packages for learners. An LXP aims to be one where learners get to pick and choose their own paths, possibly even contribute to the collections, and have available a wider range of potentially useful resources, from places like YouTube, wikiHow, the rest of the public internet.

Why Do We Have Learning Experience Platforms?

The original problem these products solved was what I would call discovery.

I want to learn something or take a course and I simply cannot find it in the course catalog (LMS).

LMS systems were never designed to be employee-centric. They were developed as “Management” systems for learning, focused on business rules, compliance, and catalog management for courses.

The LXP, which looks more like YouTube or Netflix, is a true content delivery system, which makes modern content easy to find and and consume.

https://joshbersin.com/2019/03/learning-experience-platform-lxp-market-grows-up-now-too-big-to-ignore/

The likely shift Bersin cites is LMS’s aiming to strap on capabilities to be more LXP- look more corporate goop names!

If you have Bridge (Instructure), CornerstoneOnDemand, CrossKnowledge, D2L, Docebo, Saba, SuccessFactors, SumTotal, or another LMS, most of these vendors now have add-ons that perform LXP-like features.

https://joshbersin.com/2018/09/the-learning-experience-platform-lxp-market-expands/

Will education get prodded too to look at LXPs? I dunno.

CorrLeader as LXP “Lite”?

I probably would have never even read this much were it not for Tannis’s tweet calling the Corrections Leadership project (“CorrLeader”) I did last year with JIBC. I wrote a detailed series of posts covering the project from a first metaphor based on maps through prototyping and implementation as a WordPress site.

The project really was about making a WordPress site. Which I did.

But there is always more I get into a project if I can (and they want).

And while the project does not have all seven characteristics of an LXP (hence “light”) in looking back I see some resemblance. Plus this was not some megabucks corporate development project, it was me and WordPress, and a lot of googling on how to do some tricky parts.

The project was meant to be a resource hub for leadership development for middle managers in BC Corrections, working with an established process. It included a mix of what we called Recommended Courses – workshops and classes or, in person offerings that the department was arranging plus independent learning options, some purchased online mini course content and other ones previously developed (many of this were previously tucked away in the bowels of a Sharepoint site). In the map metaphor for the project these were provided as established trails on a map.

These were to be mixed in with a wide variety of Additional Resources including books, TED Talks, articles, podcasts. For the map metaphor these were more like points on a map that participants would seek themselves.

All of this would be used with the program’s professional growth model so a mentor might suggest specific workshops/courses to pursue components or areas for a manager to explore.

The site/project itself did not call for any kind of tracking or reporting. I a few places we built forms to submit feedback or reviews or materials, and in somewhat an LXP vein, at least a form to suggest new resources.

Going Being the Project Specs: The Navigator

If you get me on a project, the specifications are always a minimum, but not necessarily the end.

In the early conversations with my client, there was a desire for a means to keep the potential audience for the site informed of new, interesting additions/offerings to the site. The base level is as old as anything on the internet – email. I had some ideas sketched about some easy ways to provide the content so a person sending out emails could easily cut and paste, or maybe generate, summaries of the content.

But I also remembered being told that the reason to offer resources such as videos and podcasts is that the type of people this is aimed at are very much on the go, that things that could be easily accessed on a mobile device would be even better.

This eventually came to be developed as the CorrLeader Navigator

This is a separate lightweight HTML (Bootstrap theme) site designed for mobile screens. It is not a version of the full site crafted for the small screen.

Rather, it accesses quickly a summary of all content on the site via the WordPress API, presenting it in either a text summary listing or a richer media version (where videos are embedded, links work, etc).

But more than that, on your device you can store preferences for the mode of presentation types of resources, and filter by the 27 content topics or any of the three broad leadership areas.

While building it out, this was what I called my Crazy Checkbox interface, as I weaved different ways to have all of them be coordinated (selecting all or none, or all in a leadership area, or turning off the All selections if a subsection was chosen).

Now the thing here that I was so sure would catch interest (well I thought this alone was pretty damn amazing) was that these options were saved on you device, but never by cookies which could be sent out. All of this is done with browser storage, it’s preferences (tracking maybe) that never leaves your device.

Now surely someone would think this was amazing. Useful! Worth asking me about it.

Well…

I have not heard any peeps of interest. Curiosity.

Well Tannis just spoke up. So I cannot say “no” interest.

Maybe I did not explain it well.

What a Lite LXP Might Do

This can put into action the idea of “headless” WordPress Content Management Systems (CMS). It means you could use all the affordances of WordPress to let your content designers build content, but not use it (or just very lightly) as the presentation means. So stop fussing with the templates and themes and plugins. Turn WordPress into a content management system.

But let the client side not be hitting your WordPress database, but just grabbing it’s data as JSON API data (basically text). The CorrLeader site’s 88 full media content entries comes over in totality in about 1Mb of text data. And we have it cached, so you are not hitting the WordPress server hard.

I should add that after the CorrLeader Navigator loads, any change in view, filters, is just done locally., there are no further HTTP requests except for maybe media.

And this is where I can think an LXP approach could go. You could have a client platform that maybe draws from multiple sources, not just one, and perhaps one the users choose themselves. Yu provide the browsing, searching, finding to be done on a site with a much smaller footprint.

But let’s go farther. One of the nifty prototypes I did build for Tannis was her idea of a Constellation metaphor to represent groups of resources that are related.

This whole prototype was done by a pile of WordPress custom development using D3js (yep, a long blog post exists for that too).

But having done the CorrLeader Navigator, I can see it would make maybe more sense to dynamically generate the constellations on the client side; let it draw from maybe multiple WordPress content sources?

I am just conjecturing here. But having done a few WordPress (and other source) projects/demos with API calls, it’s got a lot of potential for getting back to a web of pieces being loosely joined.

What’s Not There

I have built a decent working prototype. It lacks use of what seems to be needed by the Big Programmers- a layer of some kind code buzzword named frameworks.

And my stuff does not have reporting, tracking (if it were left to me I would build systems where the learner decides when, where to submit their data, not have it harvested), AI, recommender systems, badging, social media integration. But it sure could. Or not.

Hey! Anyone Out There?

I’d be excited if anyone sees enough potential in all of this to want to build something like this for your project or program. And to be honest, sitting here between projects I have time and need for new ones.

This may not be Big Enterprise Level Stuff but I think there’s quite a bit here even conceptually that feels, excitingly… new.

Throw CogDog a project bone?


Featured Image: A complete fabrication by me and Photoshop of a mock Jeopardy game board. I started with a screenshot of a real one, but completely traced it over, faked fonts and effects (well I did find a source suggesting the font for the cards is ITC Korinna and it worked great). Is this a copy? No. It is parody I claim, so I choose Sue Me for 100 cents, Alec.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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