Learning Management System (LMS) vs Learning Workflow Platform (LWP) – all you need to know

You are probably already familiar with the concept of a Learning Management System (LMS) or its close cousin, a Learning Experience Platform (LXP).

The venerable LMS was designed to manage online or classroom event learning. Over time it became a catalogue of eLearning and other content that could be used to support development and tick compliance boxes. It was designed to help learning administrators do their job. The LXP extended the functionality to make it more learner-centric with features like AI driven content suggestions and the ability to add and share user generated content.

The functionality of Learning Management Systems and Learning Experience Platforms is rapidly converging as LMSs jump on the LXP bandwagon and LXPs backfill their product with traditional LMS features. I will use the term LMS for both.

What you may not yet have heard of is a new genre of learning system, a Learning Workflow Platform (LWP), that is more directly focussed on business results than an LMS.

The primary difference between a Learning Management System and a Learning Workflow Platform is that the LMS delivers content whereas an LWP delivers activities.

What the difference means to you

Let’s look at what this difference means for you, a Learning and Development (L&D) professional.

As an L&D professional, what do you want?

Do you want to deliver the learning your organisation asks you to deliver? Perhaps, but it should be much more than that. Delivering successful learning and development programmes includes developing the employees in your organisation so they can do their jobs more effectively. Delivering learning content is not enough on its own. What matters is what people do with that learning and how they operationalise it in the service of executing the organisational strategy.

In short, what an L&D professional should be aspiring to is to deliver programmes that change the way people do their jobs, so it is better for the employee, better for the organisation, and better for its customers. In other words, the outcome is behaviour change.

Behaviour change, if it is to be embedded so it endures over time and even becomes habitual requires learning, yes, but also much more. It requires experimentation, practice, reflection, learning top ups, and often coaching and encouragement from peers and mentors. Beyond the learning itself, there is a plethora of activities required, usually spread over time, to achieve the desired behavioural change outcome.

How do you influence behaviour change?

Think about something you do differently now to the way you used to do it. How did you achieve that change in behaviour? What steps did you take? How long did it take you? What help did you need?

If we want people to change their behaviour, we need to set up a sequence of activities that will help them transition from their current behaviour to the desired new one. They will need some new information, they will need to experiment with it, they will need to practice using it, and they will need feedback on how well they are doing.

An orchestrated sequence of activities with a specific outcome is a workflow. If the workflow is well designed, and you follow the steps in the workflow, you will achieve the outcome the workflow is designed to achieve. This is analogous to a Satnav system. Input your desired destination and the Satnav AI designs a set of turn-by-turn instructions. If you follow the instructions you will get to your desired destination, guaranteed.

Think of a learning workflow as a set of turn-by-turn or step-by-step activities to help someone reach the desired change in behaviour. If the workflow is well-designed, and the employee follows the learning workflow, they will achieve the desired change in behaviour, guaranteed.

What is a Learning Workflow Platform (LWP)?

Start with the end in mind – the behaviour change you want. Then design the step-by-step activities that will take someone on the journey they need to make in order to practice and achieve the desired behaviour. Then put in place some feedback and measures to gauge progress and completion.

If your programme is well-designed the activities will be small and frequent. How else are you going to embed a new behaviour so it becomes ‘The way we do things around here’? Maybe there are 10 small simple activities to do this week, then 10 more the next, and then 10 more the following month. Every learning workflow will be different depending on the desired behavioural outcome but even a simple workflow will have many activities.

For a small number of learners, you could keep track of progress manually, but what if there are 20 or 100 or even thousands of learners? 30 activities each over a couple months for 100 learners – that’s 3,000 activities in total. You need a digital solution. You need a Learning Workflow Platform. Using the LWP, you would assign people onto your workflow when they need the new behaviours, and use it to track progress, keep managers informed and provide reports. A good LWP will have many more features to allow you to measure behaviour change directly with a built in Kirkpatrick Level 3 evaluation, to manage the administration and assessment if the workflow leads to a qualification, to provide a forum for learner collaboration and sharing, and much more.

A Learning Workflow Platform can stand alone or alongside a Learning Management System to provide the activity based experiential journey that is required to convert LMS content into behaviour change. LMS vs LWP is not an either/or decision.

Measurement and ROI

Data is important so we know what’s happening and how we can improve results. An LMS is setup to track what users are doing on the system. It produces reports on who consumed what content and when. The focus is on measuring the delivery of content while people are using the system.

On the other hand, an LWP is designed to deliver activities and so can track how users are progressing through the activities in the workflow. You can use an LWP to track what users are doing away from the system which is where the real action takes place. And because a workflow occurs over time, measures can be included to gauge progress towards the workflow’s outcome – the desired behaviour change.

What is the difference between an LMS and an LWP?

The primary difference between a Learning Management System and a Learning Workflow Platform is that the LMS delivers content whereas an LWP delivers activities. Ultimately it is activities that will help an employee change their behaviour, not content on its own.

Why not take your learning and development up a notch and incorporate an LWP? The People Alchemy Learning Workflow Platform can revolutionise your training delivery and create real business impact. It’s the modern solution for L&D, boosting performance and driving tangible behaviour change. Jam-packed with features and able to adapt and adjust to suit all sorts of businesses, our platform ensures learners act, and actions get learnt.

Book a demo today!

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