Blog Post

LMS vs LXP vs CMS: Key Differences and Choosing the Right One

Dave Sliwinski
June 25, 2024
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Working in education can be daunting, especially when you consider the learning technologies at your disposal. The acronyms certainly don’t make your search easier. Some of the most common tools you’ll see are LMSs, LXPs, and CMSs—but what do those terms mean, exactly?

Worry not: You’re in the right place. In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to differentiate an LMS from an LXP from a CMS. You’ll also learn how to choose the right tool based on your specific education needs. And, if you don’t feel that any fit the bill, we’ll propose some alternatives.

Let’s get to it.

LMS vs LXP vs CMS: What’s the Difference?

Curious what these acronyms mean at a high level? Use the following definitions to learn how to tell the difference between LMS, LXP, and CMS platforms.

What is an LMS?

A learning management system (LMS) is a platform that helps you design, host, and deliver learning experiences. LMSs are predominantly used by learning and development (L&D) or customer education teams as an ever-growing repository for learning content. 

Most competitive LMS platforms let you create digital learning (training courses, product certifications, etc.) via native content authoring tools. An LMS then takes your creations and stores them on a local or cloud-based server, allowing you to deliver that content digitally, such as via a live webinar or a self-serve motion.

In short, LMSs handle the bulk of the admin work associated with learning management. This allows you to create unique educational content and formal training programs that cater to your intended audience—whether that’s clients, channel partners, or employees.

What is an LXP?

A learning experience platform (LXP) is a corporate learning solution that provides employees with learning opportunities at scale. Most often used by L&D departments, an LXP differs from an LMS by focusing almost entirely on internal organizational needs, rather than external client or partner needs.

Competitive LXPs serve up personalized, relevant content for training and skill development, often through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Because LXPs aren’t client-facing, these tools often contain a blend of proprietary and third-party resources, including courses, videos, podcasts, articles, and more.

Though managed by L&D, LXPs generally operate via bottom-up, employee-driven actions. They’re a strong option for organizations looking to invest solely in employee learning. However, they’re also more hands-off than a traditional LMS, putting the responsibility to learn on the end users.

What is a CMS?

A content management system (CMS) is a broader solution that allows everyone from engineers to marketers to produce web content with ease. If you’ve ever built or managed a website powered by WordPress or Webflow, you’re familiar with this type of platform.

Whereas LMSs and LXPs zero in on learning content (it’s right in the name!), a CMS serves a higher-level focus. Marketers may use a CMS to create product pages or publish blog posts, whereas an HR leader may use it to build a careers page. 

Most modern CMS platforms include both authoring tools and web design tools. However, few include out-of-the-box eLearning tools, meaning you’ll be limited in the types of learning activities you can support. You may also find it difficult to segment educational content by user role and track learner progress. This means you’ll need to find a supplementary vendor or plugin to fulfill those needs.

Comparing LXP vs LMS vs CMS Features

You understand the fundamentals, but what about the features? In this section, we’ll explore the actual educational content you can expect to produce when using each of these tools.

LMS Benefits and Drawbacks

LMS platforms are growing in popularity—and for good reason. The benefits of a learning management system are numerous, ranging from greater product adoption to improved customer satisfaction and employee engagement. If you’re looking to build an education team or propel an existing program forward, an LMS gives you the runway to do so.

LMSs are successful in large part thanks to their versatility. This is a broad category with many players out there, each offering a distinct feature set. Some platforms specialize by audience type (e.g., client, partner, employee), while others specialize by content type (e.g., webinars, courses, certifications). 

With so much to choose from, it’s important to know what features to look for in an LMS. If customer retention is your priority, you’ll want an LMS that has a best-in-class user experience. If you’re building a highly specific product certification, you might care more about the breadth of the LMS’s authoring tools and support documentation.

LXP Benefits and Drawbacks

Because learning experience platforms are employee-focused, they’re inherently decentralized. Whereas an L&D or HR team may have the final say in what goes into an LMS course, anyone can contribute to an LXP—whether that’s a sales manager developing new talk tracks or a marketing VP sharing updated brand guidelines.

For some organizations, the idea of crowdsourcing education can be alluring. This is especially true if your education team or budget is lean, and all you need is on-demand learning, all the time. However, this approach has its drawbacks. 

For one, with no central owner of information, upkeep can quickly get unwieldy. An education leader may have the administrative keys to an LXP, but lack the context needed to organize the content concisely. Before long, you may find yourself with an ocean of content, but no clear learning paths to help employees succeed.

Secondly, there’s the elephant in the room: LXPs are designed exclusively for employee development. They’re not intended for educating customers or partners. So, if you’re looking to educate multiple audiences with a single platform, you’re out of luck.

And make no mistake: Educating multiple audiences matters. According to our 2022 Examining the State of Organizational Education report, companies that use an education platform to educate multiple audiences are far more likely to see benefits—including better retention and increased revenue—than companies that only educate a single audience.

CMS Benefits and Drawbacks

Advocating for education can be an uphill battle. So, when buy-in or budget is particularly scarce, sometimes you need a proof of concept to propel you.

A content management system can be perfect for this. Why? Odds are, your company already uses a CMS—provided you have a marketing website (most do). And because CMSs can host a wealth of multimedia content (blog posts, videos, audio files, etc.), you can essentially use a CMS to build a V1 education program from scratch.

Of course, that isn’t ideal. You’re far better off investing in an LMS or LXP if learning, not marketing or selling, is your primary goal. However, a CMS can help you build a blueprint for education, especially if you have the budget to invest in a few education-oriented plugins.

If you’re interested in a CMS, check with your website development or marketing team. Learn what content creation tools you have available, and explore whether there is capability to embed a learning environment into the platform. Start small, build some preliminary training content, and track success. Develop trust with your stakeholders, then make a business case for education.

Not Finding the Right Fit? Here’s an Alternative.

LMSs, LXPs, and CMSs are established tools that cater to specific organizational needs. What they don’t offer, however, is comprehensive education support.

  • A CMS isn’t built for education.
  • An LXP is built for education, but focuses exclusively on employees.
  • An LMS extends to clients and partners, but rarely educates all three audiences at once.

To accelerate your education efforts, you want a tool that’s built to scale. A CMS can’t do that, and an LXP and LMS won’t give you the same return as a platform that can educate multiple audiences, out of the box. That's where Intellum comes in.

Explore Intellum for Yourself

The question isn’t “LMS vs LXP vs CMS,” but rather: “How can I get all that functionality, without having to choose?”

Intellum offers all the features you’d expect from competitors—plus so much more. Create personalized eLearning for multiple audiences using our modular content blocks. Host live webinars, create gamified learning, and keep learners engaged with recommendations based on AI and machine learning. Track the metrics that matter, and collaborate cross-functionality without the upkeep of a cumbersome LXP or CMS.

But we get that talk is cheap. Request a demo, and see the platform for yourself.

About the Author

Dave Sliwinski headshot
Dave Sliwinski
SVP Solutions Engineering
Dave Sliwinski has over 20 years of experience in the software services industry and managing LMS platforms and L&D programs. He joined Intellum in 2016 and serves as Intellum's SVP of Solutions Engineering, a trusted source of technical product expertise and platform best practices for clients and prospects.