Building Your Learning Technology Stack: A Comprehensive Guide

Not long ago, most organizations had a single type of learning platform to be concerned with, their LMS, and perhaps a couple of desktop tools to create eLearning content. Today, most corporate learning organizations feature a robust learning ecosystem, a multi-layered stack of learning technologies, typically well-integrated with each other, and one or more critical business systems such as HRIS, CRM, and business analytics.

Usually, a Learning Management System (LMS) serves as the foundation of a technology stack, and additional technology layers are added based on the organization’s needs and learning goals. These may include a Learning Experience Platform (LXP), Learning Records Store (LRS), Learning Content Management System (LCMS), Learning Operations Platform (LOP), data analytics, microlearning authoring platform, video platform, coaching/mentoring system and social learning capabilities. Other add-ons may include AR or VR tools, gamification tools (e.g., badging), and simulation systems.  

This increase in complexity means navigating the learning technology space has exponentially grown in difficulty, and selecting the right technology stack components and functionalities has become a formidable budgetary and selection challenge for most learning organizations.

A 2022 Brandon Hall Group™ study, Building the Next-Generation Learning Technology Ecosystem, found 45% of organizations reported their current learning ecosystem (technology stack) is inadequate to meet their needs. When asked to project purchases over the next two years, the top stack components or functionalities selected were: 

  • LMS (60%) 
  • LXP (58%) 
  • Social/Collaboration (53%) 
  • Coaching/Mentoring (42%) 
  • Simulation (33%) 
  • Badging (33%) 
  • LCMS (29%) 
  • AR (29%) 
  • Gamification (25%) 
  • and VR (25%).

When faced with building or modifying your learning technology ecosystem, Brandon Hall Group™ recommends three broad steps over and above the standard protocol for buying any learning technology: 

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of your current technology stack: Based on your organization’s performance goals and learning initiatives, review the effectiveness of each stack component. Ask if that component supports the effective creation, delivery, tracking or analysis of content in a way that directly supports effective, personalized, and well-targeted learning to your audiences. Are you able to fully integrate with the other parts of your technology stack and any critical business systems in a way that supports your goals and initiatives? Are you able to pull data from or supply learning content to all your critical integration points? 
  1. Identify gaps in your current technology stack: Ask if you are missing a critical learning modality such as simulations, AR, VR, video, social/collaboration, VILT, or microlearning capabilities. If so, is there a clear business case for adding that modality (e.g., would it be more efficient, effective, or better able to reach an audience in a way that clearly provides organizational impact)? Review if your LMS, as the foundation of your ecosystem, provides all the capabilities required to deliver and administer targeted content, and integrate with all key business systems. Ask if your current LMS requires the addition of an LXP to enhance the learner experience and better allow for curated content. Check if adding a Learning Records Store to track xAPI and cmi5 content might make sense given your organization’s needs. Or perhaps you may have a gap in administering ILT and VILT training which could best be addressed by a Learning Operations Platform rather than your current LMS and some spreadsheets. 
  1. Identify and rank key integration needs: A learning ecosystem must be well-integrated to be truly effective. These days, a Learning Management System may be called upon to deliver learning content seamlessly into a business application such as CRM, pull data from an HRIS or data analytics platform, access learning content from a third-party content catalog without requiring an additional sign-on, and effortlessly integrate with web-conferencing software. Cataloging and ranking each potential use case and the business case associated with each is a critical step in deciding which integrations to include in your technology stack budget. 

At the end of the day, if you aim for a learning technology stack that enables well-targeted, personalized, and accessible learning, delivers content in the most effective modalities and appropriate platforms, and ensures you have the data, you need to clearly demonstrate business impact and that your stakeholders, target audiences and L&D team members all will be well-satisfied. 

Brandon Hall Group™ SmartChoice® Platinum Preferred Provider EI Powered by MPS is a global full-service provider of cutting-edge learning content, learning support services, consulting, and technology. They offer both a selection of learning platforms and consulting expertise to help you build or improve your learning technology stack. 

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