A Learning Experience Platform (LXP) is a new generation of learning software that replaces the more traditional Learning Management System (LMS). LMSs are used a lot in corporate environments to host all the boring training 😉

In fact, that right there is the differentiating factor. An LXP is focused on providing a good learning experience (user-focused) whereas an LMS is focused on making it easier to develop courses by learning & development (L&D) professionals (author-focused). An LXP is more self-directed whereas an LMS is management-directed – think of it like upskilling vs. "compliance training." (shudder)

Both LMS and LXPs are part of the wider eLearning industry. There are a ton of LMS and LXP solutions out there but I'm focused on developer-oriented learning.

So... what is a Developer LXP? Easy! An LXP focused on a technical audience.

That means, it will likely be easier to integrate code samples, and hands-on experiences like labs, and it can even mean having courses be open source.

Typically, a DLXP is a few steps above your average docs site:

  • Lesson-based courses
  • Progress tracking
  • Achievements, badges, or certifications
  • Integration of different content types (audio, video, etc.)
  • Multiple contributors
  • Social learning (like live events or cohorts)
  • Assessments or quizzes
  • Virtual lab environments
  • GitHub/GitLab integration
  • i8n support

I expect you will start seeing these more often and it's likely you already have if you've seen these "universities" or "academies" with developer tooling companies. There's a good reason for it – self-paced courses are huge lead generators, great for marketing, and great for building a community. They help you accelerate developer adoption using gamification.

But where do you put self-paced courses? And how do you author them?

That is what DLXPs are for.

But there are degrees of DLXPs ranging from DIY learning sites to fully integrated platforms that work for internal teams and external audiences.

Rolling your own DLXP

On the DIY-end of the spectrum, you have something like Storybook Tutorials.

This doesn't have learning progress tracking or gamification but it does support translations, contributors, lessons, and courses (guides/tutorials). It was built in-house by the Chromatic team using Gatsby.js.

Another example is Learn Cypress, which does have progress tracking (using device storage):

Learn Cypress courses are all open source on GitHub as well and the site is built with Next.js.

These are all examples of rolling your own learning platform. The big benefit is that you can integrate them natively into your user experience using the technology stack you're already using. These also cater specifically to the open-source business models these companies use, allowing contributors to enhance the courses.

However, the DIY approach means you have to roll everything yourself – analytics, certifications, timed courses, different formats like cohorts/instructor-led/live events, and assessments.

If you're a Fortune 500 or a venture-backed startup, maybe you've got the engineering resources to do this – but if not, what else can you do?

Out-of-the-box Platforms

Instead of building your own platform, you could use one that's more out-of-the-box like Open EdX. This was originally developed to host MITs online courses and now it's open source (AGPLv3). It offers everything you need to build self-paced courses. There's an easy-to-deploy distribution called Tutor.

Screenshot of the Open EdX sandbox

Open EdX is an attractive option because it is battle-tested and in use by tons of organizations from higher ed, to government, to tech companies. It can be used both for hosting internal courses for your employees or external learning for developers/customers. It's got a plugin ecosystem so it can support third-party integrations as well as more detailed analytics which you know is critical for providing business impact metrics.

Sweet, sweet data nectar for your learning

Open EdX is a general solution for a learning platform – it doesn't have built-in support for things like labs, sandboxes, or GitHub/GitLab integration that you might want for developer education.

Appsembler Tahoe is a DLXP built on top of Open EdX. Appsembler powers academies for some big names in the developer tooling space like Chef and Redis. Appsembler is built on top of Open EdX and they've extended it with features catered to developer education like hands-on labs.

Redis University uses Appsembler

Besides Open EdX and Appsembler, you've also got "regular" enterprise LMS and LXP providers. I've seen some software companies using Workramp (Hashicorp, Plaid, Unity) and MongoDB University is powered by Thought Industries:

Similar to Open EdX, these enterprise-y solutions have the benefit of training both employees, customers, and developers. Even though they don't market themselves as developer-oriented learning platforms, clearly, they can work.

Even though all these examples are focused on self-paced learning, what gets interesting is realizing DLXPs aren't limited to only self-paced courses. A developer learning experience platform can be used to house all your disparate DevEd content – across docs, YouTube, webinars, workshops, sample apps, tutorials, articles, and blogs – all under one roof.

Have a lovely day,
Kamran

What's a developer learning experience platform (DLXP)?

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