For Video-Based Training, Do You Need an LMS?

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are the right solution for many corporate training applications. But are they a panacea? If you are considering a video-based training and reinforcement approach, the answer may surprise you.

Each time I attend a marquee event held by ATD, the eLearning Guild, or Training Magazine, my friends and I play a parlor game called “How Many LMSs Are Out There?” The rules are simple. We just ask booth visitors what LMS they use. Of the many who had an LMS, there was almost no duplication. Each system received one vote apiece.

In other words, there are lots of different LMSs out there! That’s not an indictment; quite the contrary. An LMS is essential for many things, especially for large organizations with compliance- or regulatory-based personnel issues. But sometimes there are “round holes” of training that just aren’t right for a square peg-like LMS.

The Backstory

The LMS and its predecessor, Computer-Based Training (CBT), have noble beginnings. With the advent of personal computers, faster networks, and the Internet, they represented the notion that classroom education or training could be improved. They could be augmented or even replaced by a less costly, more efficient digital process. Surely, organized, measurable learning would benefit from the vast information resources, logical structure, and sheer computational power of the computer. It hasn’t worked quite as expected.


Employees do not always learn or improve their skills in a logical, linear fashion. Just as a PowerPoint presentation is not a substitute for one-on-one conversation, LMS-based courseware does not replace all forms of learning—especially those involving impromptu interactions and practice sessions.

Even digital simulations can only go so far. People often learn by doing—trying, failing, and trying again—in ways that courseware designers can’t anticipate.

The modern LMS (in its many, many forms) is impressive, and often indispensable. It helps large organizations reach its people with vital new information and procedures—conveying new knowledge and tracking how it is received.

However, some types of learning—and learning media—require a different approach.

The Video Puzzle

Recorded, on-demand video has been an instructional tool for many years—predating its digital incarnation. A good video—played in the classroom, on a DVD player, or streamed on a PC or smartphone—can make a lasting impression. But video can be relatively expensive to make, is soon outdated, and consumes inordinately large amounts of digital storage space. Some LMS providers allow cloud-based video to be embedded, and streamed from sources like YouTube or Vimeo, but at the cost of losing user tracking.

Until recently, videos have also been relatively passive—a one-way medium for viewing. That is changing, with innovations like Viddler’s in-video comments, links, and questions, but video is still a challenge for many Learning Management Systems.

Some LMS providers have incorporated a more interactive approach to video, including the ability for students to record and upload their own videos. However, for more impromptu forms of learning, such as role-play and practice reinforcement, a less rigidly structured approach to video is better. A Learning Portal, such as the Viddler Training Suite, provides LMS-like features like user logins and performance tracking but also allows video to be a more flexible, interactive training medium.

Video Harmony

This begs the question. Can an LMS and a Learning Portal coexist? For companies with multiple training needs, the answer is yes.

For standardized or compliance-oriented learning, a corporate LMS is the ideal repository for things like onboarding, procedure/policy training, and similar courses. These can include video footage alongside more traditional LMS elements like quizzes and lesson tracking.

However, when learning needs are more spontaneous and informal (but not less important!), a Learning Portal can help with practical skills development in ways an LMS cannot. Sales enablement and comparable team-building processes benefit greatly when the team leaders and members interact and drive each other forward—without the constraints of formal lessons.

Video is of course a vital component. When team members are physically distant but still dependent on each other for learning and improvement, the video aspects of a secure Learning Portal can fill in the gaps that text- or document-only portals cannot.

The good news is that an LMS and a Learning Portal can both provide performance data critical to an organization’s long-term planning and ultimate success. Whether an employee learns from a formal class or an ongoing team exercise, his or her improvement can only benefit their company.

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