We need more high quality video such as this from UBC Click on image to see the full video
We need more high quality video such as this from UBC
Click on image to see the full video

Bersin, J. (2016) Will video-based learning kill the LMS? Chief Learning Officer, February 15

This article raises a question that has been on my mind for some time. Bersin makes the following points:

  • the LMS industry is worth more than $3 billion in size, and has been growing at roughly 20% per annum
  • more than a billion people regularly watch video online, according to YouTube
  • video makes up 64% of all traffic on mobile phones
  • many organizations such as Khan Academy, Udemy, Skillsoft and BigThink are producing thousands of hours of easily accessible, high quality instructional video, generally authored by ‘experts’, not college instructors;
  • only a few of the 300 or so LMS vendors ‘have come to grips with user and corporate needs for video-based learning’.

Bersin is writing primarily for the corporate training market, but the same trends can be seen in post-secondary education:

  • MOOCs took off because they were video-based, using lecture capture, thus walking right round the need to use an LMS
  • the most popular form of blended learning is the flipped classroom, using video to record a lecture then using the classroom for discussion and questions – no LMS needed
  • it is not just video that is beginning to remove the need for LMSs, as some faculty and instructors move to more learner-centred teaching, where students find and analyse information using online learning and co-create content with their instructors, using video, graphics and audio as well as text, and e-portfolios and social media such as blogs and wikis.

Bersin then goes on to ask some very important questions about using video for education and training:

  • How do we rapidly develop and publish video for fast and easy use?
  • How do we tag content easily and make it discoverable?
  • How do we recommend video to users based on their profile and activity?
  • How do we track usage of video, bookmark video and create inter-activities and branching?
  • What types of video are best for learning? Comedy? Experts? Teachers online?
  • How do we protect copyright and other possible rights violations as we snap videos at work all day?
  • How do we arrange and manage video for serious professional development and career growth?
  • How do we create a user experience that is as easy and compelling as a consumer website or TV set?

Bersin claims that ‘most of these problems are being solved — or have been solved — by massive consumer Internet companies already, yet they barely exist in corporate learning platforms because LMS vendors are scrambling to catch up.’:

  • Workday’s new market entry focuses on this area;
  • Skillsoft is announcing a variety of new video options in its platforms;
  • Oracle announced a new video-based LMS;
  • SAP is evolving its video platforms and opening up application programming interfaces to massive open online courses.

How will universities and colleges respond to these developments? Probably they will ignore them, but I think that would be foolishly short-sighted. Good quality video is going to become an increasingly important part of online learning. I find it somewhat ironic that many universities closed their multimedia production departments in the 2000s. It looks like we may need them again, but structured and operated in a way that leverages new technology and new corporate partners. (For a good example of high quality, university-developed video, see Dr. Claudia Kreb’s excellent YouTube video ‘An Introduction to the Central Nervous System‘ – just click on the graphic.)

However, even though video should become a much more important component of post-secondary teaching, I don’t see LMSs going away. Videos are not a replacement for an LMS. Video on its own does not structure students’ learning, as does an LMS. The issue is whether the production component of video should be embedded within the LMS, or remain separate but integrated (i.e. through links).

Video has many pedagogical benefits, but also some severe limitations (see my Chapter 7 in Teaching in a Digital Age). Nevertheless video is not being used enough in post-secondary education, and often when it is used (for recording lectures, for instance) it fails to exploit its unique learning potential. We could learn much from corporate training and the massive Internet providers such as Google and Vimeo on how to produce low cost, high quality video for education.


  1. Hi Tony,

    I am interested in hearing more about this statement –

    “It looks like we may need them again, but structured and operated in a way that leverages new technology and new corporate partners”

    What kind of corporate partnerships do you envision as making sense? In what ways can new technologies be leveraged towards increased production of high-quality, university-developed video?


    • Hi, Claire

      Sorry for my somewhat elliptical comment. I don’t think that universities or colleges need a large audio-visual production department, but they do need someone who understands video production, from the simplest home-made, desk-top videos through to high quality production that can include location shooting, animation and expert editing. That person (or maybe two persons) could then advise faculty on what is possible within a wide range of budgets, providing direct support at the low-tech end, and able to commission external production at the high end, where budgets permit, and where pedagogical requirements demand. Thus the corporate partnership I have in mind is more of an outsourcing arrangement for high-end productions. One way though to leverage resources might be to develop video for in-house use that can then be re-used in other contexts, such as corporate training (business education or engineering are obvious subject disciplines where this might work). In this case, the funding would come from an outside partner, looking for the university to add content credibility to any video production that would be used externally.

  2. While YouTube videos mostly address informal learning, LMS normally support formal learning. I mean, you go to YouTube when you need something, you search the videos and select one or a few that address your problem. On the other end, when you log-in to your LMS, you access a course that is already structured or at least selected content that meet the organization’s needs.

    In that context, videos cannot replace the LMS as they are two different things. Once is content and the other is a container. It’s like asking if ?electricity will kill the car. However, I can see an increasing number of YouTube or other “informal” videos being accessed through LMS, in support of formal learning.

  3. MOOCs don’t bypass the need for a LMS.

    The essence of what MOOC providers such as Coursera and edX do is provide an optimised learning management system for massive open online courses. Fundamentally Coursera and edX are LMS providers.

    • Interesting point, Rosie.
      I’m wondering if others who read this blog would agree that Coursera and edX are LMS providers. If not, what is the difference between Coursera and edX’s platforms and LMSs?
      I’ll wait to see what others think before giving my own response.

      • An ‘latest release update’ email I just received from edX explicitly refers to their platform as ‘the LMS’.

  4. I wonder what an LMS really is? I don’t think educators have ever really addressed that question. In the 1980s and early 1990s, many of the early adopters of educational CMC (computer-mediated communications) used computer conferencing systems, and tried—with some success–to configure cc systems into educational environments. I know that I was an early voice calling for online environments to be customized for educational interactions and collaboration.

    In the early to mid-1990s I was involved in developing the Virtual-U, which we called an online or virtual learning environment. The concept of ‘lms’ still had not been heard. WebCT was developed at UBC as a way to easily upload content to the net ( think that CT stood for Content Transfer or something like that). But I am not certain whether it was webct that coined the term “lms”.

    My colleagues and I were using the concept of ‘learning environment’, when educational attention became attracted to the “lms”. I personally was never attracted to the concept of a learning MANAGEMENT system: it placed the emphasis on the management of learning rather than on the support and facilitation of learning processes.

    I don’t know how or why the concept of “lms” was generated nor why educators have accepted it uncritically for almost 2 decades. Certainly it signals a win by those who view learning as something to be managed, as a technology-focused rather than learning-centered entity. But that has also been a loss to those of us who viewed learning as a process of engagement, interaction and analysis, rather than something to be managed

    Perhaps reflecting on what the term “lms’ means, and whether it really is the term/technology that we think should lead our efforts would be a good place to start, before we can consider the role of video, 3-D, VR, etc. etc. in an lms or whatever new and improved concept we come up with. Maybe these kinds of questions will kickstart a new vocabulary and perspective on the nature and purpose of online education.

    Any suggestions? Ideas?


    • To Linda’s point about how the “lms” language emerged, my recollection was that we called WebCT (while I was at UBC) a CMS or content management system. I think the shift to LMS language came after it was bought by Blackboard, but I could be wrong. Regardless, in my experience the LMS is such a significant investment in ed tech by the institution, that it becomes unquestionably and uncritically *the tool * in higher education. You can’t live with it and can’t live with out it, which leaves the incentive for innovating that space mostly absent. Yet, video-based learning sites like Rouxbe ( http://rouxbe.com/ ) and Craftsy (http://www.craftsy.com/) have had enviable learning platforms for years.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here