In Depth: The Youtubization of eLearning

Share this article:

One of the most notable—and compelling—shifts I have observed over the last year as an Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer is what I have coined the YouTubization of eLearning. In this post, I am going to walk you through what the terms means, why this shift has occurred, and what the implications may be for course design and development in this new era of eLearning.


I define the YouTubization of eLearning as the viewing of course learning material in a video-based way. Each concept is explained with narration perfectly synched to on-screen animation of content. Some video footage can also be interspersed where needed, but I am not really referring to full digital video here.

Explainer videos have taken YouTube by storm, and channels like Vox have millions of subscribers—for a good reason. Their roughly 10-minute videos take complex (sometimes what could be seen as boring) topics and explain them to the viewer in a meaningful and interesting way. On the eLearning front, I am finding clients and their workforce are demanding elearning to be “shown” to them in bite-sized entertaining chunks, rather than learning from more traditional Powerpoint-type slide-by-slide lessons (think bullets and a static image).

While the latter approach has been the leading way to produce rapid and cost-effective courses over the last 20 years, I am now inviting Instructional Designers to use explainer videos in larger lessons, or even have an explainer video serve as a complete lesson. More on this in a bit! As I have maintained in my published research since the late 90s, we need to always be aware of how we first reach (or engage) and then teach (or transfer knowledge) the learner. This is even more relevant as we enter 2021.

What Has Led to This Shift?

The COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020 has resulted in one of the most dramatic shifts I have witnessed regarding how eLearning is deployed. Companies have had to pivot quickly to online learning due in part to staff working remotely from their workplaces, but also to improve training ROI and ROE in a corporate landscape fraught with tightening budgets.

In addition, learners are increasingly tech and media savvy. When combined with busy work/life schedules, all of these factors combine to create the perfect storm that is contributing to a shift in how eLearning is created and delivered. It has become increasingly important to provide bite-sized, microlearning lessons of no more than 10 minutes that compel learners to watch and learn something that has meaning to them (even if they did not know it would have relevance to them before engaging with the module). No one has the time or the patience anymore to sit through 50 or 100 eLearning slides of dry content designed in a click-through way.

Looking Towards the Future

When developing eLearning of tomorrow, we cannot lose all interactivity and engagement in our courses. That is why I propose to balance the mostly passive learning that occurs while watching explainer videos with active learning opportunities such as clickable activities and knowledge checkpoints. Moving towards Youtubization in eLearning does not mean being exactly like YouTube.

The platform, like television, is a medium that only provides one type of learning approach. The goal of any organization should be to have their workforce want to “pull” learning from their learning resource library, rather than the company “push” training to workers as is often the case. So, how do we accomplish this intrinsic motivation for the adult student to want to learn something new? Simple: Make modules highly relevant, engaging, not too long, and just plain fun to use.

I guarantee that by exploring the Youtubization of your eLearning, as we do at Media Learning Systems, you will achieve measurable and lasting results.

For more on this, watch for my next post on metrics in eLearning on ways to determine successful eLearning outcomes.

Contact Us

We would love to quote on your next project, or just chat about what's on your mind.

Head Office:

Media Learning Systems Inc.
CIBC Tower Suite 700, 2 Bloor Street W
Toronto, Ontario
M4W 3R1