L&D Spotlight: How Visa & Verizon built learning ecosystems with LMSs


In our last blog post, we looked at how The Behr Paint Company replaced the LMS when implementing their learning ecosystem. But that’s actually a less common route, as many organizations keep their LMSs playing key roles within their ecosystems. For example, organizations may keep the LMS to manage event bookings, assign compliance training, or keep centrally managed content repositories. In this post, we’ll look at how Visa and Verizon have kept their LMSs as part of their ecosystems.

Visa: Bringing data together


When Visa implemented their ecosystem, they wanted to bring together learning data spanning across their organization. This includes data from external content providers, survey data, etc. It also includes their LMS, which continues to be a vital part of the ecosystem. The LMS is used to host and manage compliance content and to manage classroom training; typically, LMSs are great for these kinds of tasks.

To get data from the LMS into their Learning Record Store (LRS), Visa created a connector that pulls data as CSV files from the LMS and pushes them to the LRS (i.e., Watershed)—which then translates that data into xAPI so it can be used alongside data from systems with native xAPI implementations (such as Pathgather) and other converted CSV data. Of course, it’s always better if an LMS can natively send xAPI data on its own, but few LMSs have that functionality.


What’s especially interesting about Visa’s implementation from an LMS perspective is that the LMS is very much a behind-the-scenes administrative tool. Learners interact with all their learning via a Learning Experience Platform (i.e., Pathgather) front end, and all the data is collected together for reporting in a Learning Analytics Platform (i.e., Watershed). This means when Visa wanted to supplement their LMS, they were able to do so without anybody really noticing.

The front end through Pathgather continued to work in the same way as before, and, because the reporting data was standardized using xAPI, there was no disruption in their reports and how the data was presented. From both a learner and data perspective, everything carried on as before.

Recommended Resources

Verizon: Getting the best of both worlds

Verizon Learning Ecosystem

Like Visa, Verizon plans to keep their LMS; however, in some high-profile instances, the LMS is hidden from the learner. Verizon has the capability to deep link to content within the LMS, so the idea is to host content on the LMS and then link to it from another system.

According to Dwayne Thomas, associate director of learning and development at Verizon, “Learners can type in a vanity URL, launch the content, close the content, and never know that they touched the learning management system.”

But, if the learner never sees the LMS, why bother hosting content there at all? Having the content on the LMS means that content is covered by all Verizon’s document retention policies, backed up, and part of the disaster plan.

“That's our intentional strategy for remaining legally compliant and having the horsepower and full capability of the content delivery platform while disguising the heavyweight launch that an LMS usually imposes on you,” Dwayne says. 

So, keeping the LMS gives Verizon the best of both worlds. By hosting the content on the LMS, they retain all the technical benefits of the LMS; but, by integrating with their wider ecosystem, they can make the content more easily accessible to learners. And again, all the data from the LMS and other systems can be reported on side by side in their Learning Analytics Platform (Watershed).

Recommended Resources

Up Next: DIY Learning Ecosystem

So, now that you have a better understanding of how to build a learning ecosystem and have seen a few examples of organizations building ecosystems with or without an LMS, you should be ready to design your own learning ecosystem. In an upcoming blog post, we’ll show you how to build your own ecosystem diagram. Don’t miss it—sign up for Watershed Insights to have the next installment sent right to your inbox!

Need help choosing data sources?

Download this handy list to learn more about different types of data sources and find ones that fit into your organization's learning ecosystems.Learning Ecosystem Data Source Guide

Andrew Downes

About The Author

As one of the authors of xAPI, Andrew Downes has years of expertise in data-driven learning design. With a background in instructional design and development, he’s well versed in creating learning experiences and platforms in corporate and academic environments.