Speed vs Fidelity

At Lessonly, we talk to a lot of people who are buying learning management systems (LMSs).

These buyers usually fall into one of two camps: those who optimize for fidelity and those who optimize for speed.

Let’s define these terms:

  • Fidelity = highly produced content (think broadcast-quality videos, often accompanied by interactive walkthroughs)
  • Speed = rapidly changing content (think iPhone videos mixed with blog-style writing, screenshots and screen captures)

Both are valuable. Fidelity wins if you are optimizing for content that stays pretty static. Speed wins if you are optimizing for productivity learning. Here’s a table that helps explain what I mean:

When Fidelity Makes Sense When Speed Makes Sense
How to not harass a colleague at work hasn’t changed much; thus, neither has the training. Your product’s features are quickly evolving. Your team needs to know how to sell and support these changes; thus, your product training must reflect these changes in real time.

The argument for fidelity

Those who prioritize fidelity tend to take a traditional approach to the LMS, meaning their learning content focuses on compliance and leadership and development topics. These are the topics the original LMSs were built to address, which is why we refer to them as “traditional.”

Lesson examples:

  • Anti-bribery training
  • Adhering to OSHA standards
  • Following the management laws and rules of Title VII

Prioritizing fidelity is fine if a company’s primary learning goals relate to compliance training and/or leadership and development. Otherwise, there is a great argument for speed.

The argument for speed

Those who value speed are taking the modern approach to learning management systems. They are focused on productivity learning—the kind that helps their teams do better tactical work.

Lesson examples:

  • How to log a new ticket in Zendesk
    • Why speed matters: Zendesk updated its user interface, so we updated the Lesson to reflect the new workflow
  • Understanding our target verticals (and how to sell to them)
    • Why speed matters: Yesterday, we won a new, well-known client, so we add them to our example talk tracks and emails to help build social proof with our prospects. Now, the sales team can put the win to work, right away.
  • 5 steps to scheduling a demo
    • Why speed matters: Over the past year, we’ve switched from Google Hangouts, to Join.me, to Zoom for demos. This Lesson keeps everyone up to speed on our latest process.

Since tactics evolve with new information, and new information is never-ending, speed is critical. Modern LMS buyers need to quickly adjust their learning content to reflect changes in team approaches and best practices. But if making changes to learning content involves a tedious, complex workflow, those changes either take too long to happen or do not happen at all.

Now that we’ve defined the two camps—speed and fidelity—let’s tackle a couple frequently asked questions.

What does the speed camp do when compliance needs arise?

Modern tools are generally SCORM compliant (Lessonly is, and so are most of the others). SCORM allows those who favor speed to purchase the high-fidelity compliance content they need off the shelf. In short, these buyers depend on rapid lesson-building tools for most of their team learning, and then they buy pre-baked content when it makes sense.

What does the fidelity camp do when productivity learning needs arise?

In our experience, fidelity buyers use PowerPoint, Slack, and e-mail to address their productivity learning needs. One instructional designer put it like this: “If the content changes quickly, we have to keep it in PowerPoint, outside of our LMS.”
We find this approach to be suboptimal, since you cannot track how teams are engaging with PowerPoints, and it’s hard to ensure everyone is still working from the same source of truth (i.e., the same version of the file).

Which camp is better?

Businesses thrive when they keep up with the ever-changing world around them, staying on pace with customer needs and ahead of competitors. The future is fast, easy to update, always-improving learning content. Speed is the winner’s choice.


1. Responsiveness, clarity, context, and timeliness are all benefits of speed. We live in a time where change is constant—where the old ways of building and distributing content don’t work anymore. Modern learning has to be continuous.

2. How do I know people will appreciate you choosing speed over fidelity? Because the people you work with are already making that choice on their own every day. When they want to learn how to fix a sticking door, they probably watch this video before they buy this book . The video was made with an iPhone camera by some random guy in a garage—no studio, no professional actors. It is going to take you 10 minutes to watch, it’s free, and you can watch it right now. The book was written, edited, bound, and published by professionals. It’s is probably going to end up sitting on your coffee table—looking nice, mostly unread—and you have to pay and wait for it, unless you want the Kindle version, which will still cost you. But you won’t buy it, because you have a problem you want to fix right now. In the modern world, speed beats fidelity.

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