Video fear (and why we should overcome it)
Originally published in e.learning age, November 2010
Ever wanted to know more about the pros and cons of using video in e-learning? Krista Woodley sits down with James Cory-Wright, Head of Learning Design at Brightwave, with a few searching questions.
What do you think about the use of video in e-learning to date?
There's always been such an uncomfortable even mistrustful relationship between e-learning and video. Ironic really given that this is the industry that sets such store on engaging with its audience and yet turns its back on the most popular medium of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries!
Given our relationship with television and film it shouldn't be necessary to extol the virtues of video in e-learning - not least the fact that we learn an awful lot from television and video. But where's the video then? In e-learning it's rarely used and when it is it's often spread thinly like cheap margarine. Or the solitary video clip is given over to a welcoming message from a senior bod who may even have left the organisation before the e-learning is ever released.
Why do you think video has been used so rarely?
To be fair, part of the absence of video in e-learning is historical with online training taking advantage of the amazing distribution and tracking power of corporate networks and intranets. In this context, bandwidth, compression and HTML were all obstacles to the use of video which had previously been an ingredient of interactive video (laser discs) and multimedia.
So video has been off the menu for the best part of ten years. But one has to say that when it disappeared there was a sense in some quarters of barely disguised relief. The maverick child had left the building leaving the grown-ups to get on with the real business of CBT with its TNAs, learning objectives and multiple-choice questions.
And were there any other reasons that put people off using video?
There was the sheer naff factor! Just think of the cringingly bad 'corporate training video' with embarrassed actors woodenly walking through stilted scripts. And the video had cost a lot to make. Too much video production has been dominated by production companies who had a vested interest in maintaining the mystique (and the budgets) of their often swollen production processes. So video wasn't doing itself any favours.
A recent Video Arts survey of 535 learning professionals showed that 22 % of respondents were using video in self-authored e-learning courses. That's pretty high. So are things different now? What's changed?
Now that many of the barriers to video have been removed there's no excuse for e-learning practitioners not embracing the medium. Look at YouTube. A lot of people do look at YouTube all the time and often whenever they simply need to learn how to do something. From how to play the solo in 'Stairway to Heaven' to how to install retro software from the eighties. And, of course, you expect to find video on all sorts of websites.
And so what are the implications of YouTube for e-learning?
It means the excuses for not having video in e-learning are running out. We know video works online because we can watch it online when we get home. So how come we can't watch it to help us with training at work? It's cheaper than ever to produce. There are many talented young video makers who know how to make really good, low cost video. Audiences are happy to view 'lo fi' style clips. Video is so much more suited to being watched on a computer screen than reading huge amounts of text. People also prefer video and there's so much you can do with it.
It's time we as an industry stopped procrastinating over video and used it all the time as a matter of course and give our audiences what they want and what they deserve.
That same Video Arts survey reported 39 % of learning professionals are shooting their own video clips, and 79 % are buying video off the shelf. What do you think about those two options?
Let's talk about shooting your own stuff first. New technologies, equipment and software are making it easier to make your own video. We can all take advantage of mobile phones, Flip video cameras, iPhones etc. to point, click, and upload. And once you've uploaded there's lots of non-proprietary video editing software available, so in theory anyone can film and edit their own clips. Easier said than done though with some provisos!
For example, if you're new to making your own video clips, you're better off filming single clips of a person talking to camera, telling their own experiences, anecdotes or 'war stories', that doesn't need too much editing, if any. You also need to think about sound and lighting. Sometimes an in-built microphone doesn't give you good enough sound quality, so you might want a video camera with a jack for an external mic.
The best advice is to experiment, and seek out the enthusiasts in your organisation who may have kit of their own and are willing to give it a go. So empower them to test things out. Seek your geek!
Good advice. And what do you think about off-the-shelf video?
Off-the-shelf video may be good for soft skills, like management skills, coaching, performance conversations, that sort of thing. The only problem is every organisation has a slightly different way of doing things or names for processes, and there's a tendency to say, "That's all very well, but that's not what we call it here!"
There's a lot of discussion challenging the learning styles theories at the moment, but that aside, do you think video is particularly well-suited to specific audiences?
Some people prefer to read or to listen, but there are plenty of people who prefer to watch a video clip - for them, even watching someone talking to camera is preferable to reading. More and more people prefer not to read instructions, or are not in the habit of reading. The same goes for delving into print to find what you're looking for, when you can easily search online.
But video - pre-recorded or otherwise - is also a great way of capturing knowledge and experience, especially given that most people don't want to or aren't able to write it all down.
For what kind of subjects does video work best?
Video definitely comes into its own when showing how to do things - seeing things demonstrated, a skill or procedure. But it also works well for attitudinal or motivational learning.
If you gaze into your crystal ball, where do you see video in e-learning headed in the future?
I'd like to see it polarised between lo-fi, guerrilla, DIY video on the one hand and on the other hand, I'd also like to see high end video that taps into the production values of TV and the movies. That way, we can drive out the middle of the road corporate video of old that gives training videos a bad name!
James Cory-Wright, Head of Learning Design at Brightwave, can be contacted via email@example.com, or by calling 01273 827676 - see www.brightwave.co.uk
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