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Let’s Talk Video, Take 2


Instructional Reasons for Using Video in E-Learning

Recently my peer, Eris Noren, wrote a blog about best practices for using video in e-learning where he described video styles, software, and the process used to create a video. In this “Take 2,” I’m going to expand on his ideas by addressing the instructional reasons for using videos.

Like Eris mentioned, there are many reasons to use video in your training: it’s a quick way to deliver content, sound, and motion to engage learners; it can be used to generate excitement, or it can be a good way to show a complicated process or system. Whatever the reason, there are several options to consider when using video.

Instructional videos aren’t only used in e-learning, but also in massive open online course (MOOC)-style learning events, or in curriculums housed in a learning management system (LMS). The following are three of the most common video styles that often meet our clients’ needs.

Show and Tell

This type of video provides a great way to explain how to use a system, a web page, or parts used in manufacturing. Note: In this context, I’m not considering higher-complexity animations, such as those that show how an organ works in the human body.

Show and tell video is often narrated with accompanying screen shots or diagrams that use visual highlights and verbal directions for what to click, enter, or use at a specific point in time. This type of video is extremely helpful when learners must follow a set of actions in a specific order, and where visual cues or visual context is imperative. For example:

  • How to log a performance-based objective, career goal, or some other personal goal into a performance management system (e.g., Cornerstone)
  • How to navigate an updated or customized customer relationship management system (e.g., Salesforce)
  • Where or how a part fits into a larger manufactured item

While a show and tell video is often great on its own, it can be paired with text-based performance support that learners can access quickly or save to their own devices. These text-based items usually have screen shots or diagrams a learner can process at their own pace or easily circle back to, such as one small item within the whole video.

Another really important note for show and tell videos: planning is paramount. Sometimes clients engage a vendor, such as Innovative Learning Group, when a system is partially complete, or when a process isn’t finalized. This usually happens because the training needs to be complete when the system or process is ready to roll out. So, at a minimum, do as much planning up front as possible so you’re ready when the system is finally stable. This might include clarifying certain information, such as agreement on the look and feel of the videos, specific topics to be covered, and acceptable length of the videos.

Also, both the client and vendor need to factor some flexibility into the timeline in case the system or process is updated mid-project. These updates can cause changes in the video visuals and scripting. So, prepare to be flexible around the scripting and development process. For example, write the narration script and use screen shots to make a storyboard, but wait to record narration and develop the video until the system or process is finalized.

The Talking Head

Very often, learning can feel impersonal, especially in a web-based training and even sometimes when learners go through a curriculum on an LMS. The talking head video hits on that “What’s-in-it-for-me?” element and can also create a more personal connection to the content. This type of video tells learners why this learning event matters to the company, why it matters to the larger learning journey — and most importantly — why it matters to the learners.

Talking head videos are best if they’re short, supportive, and have a call to action. In a larger curriculum, these videos can be part of a series where the “talking head” appears at various times in the learning journey, speaking directly about the content ahead.

Very often a talking head video can be created easily — a person sits in front of a camera (can be on their laptop or phone) and records themselves talking. While it feels very lo-fi, it can be quite meaningful and feel very human. Instructional designers can assist in creating relevant talking points and can even participate in a mock interview so the “talking head” answers questions asked of them versus just reading a script. Once the video has been recorded, media developers can edit to remove dead air or any takes that didn’t go well. They then can finalize the video by putting it in a nice visual package with a video-open screen, relevant branding, and speaker name and title.

The biggest lift of this kind of video is on the speaker: they have to be in a well-lit room without any visual distractions, understand correct lighting angles and their position in the frame, appear welcoming and confident when they speak, and deliver clear audio. The good news is that all these things can be coached.

Text and Image Explainer

As the name suggests, the basis of this type of video is using on-screen text and images to convey a message. When you want a video to explain a concept or to add some visual and audio interest into your learning events, text and image explainer videos are a great option. This kind of video can be used to explain difficult-to-understand topics (e.g., financial concepts for the entire company, not just the finance team), to help drive interest in a topic (e.g., your company’s top goals for the new year), or simply to welcome learners to a course.

Depending on the content, the text and image video can be very simple to create or may require a lot of time to hammer out the details. Sometimes heavy lifting must happen in the script writing, especially when working with a subject matter expert to break down a complex topic into very simple terms. Sometimes the greater effort comes when the entire team of client, instructional designer/writer, and graphic designer must decide how to visualize a concept while adhering to certain parameters like alignment to branding guidelines, showing diversity, not being too literal, or providing a variety of images to make sure all functions of a business are represented.

Very often you don’t need specific images and can often just use abstract ones. You also don’t always need audio narration and can use music to accompany the message. And, as long as the content isn’t time-based and the imagery too specific, these videos can have a longer shelf life. Text and image explainer videos, when well designed, tend to pack a big punch.

Hopefully, this primer has provided you some food for thought and can help start a conversation about the innovative video options you can use to enhance your training. And…that’s a wrap!

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