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Video for Learning: Tips, Trends & Technology

Video is everywhere. YouTube says that we consume over 1 billion hours of video content on the site daily and are uploading around 300 hours every minute of the day1! It’s one of the world’s biggest search engines with its daily use extending far beyond just fun and entertainment in the hours before and after our 9-to-5. And video for learning is on the increase. 

In 2017, 70% of millennial YouTube users watched a video to learn how to do something2. No wonder, YouTube is investing millions to bolster its learning content3. What that will look like and how it will impact L&D remains to be seen but one thing is clear: video for learning is ubiquitous, engaging and growing in popularity. And it’s not just happening in one platform. For our purposes, as L&D professionals, there are many different ways to create and distribute successful moving image projects.

To discuss the topic in depth, LEO Learning recently held a webinar, ‘Digital Learning 101: The Panel – Video for Learning’ where our experts answered viewer’s questions on the importance of video and animation for learning. Here’s a selection of the best questions and answers, from LEO’s Andrew Joly, Director of Strategic Design, Frank McCabe, Executive Producer of Moving Image, and Brigitte Sutherland, Animation and Video Manager.

Q: How do you keep up with learner engagement when everyone’s ‘too busy’ even for their own development?

Andrew: This is one of the key challenges in delivering digital learning, which is often done at arm’s length. One of the ways to keep engagement up is by using video. It’s such a powerful, deeply engaging medium, largely because of accessibility. We all watch video all of the time. It’s become part of our lives and can deliver emotional material quickly and easily.

Frank: There’s one thing for me that’s head and shoulders above everything else in terms of engagement and its importance, an area that’s slightly neglected in learning films historically: rigorously constructed narratives. People respond to well-made stories in the same way every time, regardless of the medium they’re delivered in. If you know how to construct a narrative, you can almost guarantee a high level of engagement. Yet that’s not done often enough in L&D.

Q: What are the latest trends in video learning?

Brigitte: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) experiences are definitely where things are heading next. People often use these terms interchangeably, along with 360 video but they each have different meanings. To clarify, Virtual Reality involves putting on a headset and becoming completely immersed in your virtual environment. The environment can be artificial, where it’s been built in 3D software. Or it can be 360 video, which we can shoot. Augmented Reality is one step removed for Virtual Reality. While VR replaces your vision, AR adds to it. Think of games like Pokémon Go where you use your phone’s camera to track your surroundings and overlay additional information on top of it on the screen.

Frank: There are also really sophisticated deep branching scenarios—similar to that of Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch—which are becoming increasingly popular. We’re seeing that customers are becoming more confident in their learners’ ability to handle these quite sophisticated products and they understand that if we shoot an hour of video, each learner is possibly only getting 15 minutes because they’re not seeing all the branches. We shoot quite a lot of projects where we film a series of minute-and-a-half loops of video that we put in the background of questions and to learning materials. The supporting materials are effectively overlays on top of the video, so you never feel that you’re out of that narrative environment. There’s a sort of immersion there that people really respond well to.

Q: What limitations would you call out for video as a modality/format to enable learning?

Frank: Video’s limitations historically have been delivery but that’s less of an issue now with improved bandwidths. There’s also the issue that video isn’t particularly updatable without quite a bit of expense. For example, the CEO interview you’ve just shot is fantastic but if they leave three months later, you can’t tweak that and update it. One way to try prevent that is through rigorous pre-production planning where you ask a lot of questions around future plans.

Q: Any tips and tricks for massively and rapidly ramping up our video content production? Are there any low-cost but good-quality ways to start out with video for learning?

Andrew: Yes, leverage user-generated video. Organizations are ramping up on video content, mainly because they’re using things like phones in a user-generated context and publishing on video learning platforms. Companies are making smart use of cameras on people’s PCs and phones to create video. Even though it’s not broadcast-quality content, people are very happy to watch it and accept the quality.

Frank: It’s very tempting to jump to an end-point of a learning video to get an immediate impression of what something should look like. However, the danger there is that can very quickly become the end product without any rigor in the thinking. So it’s always worth stepping back a bit and if you ask the right questions, you can often come up with a perfectly viable low-cost alternative. Start with the learning requirement and ask questions about how you can fulfill that.

It’s also a good idea to leverage the expertise you already have within the organization in a ‘belt and braces’ way. For example, there may be someone on the floor below you that does a fantastic 20 minute face-to-face session on project management. Just film it—not everything has to be a glossy high-end product. People will accept a basic approach if the learning is interesting and effective.

Q: What would be your tips on estimating costs and budgeting based on high-level requirements (prior to creating a storyboard and defining what a video will include)?

Frank: As a basic yardstick, the very high end of what we do—like a drama video—would probably cost you double per minute what eLearning would cost. And at the cheaper end, it would probably be, minute for minute, the same as the cost of eLearning.

Andrew: That’s interesting because a few years ago, video was always much more expensive than anything else.

Frank: That’s true. The cost of equipment has plummeted over the last 20 years. Or, more accurately, cheaper equipment is now much better than it was before. If you’re looking at high-quality video for learning purposes, 20 years ago you’d have had to pay $60,000-$80,000 for that camera. You could now spend $4,000 or $5,000 for the same quality, so it’s plummeting all the time. This has really democratized filmmaking in all areas, L&D included.

Q: What are the best uses of talking head-style green screen video? Any tips for that?

Frank: My view is that green screen video is dying off as a format. In almost all cases, green screen has been usurped by graphical overlays. It still works if you’re trying to convince people that somebody is physically somewhere they aren’t, but if you’re using green screen video to illustrate things graphically, the background can involve a lot of post-production. From a cost point of view, it’s probably cheaper and will look nicer if you’re doing overlays rather than sticking something on a green screen.

There are more great questions around video for learning in the on-demand webinar recording.

Watch the recording

Additional sources:
1) Omnicore (July 2019), ‘YouTube by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts’
2) Think With Google (July 2018), ‘3 ways digital video has upended shopping as we know it’
3) The Verge (Cctober 2018), ‘YouTube is investing $20M in educational content, creators’