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What Is Video Learning? A New Way of Thinking When Commissioning Video

Frank McCabe, LEO Learning’s Executive Producer in charge of Moving Image, answers the question: What is video learning? Frank also shares a three-point model that reframes the way L&D teams can evaluate their video learning requirements.

What Is Video Learning?

When used in the right way, video can be a powerful, emotive medium. It’s also omnipresent—everywhere you look, people are on their devices using their free time to consume a variety of videos. But video is more than just escapist entertainment. As learning professionals, we already know its potential value in allowing us to drive engagement and observe people in places we can’t normally go to.

Video has been a key part of digital learning for many years, especially blends. Recently, we’ve seen a resurgence in video as a deeply engaging component that supports efficient, relevant, and high-value content creation. This is partly driven by more affordable, high-quality production costs, but also through the emergence of new technologies and platforms such as:

A New Model for Video Learning

Not that long ago, we’d have described videos by their format: drama video, talking heads, documentaries, and animations. These could be simplified into two categories, namely fiction and non-fiction.

However, that’s a bit too broad and offers no real starting point for thinking about solving learning problems. So instead of trying to solve the problem with a ‘what’s the format, let’s dive into it’ approach, why not change focus to ‘what’s the business challenge, how do we respond’?

This gives us three reframed categories of video learning, which we term ‘Head’, ‘Heart’ and ‘Hand’.

  • Culture and behaviors
    How do we improve the quality of human interactions within the business?
  • Process and technique
    How do we upskill people in key tasks or processes?
  • Marketing and comms
    How do we convince our people that ‘x’ is a good idea?

Starting conversations with these three categories in mind can get to the heart of the business need really quickly. It also helps inform the practical and creative decisions we make around video.

1) Head: Culture and Behaviors

Useful for: Any subject matter that focuses on the ebb and flow of human interactions, such as leadership training and soft skills.

Culture and behaviors pieces tend to be the bigger, more expensive drama videos and often involve branching scenarios. This is something that’s unique to digital learning, although TV is starting to embracing that now. A good example is Netflix’s 2018 thriller Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

These films tend to be about how and why people do things rather than what it is they’re doing. It’s the perfect medium for training around difficult conversations, leading a team, resolving conflicts and anything to do with interpersonal skills. Because they’re more about ‘how’ and ‘why’ people do things, rather than ‘what’, they’re often set in fictional companies where the product or service is unnamed or unimportant.

While there’s value in using real employees for interview-type videos, like a talking head video, it’s best to use professional actors here. They specialize in translating emotions from script to screen and making the complex points and scenarios believable.

The cost: Price-wise, these need actors and a good deal of care in scripting, so they’re at the higher end of the spectrum. However, the cost of producing video has plummeted, mainly due to the relative inexpensiveness of equipment now. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to make a high-quality film you could show in the cinema, the camera you needed probably cost $100,000. Today, you could do that for about $8,000-9000. As a rough estimate, an hour of this type of video would probably cost double an hour of eLearning.

Bonus tip: In terms of the time you’ll need to devote to managing a large-scale drama, it breaks down roughly as 40% pre-production (script, casting, location scouting, etc.), 20% for the shoot itself, and 40% post-production (editing, sound, reviewing versions and so on).

2) Hand: Process and Technique

Useful for: Any subject matter that demonstrates a predefined process or linear sequence of events. Examples include training around software systems, assembly and manufacture, health and safety rules, and regulatory procedures.

This category is about capturing process and skills. A big area, one which is very common for L&D, is systems training. So, capturing the best way to work through a new company software system would fall in this category. These often involve animation and mixed media—for example, post-production text or images overlaying video footage.

For something conceptual or that you need to get ‘inside of’ to show, it’s best to use animation. Mixed media, especially graphical overlays, can add sophistication and valuable learning to a process film.

The cost: A mixed media approach of video, animated elements and music—which is common in this category—is relatively quick, simple and cost-effective. This is mainly because there’s minimal or no scripting, no need to hire professional actors and no venue hire costs. However, where there’s a requirement for more complex animated elements, costs can escalate. There’s a great deal of difference between a few graphical flourishes with text on screen and fully animated segments.

Bonus tip: Even when dealing with simpler forms of animation, like paper-mation or graphical text coming up on screen, you still need to storyboard. You may think these are really simple to develop but that upfront design is critical to success.

3) Heart: Marketing and Comms

Useful for: Where there’s a need for staff or customers to absorb new information about the way they work, or to embrace change.

If you’ve ever asked ‘How can we convince our people that ‘x’ is a good idea?’ then this is the video type for you. Because this is about changes to key business concepts, these are often content pieces that function like sales or marketing collateral. Less is more here, so keep these videos short—like an advert.

In terms of subject matter, these can be almost anything: a new diversity initiative, a product launch, new systems, a process or software change, or even messaging around a buy-out or new office.

This category often involves interviewing a senior figure at the client organization—someone with authority who is able to impart a key message in a clear, expert way. There are many variations available for this kind of interview, some ‘glossier’ and more cinematic than others.

The cost: Costs will vary, depending on how cinematic or simple the requirements are. Factor in lots of time to work on the messaging (where a script is required).

Bonus tip: Set yourself the challenge of imparting the key messages in 90 seconds. The end product may be longer than that, but almost anything can be delivered at a high level in a minute and a half.

Video Is an Ever-Changing Medium

Almost every learning challenge, no matter how complex, can be solved with ‘moving image’ in some way. It’s about figuring out how and where to best use it. As technology changes, video does too and this allows L&D professionals to innovate constantly so we don’t keep producing the same learning assets we’ve been making for years. The result? Happier, more knowledgeable and more engaged learners.

The conversation around video learning is part of the LEO webinar, ‘Digital Learning 101: The Panel – Video for Learning’. Click the button to access the full recording and watch it on demand.

This article originally appeared on Trainingindustry.com.

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