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Video: 5 Tips for Catching Learning on Camera

Bob Little 

February 17, 2017

L&D professionals need to modernize their approach to learning (content), learning delivery (technology), and learning skills (vision, strategy and leadership). That’s the message that thought leaders have been promoting for many years.

While there’s been general agreement over this message, the challenge for L&D professionals continues to be that developing technology keeps changing learning delivery parameters – and that affects every other aspect of L&D life.

So, among the questions in the forefront of the minds of today’s L&D professionals is, “How can we facilitate experiential and social learning among the learners in our care?” Before we can answer that, we should ask, “How do we modernize our approach to building the L&D department’s skills – so that we can cope with modernizing our approach to all aspects of L&D today?”

Answers to this second question include enabling L&D professionals to become self-directed learners, so they can stay up-to-date with current trends in learning, learning delivery and learning skills. And, yes, it’s easier said than done.

One way in which this could be done, however, is via informal learning through social media, such as blogs (thanks for reading this blog, by the way) and especially through videos.

As long ago as 1913, Thomas Edison stated, “It’s possible to teach every branch of human knowledge through the motion picture.”

Some 100 years later, that prescience has become reality with the growth of social media such as YouTube and video-based informal learning. According to Video Arts CEO Martin Addison, speaking at the Speexx Exchange event that prefaced the recent Online Educa Berlin (OEB) conference, “Traditionally, control over the delivery of training was in the hands of the deliverer – the trainer or, in video terms, the broadcaster.

Today, we can choose what we watch and when we watch. We can watch on our own or in a group. We can watch small pieces of video or an entire box set of DVDs over a weekend.

“We can start watching the video on one delivery device and finish watching it on another device – and we now tend to use social media rather than the traditional ‘water cooler’ meeting to discuss these videos’ content.”

Video used to be expensive to produce. Today, there are cheaper production options. Moreover, it used to be indivisible – programs tended to be at least 25 minutes in length – but, today, an entire video can be a few minutes (if that) in length.

“In a few years’ time, all the major social media platforms will be video-based,” Addison predicted.

“These days, we can all produce video. The key to success is to know when to do it yourself – and when to let others do it for you.”

In the modern world, video can be used for:

  • Learning primers.
  • On-boarding diaries.
  • Interviews and testimonials.
  • Building rapport among colleagues.
  • Explaining simple concepts.
  • Sharing best practice (through stories).
  • Demonstrating good and bad behaviors.
  • Performance support at the point of need.

“Video improves accessibility to learning materials,” said Addison. “It can make learning memorable, and cost-effective by being able to reach more people than would have been possible purely via classroom-delivered training. It’s also available at the point of need and can be short and to the point.”

There have never been so many free video-based tools available for those who’re creating learning materials. Damian Gaskin says, “Get out your smartphone, rest it against a book, and do that ‘onboarding welcome’ to camera. Review it, and that’s really what you look and sound like! Importantly, you can change this with that video as your baseline for improvement.

Use YouTube and TED Talks to listen to – and learn from great orators’ presentation skills. Video’s great for self-reflection, self-learning and adaptive self-development, as far as speaking and presentation skills are concerned – saving the learners time, expense and embarrassment.

When I was at drama school, 20 years ago, we recorded our voices at the beginning and end of the three-year course, to see how they had developed. Recently, I did this successfully with a managing partner of an international law firm, who wanted to improve his and his partners’ skills.

Along with Lindsey Mack, Gaskin runs CloudQast, a leadership communications specialist that works around the world primarily via cloud-based, interactive video to address organizations’ needs for fast, authentic, precise, and inspiring L&D.

Gaskin, Mack and Addison all agree that, when producing video – especially if it’s going to be used for L&D – you need to:

  • Get to the point as quickly as possible – otherwise potential learners will stop watching. The key issue is about generating viewer curiosity – as in, “What will make people watch this video?”
  • Ensure that the video works equally well on a range of delivery devices, notably tablets and smartphones.
  • Talk the learner’s language – linguistically, culturally and even occupationally.
  • Not be scared to entertain the viewers/learners. Addison says the most popular video searches on search engines use the words “how to” and “funny.” But Gaskin cautions, “What’s funny now may date your video and be hard to edit out. Language and references change. Whats funny for, say, an American audience may not appeal to other cultures. Verbal humor can be hard to translate, but visual humor may pass the tests of time and cross-culturalism.”
  • Use video to get watchers/learners “engaged” with the content. The key here is knowing – and measuring – what “engaged” means. It could be evidence of consumption (in the number of views) and/or interaction, via mentions on social media, perhaps.

Gaskin adds, “You can now add interactivity directly to your L&D department’s videos and ask questions that might branch a video to another part of it, or display a hotspot link to a pdf or to another website or survey. Monitoring learners’ choices of these options help measure your video’s engagement with its audience and indicate how your audience felt about its effectiveness or otherwise.

Video’s here to stay. As L&D professionals, if we want to stay too, maybe we’ll have to increasingly embrace it as a learning – and self-learning – medium.


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