You’ve likely taken training with a video component. But is it worth the effort or dollars to incorporate it into your own training program? Here’s what the research says about using video in training, and a few tips on how to get started.
So, I’m Thinking about Using Video in My Training
Perfect. It’s a great time to start.
Tools for developing video are sophisticated and mature. They are also plentiful, with many available to the beginner. You very likely have the expertise in house to record video. And edit it. And deliver it.
Using video in your training program is an easy decision to make.
Universities made the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) a popular way to teach huge audiences. MOOCs often rely on video as the primary way to teach. Sometimes these are video recordings of lectures, sometimes they are talking heads superimposed over screen captures.
Online training courses come to life with video.
Not only is video popular, there’s a lot of evidence that they’re an effective addition to your training program.
Oh, Really? What Kind of Evidence?
There’s a ton of research that shows both which video formats are popular—that is, widely used. And there’s a good amount of evidence that shows which elements make video engaging—that is, likely to be watched.
What’s lacking is evidence that shows what kinds of videos are effective in learning—that is, result in measurable change in behavior. There’s some, though, and it is illuminating.
Well, You Say Using Video is Popular…
In 2017, video platform company Kaltura issued its fourth annual survey-based report on the state of video in education. Here’s what they found:
- 93% of college students felt video increased satisfaction with their learning experience.
- 78% of faculty believed that video improved the onboarding experience of new employees.
- Faculty believed using video increased the satisfaction of those teaching the courses.
- Faculty also believed using video increased collaboration and professional development.
Which Video Formats are Best to Use for Training?
One study on video and engagement shows that video formats can include:
- Slides—slide presentation with voice-over
- Code—with a video screenshot of an instructor typing code
- Khan-style—with a video of an instructor drawing freehand on a digital tablet
- Classroom—video of an instructor giving a lecture
- Studio—an instructor recorded in a studio with no audience
In addition, Jeanine Reutemann, Researcher at Leiden University, found that the “talking head,” a close-up of a talking instructor, is the most popular format in MOOCs. She found that 74% of videos were some variation of this format. A second common format is a slide presentation with voice-over.
These formats are not complicated, and can often be filmed (or recorded) with equipment that you have on hand.
But They Look Lousy!
Yep, they can. They can also look great. Fortunately, high production values seems to have little impact on video watching or learning engagement. When using video in training, content is king.
Some caveats. Consider the purpose of the video. A screen capture can be a great way to quickly share a concept or process, as showing in the training video below.
But, as Kristina Smith, owner of Imagine You Media, points out, if the purpose has a marketing component—if it needs to look polished in order to maintain the company image, for example, then a quickly produced video with low production values might work against the broader business purpose. High production values might be worth the extra cost.
Also, even if you’re creating quick video, consider lightning and sound. Sarah DeBord of Presence Media helped us produce the “Life, Blindness, and Tech” videos below. She notes that these two factors can have a huge impact. Professional lighting is best, natural light is next best, and only use your office fluorescent lamps if you have no choice. For sound, a professional microphone can record high-quality, crisp audio. It’s a lot easier to avoid recording audio hiss than it is to clean it up in post-production.
Good Lightning, Good Audio—What Else?
Instructor preparation. Many instructors and trainers assume that what’s a hit in the classroom will also work in video.
But that’s not always the case.
Trainers in the classroom can come across as stiff and informal on camera. Practice helps. So does the interview techniques. As Smith has noted, an interview style can help people relax and become more relatable.
When using video in training, there are some techniques that seem to help increase learner engagement. One study on MOOCs and video production found that when instructors spoke quickly and enthusiastically, videos were more engaging than when instructors did not.
What About the Length of Training Videos?
So short attention spans mean short videos, right? It’s not so simple.
One popular study shows that people lose interest in videos after about two minutes. But while engagement drops off after two minutes, it drops, but doesn’t disappear. Instead, engagement seems to plateau again between six to twelve minutes. After that, it drops off further.
And even when viewers leave training videos, studies show that watching isn’t a one-time thing. True, some people watch only a few minutes and then never open it again. But others will return to longer videos many times. They watch in short increments, and watch until they’ve finished.
Consider length, surely. But also consider content. If the content needs more than two minutes, make the content available; it may take many sessions, but viewers are likely to watch all of it.
And be aware that the purpose of training matters. Informational videos may get watched once. Videos that train people on process might get watched, and re-watched, many times, as learners absorb the new techniques.
Well Then, How Effective is Using Video in Training?
Hm. How good is video at achieving training goals?
Research on effectiveness is more limited than research on engagement. The research that does exist supports the idea that video is at least as effective as in-person, instructor-led training. When people who were trained on the content delivered via video were compared with people trained in instructor-led classes, their test scores were about the same.
This parallels what we know from studies from the World Health Organization and the Department of Education (PDF) comparing elearning and instructor-led training. In these, we find that elearning and instructor-led training produce similar outcomes.
If Format Doesn’t Matter, What Makes Good Learning?
That’s the key question. No matter the format, it seems that employing research-based learning practices produce effective learning (PDF). These can include spaced learning (delivering training over time), recall (using practice tests to bring back information), interleaving (mixing content), and feedback (providing users with targeted responses to their decisions).
But Those Learning Practices are Interactive. Can We Do Interactive Training with Video?
It’s doable. When combined with other technologies, video can be as interactive as traditional elearning. “Choose your own adventure” style videos, where you’re given an option in a video, and the choice you make determines the outcome you see, are becoming more common in many systems.
Yeah, But I Just Have Video. How Can I Make It Engaging If It’s Not Interactive?
Traditional video is a broadcast medium, a one-way transfer of information. How do you apply ideas like feedback when information is one-way?
Some instructional techniques are easier to adopt than others. However, here are a few approaches:
- Make short videos available over time to produce spaced learning.
- Interleave content, by carefully planning out your concepts and video ahead of time, and making sure to vary your topic matter.
- If you have something like a learning management system consider the “watch-and-ask” approach. We’ve broken videos into short segments, then placed the videos in an LMS. In between the videos, we’ve placed short knowledge checks. Learners watch the video, answer a question based on the video, and then go on to the next.
- Another option might be called the “stop and ask” method (a fairly popular approach). In the video, ask a question. Ask the viewer to pause the video while they consider. Then ask the viewer to resume the video. After a moment, show the correct answer and feedback. This approach doesn’t accommodate feedback tailored to the learner’s answer—and nothing prevents the viewer from fast-forwarding through the question—but it provides a chance for the viewer to reflect on and assimilate knowledge.
- You could also pair video with a practice area (this approach is often seen in technical courses). After showing a technique, ask the viewer to pause the video and then apply the knowledge in the practice area. For example, a course on coding might provide information about one aspect of code, then ask the viewer to pause the video to practice using the code in a specifically designed environment.
But What about Making Training Videos Accessible? What’s Involved There?
Making your training accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, is not only good business practice. In many places, it’s the law.
Fortunately, video can be an extraordinarily accessible medium.
Make sure that anything said or heard is present in captions (either open—on all the time, or closed—able to be turned on and off). If someone is hard of hearing, they can see what’s said.
Make sure that any information that’s on the screen but not seen is conveyed audibly. This is called audio description and, depending on the tools used, can be on a separate track. (For example, if there is text on the screen, a video that has audio description would have the text read out loud.) If someone can’t see, they can hear what’s in the audio.
Make sure that a transcript of the audio is available so that someone using assistive technology can access it. If someone needs to use a device to access the script, they can find it.
And make sure that the player can be operated using only a keyboard. If someone can’t use a mouse, they can use the keyboard to play the video.
That’s it. (Where did these requirements come from? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Take a look—it’s more readable and understandable than you might think.)
You Know, an Example Might Help…
You’re in luck!
Take a look at this video of Josh and Lauren sharing their experience with Microassist. This version has closed captions, but no audio description.
This version has both closed captions and audio description.
Notice that there’s two versions of the video, and each links to the other. For technologies that don’t allow for an audio-described audio stream and a non-audio-described audio stream to exist in the same video, this approach is straightforward, and works.
How Will I Know All This Effort Is Worth It?
You measure it. Like any training, you’re not going to know whether using video in training projects is working unless you track it and see whether it achieves its objective.
The metric can be the business goal that the training sought to achieve. There’s the example of a company that had an engine failure and created a video showing how to address the issue. When reports of that engine failure decreased, the training was deemed successful.
Your metric can be the number of downloads. If one video is downloaded a thousand times, and a different one is downloaded twice, then people are likely getting more out of the first one.
These are two examples. Using video in training gives you as many tools to measure effectiveness as traditional learning does. In some cases—such as those where you can track which parts of a video are watched repeatedly—it provides a level of detail that’s hard to match.
Okay, I’m Convinced. What’s Next?
Video is popular. You can use it in multiple environments. It’s instructionally effective. And, with a little effort, you can create video in a way that’s accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
When you first start, using video in training may seem a bit daunting. If your standard is highly produced, professionally developed video, it’s no wonder. Using video in training efforts may seem out of reach unless you have access to a high-end studio or a large budget.
That doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of emulating film studios, consider the purpose of your video and what makes training effective in your organization. Then determine what video needs to look like to achieve those goals, and get to work.
Related Reading for Using Video in Training
- Is Video or Text Better for Learning Retention?
- Adding Video to Engage Today’s YouTube Generation
- Microlearning—Is it a Good Fit for Your Training Program?
- EdX Free Online Courses