Using Video in Training

Image courtety of

Image courtety of

Video is currently a buzzword in any industry that deals with the internet, including online training. With the rise in popularity of sites like YouTube and, learners are accustomed to watching online videos to learn a specific skill. If correctly executed, video can be more engaging than other more traditional methods of training. Modern elearning authoring tools make it easier and more tempting to embed video with the click of a mouse. Still, we should be careful and intentional about our use of video and not just throw clips into our training simply for the sake of saying we have a video.

Tell a Story

In early 2014, I had the pleasure of attending the Video and Learning Lab at the Masie Center. Even Elliott Masie, who has been a pioneer of the use of video in learning, said that video isn’t right for every situation. Instead, he argues that video is best used to insert storytelling into our learning. This is particularly useful when gathering expertise from subject matter experts or information from peers that we want to make seem more familiar. The video may stand alone, or it may be embedded as part of a blended learning solution.

Show Me

Learning Solutions Magazine offers another instance where video can come in handy: when it’s easier to show someone a process, especially a complicated one, than it is to explain in words. We’ve all experienced frustration at some point with how-to diagrams that can’t show us the whole picture, like when we try to assemble furniture. A video can show us all the different parts and how they fit together better than a 2D line drawing. I think that’s one reason DIY and home improvement TV shows have become so popular; viewers can actually see how the process works rather than just read about it. In my own personal life, I recently found it much easier to watch a YouTube video demonstrating how to install a car seat than try to decipher the instruction manual that came in the box.

Video is often a good fit for highly technical or mechanical training courses. In these types of applications, you may also want to consider using videos for performance support, a quick resource the learner can refer back to when on the job. While I might use to look up a quick video on how to perform a particular editing technique in Photo Shop and follow along, a machinist might watch a short clip on how a particular part fits into a machine before repairing it.

Change it Up

In the fall of 2014, I attended another very helpful training session on video, ATD’s (Association for Talent and Development) video bootcamp. The instructor, Jonathan Halls, did a great job of using examples of techniques we’ve all seen on TV for years and showing us how we could apply them in a training situation.

One thing we learned is that you can’t show the same shot for too long, or else learners will tune out. So in the example above of using video interviews for storytelling, we have to make sure we don’t show one continuous feed of the person talking the entire time. Interviews on TV move back and forth from showing interviewer to showing the subject of the interview and may even use multiple angles of the interview subject. We should do the same in training videos.

Keep it Short

Unless it’s the latest summer blockbuster, no one wants to sit and watch your video for hours on end. Video is meant to be a shorter form of learning than the traditional classroom session or even elearning course. Jonathan Halls recommends keeping each video to a single learning objective. Others recommend limiting training videos to no more than 5 minutes. No matter which guideline you follow, the video shouldn’t ramble on and on. Get your point across quickly and succinctly. If you have a lot of material to cover, you could produce a series of videos or use a short video clip as one piece of a larger course.

When NOT to Use Video

As I mentioned earlier, Elliott Masie advises that video isn’t a good fit for every learning situation. There are times when having a live person present to respond to learners’ concerns is best. For instance, controversial material is best addressed in person. If you anticipate the training material may be confusing or complex or that you might receive difficult questions from learners, you want to make sure an instructor will be available. Other times, it may be best to bring learners together in the same space so they can take part in a collaborative, social learning conversation.

Another consideration is that video production is more time consuming and costly than other methods of instructional design, especially when you’re first getting started with video. If you’re facing a tight deadline or budget, video may not be the best solution for that particular project.


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