Video and learning today

30th Aug 2015

Over the years we’ve seen many changes in L&D. Less classroom delivery, the rise (and fall?) of eLearning and the ubiquitous access to content through mobile devices. There’s one medium that has not only endured throughout all of those changes but has positively thrived - and that is video.

It's been used in workplace training ever since it was possible to easily record and playback moving images. Back before the word video was even in use, 8mm and 16mm films were being used for training, but they were costly to make, difficult to distribute and needed specialist equipment to view. 

 And then we went from film to video. To start with it didn't solve many of the problems of distribution and playback, but with the arrival of consumer technologies such as VHS and DVDs video became much more accessible. 

 In recent years even those technologies have fallen by the wayside and been re-placed by online and on demand video services. 

The most significant shift has only come in the last six or seven years. Smartphones with high quality cameras have enabled all of us to make videos, and social networks allow us to upload and share those videos with a global audience. 

Video and learning today

Today video is used in many different ways. In some cases, it has distinct echoes of the training films and videos of the past, with organisations making very highly produced video content to address specific needs. There are also libraries of really good generic content such as that produced by Video Arts. 

There are large online libraries of video content intended specifically for learning. Probably the best known are; Lynda (recently acquired by LinkedIn), a service that makes highly produced videos that are available by subscription, and Udemy which provides a marketplace where anyone can sell access to their own video courses. Most of us are probably more familiar with the less formal video sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. The quality may not always be as high as the subscription sites but the range is almost limitless - if you want to know how to do something the chances are you’ll find a video about it on YouTube. 

Does video work for learning? 

According to the research, yes it does. In 2007 the TeacherTube blog collected together links to a series of research studies that showed that video was effective in learning and teaching. If you’re looking for a primer on the power of video in learning, this 20 minutes TED talk by Sal Khan is a good place to start. In his 2004 paper Active Viewing: An Oxymoron in Video-Based Instruction? Joel Galbraith identified variable speed playback and the ability to review content as being key factors in both the effectiveness and learner appeal of video. 

 Why should I use video? 

As well as being an effective learning medium, video has a lot of other advantages:

- It can be quick and low cost to produce and distribute 

- It’s a great way for subject matter experts to produce content 

- either give them a camera, or put them in front of one 

- Video is a very familiar medium that people are used to using for learning 

- If you're willing to open up the firewall there's a ton of great content already out there If we need any convincing of the popularity of video we just have to look at the numbers. Lynda has over 2 million subscribers, Udemy has 8 million and YouTube has more than 1 billion users, who watch hundreds of millions of hours of video every day. 

Using the LMS

I’ve argued here many times that in order for the LMS to be the go to place for learning it needs to be as close to the flow of work as possible. The more you lock it down and lock it away the less useful it is. Video sites give us an interesting perspective on this. The popularity of Lynda, Udemy and YouTube show us that it is possible to have a distinct place to go for content - and in the case of Lynda and Udemy, one that requires a subscription and a login. 

Where the content is heavily structured and it is useful to have learning plans (which may be self developed or curated by others) then that separate log in does not appear to be a barrier to entry. Think here of someone with no prior experience, wanting to learn Photoshop - they need a lot of structure and support and are likely to be willing to put up with some degree of inconvenience to get it. On the other hand, if you have a more experienced user who is looking for the answer to a specific question - for example “how do I create a reflection in Photoshop” - they want an answer right now, with the minimum of fuss. This is where YouTube comes in. The success of YouTube is a combination of three things; millions of pieces of user generated content, great search and ubiquity (it can be accessed anywhere at any time on pretty much any device from smartphone to desktops, games consoles to TVs). The LMS naturally lends itself to that first model, with structured content and learning plans - perhaps tied to a record of achievement too. If you want to use the LMS for the YouTube style approach you have to remove the barriers to accessing and adding content. 

Do you plan to make more use of video? After all, a billion+ YouTube users can’t all be wrong.

About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

Want to find out more?

Tweet Barry now!