Why your L&D video content might be completely pointless, and how to do it right. 

I’m going to pop my head above the parapet for a moment, and say that many organisations are using video in completely the wrong way – not just in L&D, in but for online videos too.

I’ll start with online videos as an example, because it will help italicise the point easily, given many L&D professionals don’t always see the content that is being created in other organisations – or that they’re not yet using video for learning.

The thing with the videos that people pop onto the front page of their websites, is that they often end up being video renditions of the website – which I think has led to rather generic and unimaginative video content.

Think about how many videos you’ve seen (and indeed I’ve been guilty of filming some myself in the past!), where it opens up with an establishing shot of a location, possibly a time-lapse of the building with clouds whizzing by, and then we cut to the CEO/MD at their desk, talking about the range of products and/or services they offer, why you should choose them, and the call to action –  “for more information you can contact us on…”, whilst we see shots of people at their desks, talking on the phone, and typing away on their keyboards.

Now there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this approach as it provides a dynamic (or not!) ‘window’ into the organisation – it cracks the veneer of the brand, the corporate image, and gives you a sense of the people that are driving it etc. Having said that, I do think people are scared of getting creative though – and often this fear is led by marketing ‘norms’.

My point is that more often than not, the same information is being presented in text format right next to the video content, on the actual website.

This duplication isn’t always a bad thing of course, but at the same time, I really do think that people don’t consider the power of creating balance between multimedia, and this is one of the fundamental areas that I think people need to address in online video and L&D.

The power of multimedia 

One of the things that informed my course and research choices as a visual anthropologist during my academic career from undergrad to PhD, was the incredible potential of photography, video, sound, and text to combine seamlessly into creating engaging learning content. At the heart of that potential was the importance of nuance, depth, and subtle reiteration across different forms of media – to engage senses and emotions, and appeal to the different aspects of our intellect in a multitude of ways.

However, I’m still left with a sense sometimes, that when people are storyboarding a learning video that’s going to sit on their Moodle for example, that they are not really looking at the relationship between the written information and how that learning content is structured – and what the video will actually bring to it – because in my mind, a video has the power to, and must bring, something ‘extra’.

How you should approach video for your learning initiative. 

When you’re using video for a learning initiative, then (unless the video is actually informing the core initiative), I’d say do the video last. Get all of the other content sorted first, because from there you’ve got that structure in place, and can then look at the content of the video and how it can develop, collide, and nuance with that core content.

Doing this will give you an incredible overview and control, and help you plan the video in a more considered manner. As an example it might make you think twice about throwing the whole video onto the first page of a course, and instead layer it throughout the module (I’m a big fan of layering video).

It might also help you to see areas in the learning content that could become more engaging though video – or indeed prompt you to keep the video away from specific areas. Either way it will certainly help you to ‘visualise’ the video with more clarity,

A great deal of how you use video for learning will of course depend on what your organisation does. If it’s people-focused, or a charity for example, then you’re literally sitting on top of a gold mine. Regardless of what you do, and the learning outcomes you’re trying to achieve, look at ways to deliver and add to the core learning content creatively. Don’t be afraid to get stuck into ‘film language’, or fiction, or delve into metaphor. Don’t be afraid to throw in a few seconds of video on a particular content page  to help drive a salient point home.

If you do the video last (and by this I don’t mean not to consider it as you go!) you will really begin to appreciate the true power of video in learning, which will in  turn inform the pre-production processes you go though such as creating storyboards and briefs, resulting in a much stronger and effective production.

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