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Using Video in Training

Video has become one of the most important tools used for training, outside of manuals. Video is versatile, easily accessible, reaches different types of learners, effectively demonstrates processes, and can be entertaining and even interactive. This article provides some tips and approaches.

Video Training

Appeal to as many senses as possible

Videos are more engaging than other forms of instruction and are specially helpful for those with limited reading skills. Images help viewers retain information. Audio, including narration, sound effects, and music, is immersive and helps connect emotionally. Text on screen can emphasize important concepts and point out specifics.

According to Nancy Chick, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, the term "learning styles" describes how learners gather, sift through, interpret, organize, come to conclusions about, and "store" information for further use. Although there a number of popular ways to categorize learning styles, the fundamental idea is that each person prefers a specific learning style and learns best when information is presented to them in that style. Although there currently is disagreement as to whether tailoring instruction to a preferred learning style actually improves learning, but there is evidence that different subjects are best taught by different methods. So, make your training visual and immersive for best results.

Break down the task into short segments

Experienced trainers recommend evaluating the task or skill that needs to be learned and determining what knowledge, physical skills, and attitudes or beliefs are necessary to successfully complete the task. The best instruction design uses videos in short segments to demonstrate and provide guidance, combined with knowledge checks, opportunities to ask questions and discuss, and time between segments to actually practice the skill. Separate, well-defined videos also allows viewers to pick the right refresher sections if they later forget or need additional help.

Content is king, but people need to hear the audio

Video has the advantage of being easily available at the exact time and place where the task needs to be performed. Video can also be paused or rewatched after practicing. Unless the video has a marketing component and needs to look polished, content is king and videos do not necessarily need to look polished. The audio is still very important, however, because it often carries much of the message.

Demonstrate the process

Video is a great way to show processes in motion, which can range from showing off a product to visualizing scenarios. It explains in a way that allows viewers to watch, read and hear instructions at the same time. Demonstration videos can help employees sharpen their expertise and better serve customers. They can also help customers, allowing them to learn how to use a new product and how to solve common problems.

Video is especially helpful for processes which are difficult to communicate suing traditional instruction -- for example, video can condense time and space, zoom in or magnify, and use sketches or animation to simplify complex topics.

Use stories for impact and engagement

The best training videos actually use story as a tool. A story can explain why and how the procedure or skill is needed. Once the listener understands this, they are less likely to forget. The elements of a good story for use in training are a realistic setting, a relatable character, and a simple plot with a beginning, middle and a climax.

There is a lot of advice out there about the importance of story, but most articles don't illustrate story. Story is memorable. Story is unexpected. Rather than going into further extended discussion, we've included a number of different samples as illustrations.

Plan for accessibility

One component of accessibility is physical. Video was once confined to physical VCR tapes and later DVDs. Now, however, training videos can be made available online and accessible anywhere on a variety of devices. Corporations put online training videos on their employee website, allowing employees to learn and work at their own pace, stopping and playing them back as often as necessary to understand important points. Universities use video to teach Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

A second component of accessibility is eliminating barriers, such as language and hearing. You can increase accessibility and watchability in your training videos by transcribing the audio and making it available as captions with audio descriptions. This helps hearing impaired viewers and can also be translated for speakers of other languages. Captioning has even been proven to increase literacy in children. Captioning also delivers your message to viewers in noisy environments or who need the sound off for some reason.

Popular online learning sites include LinkedIn Learning, a fee-based service, and YouTube, an ad-based service.

Interaction reinforces learning

Traditional interaction methods, described above, include adding knowledge checks, discussion, and time to practice the skill.

Interactive video technologies are a new tool with much potential in training because they can provide much greater immersive interaction. By letting the viewer point and click around on the page, interactive videos allow viewers to experiment, learn and think critically at their own pace.

Honda the Other Side interactive video

Neuron interactive learning demonstration

Virtual Art interactive video


Jacquie Greff, author