Videos for Learning: Beyond the Filmstrip

Go back in time with me to grade school. Remember when the teacher would wheel the film projector into class? That sense of relief? Followed by the thought, “Finally, a break from all the lectures!” We would pay far more attention to whatever warbled images the projector would throw onto the ripped screen pulled down from the ceiling than anything the teacher said all year long. Does that memory give you a least a little insight into how people learn?

Even though the classroom film seemed at the time like a chance for teachers and students to get a break from one another, it was actually a valuable teaching tool. Yet, organizations seem very reluctant to wheel out the old projector. What I wouldn’t give to hear the “thwap, thwap, thwap” of the film finishing the journey from one reel to the other.

All nostalgia aside, people have been using video for learning for decades and the YouTube era is the best evidence yet of the power of video. Yet, companies do not seem to be adopting video as a staple of the learning environment as much as you might think.

On our 2015 Training Benchmarking Survey, fewer than 10% of companies said that video for learning is not at all effective for learning. In our Mobile Learning Survey, nearly two-thirds of companies said that mobile video was either highly or extremely effective.

For all the talk about adapting learning to meet the natural ways people learn, video seems like a no- brainer. Every one of us watches videos all the time, probably at least once a day. Whether it’s to get a quick “how to” or watch a cat fall into a fish tank, online videos have become an indispensable part of everyday life. The technology to incorporate video abounds. Most Smartphones can record HD video and YouTube is available to everyone to use. Yet, learning is apparently very slow on the uptake.

One of the challenges is in execution. It’s analogous to the first moving picture. When presented with this new technology, the first movie was made by pointing a stationary camera at a play. This is how we always do things. We take a new technology and apply it to the way we’ve always done things until we figure out the new possibilities. This is what’s happening in corporate learning. Instead of creating internal YouTube channels or pushing short Vine-like videos to smartphones, companies are recording presentations and classrooms and making them available for on-demand viewing. This is a good first step, but the potential to use video is far greater.

There is no stronger proof of this concept of using the new to do the old than data we gathered for our soon-to-be-published study on video for learning. Nearly two-thirds of companies say they use video for in-classroom viewing. As nostalgic as I may be for the classroom experience described earlier, this is borderline insanity. Why would an organization waste the precious time of its workforce to sit them in a room to watch video? Use that time for more hands-on, collaborative work. Videos can be watched anywhere at any time and the corporate classroom is probably not the time or place.

David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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