The answer is video; it almost doesn’t matter what the question is. Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples:
- What is the most effective medium for communicating information quickly?
- Where do young adults get most of their information?
- What’s a quick and easy way to create eLearning modules in-house?
- What medium is a natural for short, engaging microlearning?
What did I tell you? The answer is video.
Learners tend to retain information longer when it is presented with visual aids (photos, video, infographics) rather than as text-only instruction, according to “Learning Through Visuals,” an article published by Psychology Today. And study after study shows that younger adults—anyone born after 1980, a cohort that makes up a large and growing segment of our workforce—increasingly turn to video for news, education, social interaction, and more. Nearly half of 18- to 29-year-old Americans watch online news video, for example; 81 percent use YouTube, and more than half use Instagram. Video is the eLearning tool of the moment. And, perhaps, of the future.
If learners will retain information presented visually, and video is a medium that appeals to many (if not most) employees, what’s the problem?
Too many eLearning designers are frightened off by the prospect of creating videos. They envision costly equipment and highly paid camera operators swarming the halls; budget overruns mounting by the hour; complex editing needs.
Nonsense. Creating video eLearning modules does not have to be complicated or expensive. The rise of microlearning means that long videos are passé. Forget the 30-minute (or longer!) documentaries and recorded lectures of a few years ago. Even five minutes is too long for some topics or some audiences.
A quick look at social media can offer some perspective: A Vine video is only six seconds long (!), yet people manage to tell stories using Vine. Instagram recently increased video length from 15 seconds to a minute. While eLearning developers might not go to these extremes, many microlearning units are three to five minutes; some topics might be covered effectively in a fast-paced 60- or 90-second video. Distilling the focus of each video to one narrow learning goal is the key to making impactful short videos.
Furthermore, creating effective videos does not have to break the bank. Anyone with a smartphone can record passable videos with practice (remember: no vertical video!). The truly brave can even edit videos on their phones, using Videolicious or similar tools. Free and low-cost tools abound for editing and enhancing those videos on a laptop or tablet.
If recording original video isn’t the right choice, screencasting tools like CamStudio or Screencast-O-Matic can record whatever is on a computer screen. Screencasts are useful for showing learners how to use a software package or other piece of equipment, for example. To round out the tool box, aspiring video producers might check into inexpensive “whiteboard animation” tools like VideoScribe or TruScribe, which make it easy to create professional, engaging lessons on just about any topic. Some tools include figures; others allow developers to create their own whiteboard drawings.
When planning microlearning videos, remember these tips:
- Take advantage of video as a visual medium; humans are wired to notice motion.
- Define a clear, narrow focus. Plan to cover one topic or learning goal per microlearning video.
- Use a script, but keep it brief. Show learners how to do something rather than telling them. Use screencasting or whiteboard animations for this—not text-heavy screens.
- Details, extra explanation, and supplemental information should go somewhere else. Give learners a handout for this material; better yet, make it available in a searchable app or database.
- Ensure that microlearning units are cross-referenced and easily searchable and accessible to learners—on their laptops, tablets, mobile phones—wherever they are likely to need the information.
Adding videos created in-house to an eLearning toolkit, on your budget and on your schedule, is not only feasible, it’s a great way to offer learners more control over their learning schedule and content. By offering microlearning units that employees can access as needed and without interrupting their workflow, managers and eLearning developers can achieve two goals: effective training and efficient employees.
Duggan, Maeve, Nicole
B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Amanda Lenhart, and Mary Madden. “Demographics of
Key Social Networking Platforms.” Pew Research Center. 9 January 2015.
“Learning Through Visuals: Visual imagery in the classroom.” Psychology Today. 20 July 2012.
“Five findings about digital video news.” Pew Research Center. 17 April 2014.