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For years I've been telling clients they ought to use more video in their learning programs, especially their elearning offerings. My arguments have been as follows:

  1. People react to well-crafted videos and audio with increased attention.
  2. The storytelling often inherent in video is powerfully seductive.
  3. Video is now fairly cheap; you don't necessarily need high production values, expensive equipment, or professional help.
  4. Nothing persuades our learners better than seeing real people who are like them — giving testimony, telling their stories, giving their lessons learned.
  5. Video can utilize scenario-based decision making, which we know from the learning research is a powerful tool to support comprehension and remembering.
  6. More and more of our learners are everyday video watchers; their expectations for media consumption are more visual, less textual.

Video is the New Text

Today's headlines hint that video on the internet is the number one draw. Certainly, some of these are silly cat videos, but now serious sources are turning to videos. Take for example the TED videos, the New York Times, The Economist. Even National Public Radio (whose life blood flows through a non-visual medium) has a YouTube channel!

Video is here to stay. As of this day in 2015, more and more elearning is utilizing good video; but still more can be done. Still too many instructional designers don't have video skills or even knowledge. Still too many opportunities are lost for getting employees on video telling their stories and lessons learned. Still too few scenario-based decisions are wrapped in a video context.

But Isn't Video Hard to Do?

It's NOT easier than writing text, especially since most of us have more text-writing experience than video-creation experience. But it's not that hard and it doesn't have to be expensive.

My confession is that even while I was imploring my clients to use video, I rarely used it. So, six years ago I began to learn about video. I put in some time to learn it. I bought myself video equipment. I produced a few videos. Here's a sampling:

I still don't do very many videos. As a consultant I can't really afford to take the time, but I create them occasionally because of the value they provide. 

If you think you can't do video, check out the second video I ever produced (the last one on the list). As an on-screen presence, I was terrible, but overall the video is pretty good.

My List of Equipment:

So you can learn from my consumer research, here is the list of video equipment I use in my videos.

  • Consumer HD video camcorder. NOT a professional video camera. About 7 years old, so not the latest technology.
  • Inexpensive wireless microphone. (something like this)
  • Inexpensive tripod (something like this)
  • Inexpensive lighting (something like this, and this)
  • Inexpensive video-editing software (like this)
  • Inexpensive audio-editing software (like that included in most video-editing software).

I also endeavor to use some aesthetic sensibilities; developed over the years regarding audio, music, visuals, cinematography, etc. based on who knows what (going to art museums, listening to music, playing music as a kid, observing the craft while watching videos, movies, TV, etc.). I really don't know what I know or what I lack, but I do know that some aesthetic sensibility is important. I also know that real video pros have more of this than I do…so there are definite advantages to getting help from the pros.

One of my mentors in video production is Jason Fararooei of Yellow Cape Communications. I first met him at an ISPI conference where he talked about how he and his team created a video for a client learning engagement. I liked his thoughtful approach to the aesthetics and potency of video. I'm pretty sure the following video is from the talk I saw him give:

Jason's in the business of creating videos, so my videos certainly don't come up to his standards, but he does seem mindful that shooting on a budget can still produce good results. Here he talks about recording a conference session, but the idea can be used for recording short snippets from training as well.

Video IS the New Text…Sometimes

I don't really think that video will replace text, but it will replace some text. And remember this. In evaluating video vs. text, you can't just look at the costs. It's the cost/benefit that matters. In some sense you may have to do a comparison like the following (note the numbers are pulled from thin air as examples):

  • TEXT PASSAGE that only 20 out of 100 people read.
  • VIDEO SHORT that 70 out of 100 people view.

Your numbers will vary…but the point should be clear. Where video gets more eyeballs and more mathemagenic processing (learning-generating processing), it may be worth the extra investment.

Many times, you and your team will be able to create the video. Sometimes you'll have to get help from a professional.

Large organizations, or vendors who produce lots of instruction, should consider developing video capability in-house.

For all of us who call ourselves instructional designers, we ought to dive in and learn some video skills. If I can do it, you can too!

Dr. T, What Are You Thinking?

And, just to avoid 100 snippy comments, let me anticipate your next question…Hey, Dr. T, why did you use TEXT here, NOT VIDEO?

Roll the credits…SMILE