When I started my first job as a clerk for an international retail company, I was required to undergo onboarding that consisted of nothing more than an hour-long training video. The rationale behind the video was simple enough—show new hires how to behave in front of customers. However, the video was less sound instructional design than it was clumsy acting and ill-advised production decisions. The training objective was lost on me. Unfortunately, what wasn’t lost on me was a newfound desire to find another job.
Although there was a time when an hour-long video was an engaging and innovative training solution, new technologies and designs have expanded the instructional possibilities of training videos. Indeed, one of the most exciting opportunities in the modern learning environment is the proliferation of video-based training innovations.
Here are three trends that have caught my eye, along with the instructional rationale behind them.
Microlearning Video Bursts
One of the most cliché characterizations of the modern learner is that s/he has the attention span of a squirrel. And maybe there’s some truth to it. Research by Digital Marketing Ramblings, recently concluded a 20-30 second video is the sweet spot for getting lots of clicks on TouTube. According to Wistia, if you increase the length of a video to 60 seconds, only 59% of viewers will stay tuned to the end.
Whether we’ve shortened our attention spans or increased our appetite for compelling video storylines, the solution is the same: shorter, more meaningful on camera moments. Designers and L&D professionals should transform training videos into microlearning bursts, each encompassing a succinct learner experience that targets specific and measurable training objectives within short bursts of time.
Microlearning videos can serve a number of instructional purposes, such as presentational tools, a performance support tool, or even an assessment tool. This doesn’t mean you need to minimize video-based learning, but it should be broken into shorter sections, each targeting specific learning objectives that work in tandem with broader training goals.
Interactive Learner Experiences
Incorporating interactive elements that require a more attentive and engaged learner will help your audience remember that information better. If learners routinely forget the bulk of their training content—especially those hour-long, poorly produced videos—then it’s imperative to design memorable and meaningful video experiences.
Here are a few recent, promising trends to help you make video more interactive:
Insert Annotations Into Your Videos: Annotations operate as small popup windows that display additional content at specific points during the video. These annotations can include links to related content, expert advice or tips, references to previous training components, and so forth.
Gamify the Videos: Training videos do not need to be one-way experiences. Enhance learner engagement by incorporating gamified components such as knowledge checks, feedback mechanisms, score cards, timers, leaderboards, and other data that tracks the learner progress and accuracy.
For example, Interlude designed an interactive video that allowed people viewing national Republican and Democratic debates to press a “CALL BULLS#!T” button whenever they suspected the politician was wrong or lying. Once the learner clicks the button, she is confronted by a feedback mechanism that explains whether or not the viewer was right and why.
Moreover, the learner can track her score and measure success against the average of all viewers’ scores. Interlude also smartly chose to break up the content into small video bursts. It also shows how the instructional value of videos is not limited to content presentation but can serve an assessment function.
Another useful example is Buzzfeed’s “The Open Lab,” which produced a short documentary using a 360-degree camera rig that ultimately allows the viewer to adjust the camera’s direction and explore each scene with a greater degree of freedom and curiosity. This allows for a richer media experience, one that enhances the learner’s engagement by enabling the learner to explore an array of elements within a scene.
Such an immersive viewing experience can be especially helpful for training needs that relate to materials handling, emergency response, and similarly dangerous procedures that can best be illustrated with panoramic video perspectives, exploratory features, and realistic-but-safe scenarios.
Video-Based Branching Narratives
Branching narratives have been an invaluable design strategy across various media for several decades. By prompting the reader/listener/viewer with a decision and allowing that decision to shape the way the story unfolds, branching narratives enable learners to perceive the negative and positive consequences to particular on-the-job actions.
One great example is an interactive film, Lifesaver, sponsored by The Resuscitation Council UK. Lifesaver presents viewers with a set of hypothetical scenarios in which someone begins to suffocate or lose consciousness, and the learner must successfully direct a character to administer the proper care and safety measures.
If the learner chooses correctly, then he advances in the scenario and achieves a higher score. If the learner chooses incorrectly, the narrative either discontinues or progresses into another story that ultimately spells doom for the injured person.
A Final Note: Never Forget the Learner!
Given the massive potential that video exerts on consumer engagement, it makes sense to harness some of the innovative trends in video technology to use in corporate training and employee development. Innovations in microlearning, interactivity, and narrative branching exponentially expand the possibilities for incorporating video-based instruction into corporate training solutions. But remember, the effectiveness of a particular training tool is measured not by trendy tech features but by improvements in employee performance.