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15 Tips in eLearning and Training

publication date: Oct 31, 2012
author/source: Jon Aleckson


I was recently featured in an article in In Business magazine that highlights “The Online Video Phenomenon” and talks about the upsurge of online video marketing.  Why is it so popular?  Well, as stressed in the article, online video marketing is popular because it allows a story to be taken around the world, it “brings a much higher level of engagement” and because “Human beings are visual by nature”.  While reflecting on this trend myself, I added that social media platforms and the Internet allow people to no longer be “confined to a local television market” Witness this year’s presidential election and the rapid Internet release of videos by the candidates.  The ability to evoke emotion with music and imagery and editing is very strong.  That has always been the case with motion pictures delivered via TV and DVD but now the delivery channel is so much more vibrant, with so many more features and abilities, that its day has come.

I have long been a believer in motion picture when the goal is driving a purchase decision, changing hearts or changing minds, or simply embedding knowledge or procedures.  My eLearning company, Web Courseworks, Ltd., actually was begun as an eLearning division of Madison Productions Incorporated, a privately held Wisconsin corporation with over thirty years of experience in successfully producing eMedia, motion pictures, Flash animation and audio enhancements.  To this day, the re-named Madison Media Productions is still the video production division of Web Courseworks.


What does all this have to do with effective eLearning?  Well, when considering the new video trend in marketing I was thinking about how videos not only enhance marketing strategies, but also have the ability to drastically improve eLearning courses (when used correctly).  This began my search for the most helpful tips of effective eLearning video.  This list, created by Saffron Interactive of London, England, demonstrates well-put together tips for including video in eLearning modules.


Video as eLearning: 15 Tips

October 12, 2012


Videos can be a great addition to e-learning packages-but only if they’re used in the right way.  Here are Saffron’s top ten tips for making sure videos are adding value to your e-learning rather than just adding megabytes to your course.

1.  Keep videos short and to the point: Unless you’re making the video interactive, keep it short and focused so your learner doesn’t switch off.  This is especially true for monologues given by company executives: keep the learner engaged by keeping it short and sweet.

2.  Use videos for emphasis:  Don’t overuse video.  Always ask yourself ‘is this the best way to illustrate the learning?’ Video can be more memorable than text so use it for emphasizing and reinforcing key learning points.

3.  Make videos interactive:  If you’re considering including a longer video then make it interactive, for example by pausing it intermittently to ask the learner questions.  This keeps them involved and focuses their attention on the learning points you want to emphasize.

4.  Follow up with questions or a summary:  If you don’t make the video interactive in any way then make sure you follow it up with a brief summary of the key points covered.  This should help to prevent any key learning points slipping through the net.

5.  Use videos to demonstrate how to, or how not to, do something:  A video can be a great way of illustrating how not to do something and then getting the learners to spot the mistakes.  Depending on time, you can then follow up by showing them the correct way of completing the task.

6.  Use actors not real employees:  Your video will only be as good as the people in it and employees may be nervous or forget their lines.  Use professional actors but make sure you send scripts through in advance, giving clear instructions on character and costume.

7.  Be creative:  Think about how television programs are filmed and consider whether you can mimic their style.  For example, try using different camera angles to break up long speeches or reinforcing key points by having text appear on screen.

8.  Include a transcript:  Providing a transcript makes a video accessible to everyone, such as learners with hearing difficulties or those without headphones or sound cards.  It also enables learners to refer back to the content without watching it again.

9.  Be technically clever:  Compress video files as much as possible to avoid learner frustration whilst waiting for them to load.  Consider creating a low bandwidth version for slower internet connections, perhaps using photos rather than video, or lower quality video.

10.  Make videos downloadable elsewhere:  Get the most out of your video by including it as a downloadable resource, either in the course or from an intranet site.  That way, the learner can refresh their memory of the key learning points without completing the whole course again.


Adding a few of my own:

11. Use video in branching scenarios: Use a simple Sim Builder to require the learner to watch a video and make a choice.  Based on the learner’s choices a different set of video or video paths appear.

 12. Use Hot Spots:  Have a learner watch a video to identify critical concepts.  Each hot spot is a link to more information on this critical subject such as safety in the workplace or fire hazards.

13. Consider the “Kahn Way”: The Khan Academy has become all the rage because of the way it organizes and indexes subjects as short video lectures.  Finding a talent or teacher that can pull this off is half the battle.  Adding good supporting text or examples is the other.

14. Incorporate the Cut Scene:  Video games use short videos called “cut scenes” to establish context and/or further a story line.  These videos are interspersed within the game play and very short.

15. Demonstrate executive commitment:  Record a short executive introduction to the eLearning course to demonstrate executive commitment to the learning objectives.

Performance Improvement Culture Cops

I have held interest in the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) for years.  With the mission “to develop and recognize the proficiency of its members and advocate the use of Human Performance Technology”, I have come to believe that all managers of eLearning should consider joining this group.  Many themes of my book MindMeld focus on developing a culture of continuous improvement by promoting a commitment to processes and continuous evaluation.  The goal is to improve, to energize your staff toward reaching higher.  Ultimately, as a manager,  I stress the importance of using evaluation. First during development, use embed formative evaluation by mandating user testers at various development stages.  This allows for your team to improve a product as it is built.   And of course it is important to insist on the “post mortem” to evaluate what went right and what went wrong after the project is completed.

Jack Phillips-President of the International Society for Performance Improvement

This past July, ISPI reached and celebrated its 50thanniversary, a good time to show my respect for this association and present reviews of two relevant articles that have since been published in their monthly journal. I read the president’s message in their July issue and stopped at a quote by President Jack Phillips, PhD., that states where his interest for ISPI came, “I became involved in ISPI because I saw a need to focus on performance improvement, not on the solution of the day or the solution based on an executive’s gut feeling.  Rather, there was a need to focus on solutions that evolve from an analysis that can withstand scrutiny.”  These ideas, along with many others, are some that ISPI recognizes and challenges members to use in their Performance Improvement in technology related areas—and they do so by presenting ideas and arguments to their members in the following way:

August’s issue highlighted an article entitled “Ask the Instructional Designers: A Cursory Glance at Practice in the Workplace” by Thompson-Sellers and Calandra.  This article introduced an exploratory study in which the connection between what is presented in college instructional design programs and what actually happens in the workplace was sought out.  A story was followed that included an intern hired and then promoted in a new job.  As she was an intern from a university instructional design technology (IDT) program, she was considered along with subject matter experts (SMEs) for an instructional design (ID) position.


The intern wondered throughout the hiring process “What are [the] knowledge and skills that are expected of us when we graduate?”  Many of the concepts and theories that she had studied and memorized in college were not important tests of aptitude when she entered the workforce—so is there a disconnect between academia and the workplace?  The ISPI Journal examines the process of a study that was conducted to find the answer to this question and found: “although all participants mentioned ID theories and models as being at least implicitly a part of their daily practice, none of them directly considered this type of knowledge as requisite.”  Furthermore, it seemed that whether a worker was trained formally in college, or informally in the workplace, both adapted to their environments and compensated for any deficit “in their knowledge or skills through various avenues.”  So if you are wondering whether to hire a subject matter expert as instructional designers or hire an academically trained instructional designer you may be interested in this article and study.  I would caution you, however, that the article ends with the statement: “Future research should be conducted.”  In my opinion, a corporate eLearning staff needs both types of team members.

Deb Page-Willing Learner President

Another article from the September 2012 ISPI Journal, written by Deb Page, is also worth mentioning. Page’s article “Using Electronic Portfolios” emphasizes the new, sweeping uses of e-portfolios and the benefits of using them.  Page argues that e-portfolios encourage reflection and can strengthen performance improvement, performance management, and collaboration.  She emphasizes that with the use of e-portfolios, individuals can showcase themselves and their achievements, workplaces can showcase new employees, projects, and facilities, and managers can connect employees and team members to each other.  A second aspect of e-portfolios that can be beneficial to eLearning associations specifically is its ability to formalize informal learning.  Users can dynamically post their work and commentary in a social environment and over time exhibit those items that best demonstrate their proficiency, performance, and progress throughout their academic and work careers.  Page goes on to describe the influx of e-portfolios in the past ten years which led me to draw upon educational sectors and how they have used ePortfolios like the Wisconsin Administrative Code PI 34.  This code helped develop a new system for preparing and licensing educators.   The requirement that each initial educator must develop, implement, and document their Professional Development Plan (PDP) has led to the use of e-portfolios which are easily updated and accessed.  It has also encouraged the documentation of informal training and learning activities.  Someday we all will be encouraged, as life-long learners to maintain a PDP.


For example, continuing medical education (CME) and licensing boards are aggressively looking into how e-Portfolios can be used to help document proficiency and demonstrate performance improvement.

I would encourage others to look at the ISPI community of practice and see what benefits membership could offer you, your team and your employer.

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.

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