Video learning – does it have a place?
There's a lot of interest at the moment in video resources as a means of “on the job learning” rather than online and classroom courses. But are they a viable and reliable way of helping our learners improve in their jobs?
To clarify, I'm not talking about videos used as part of programmes or courses, just pure videos, by themselves, as resources.
”We live in a YouTube generation” and “Our learners want video” are phrases that get banded around a lot. But what bugs me as a learning professional is this – there is enough empirical evidence to prove that effective learning takes place when people have the opportunity to put into practice what they have learnt. That practice might be physically completing a similar task, writing about the topic or even just taking the time to imagine what you would do in a similar situation and play out the motions in your head. And we know that if practice is too far removed in time or context from the information then learning transfer is really difficult. So based on our understanding of how learning works, and the passive nature of videos, I struggle to reconcile video with real tangible learning outcomes.
In short we know that you can't just tell someone how to do something and expect them to pick it up easy as that. So if video really can be useful to us, the practice needs to come from somewhere else. This is where I believe a number of learning professionals see video as a way of providing “in the moment learning”.
I've used YouTube videos myself to learn something new and it was great. I had to change the spark plugs in my car (not the most interesting subject, I know) so I found a video of a guy changing the spark plugs in a model similar to mine, got my tools and off I went. I watched the guy pop the bonnet, paused while I figured out how to do mine, then continued a bit further, then paused. Then I got to a bit I really wasn't sure of, so I scrubbed the video back a few times and re-watched it before following along with him. And “Hey presto!” I had managed to change my spark plugs. Perfect. But think about your learners, are they in a position where they can have the video alongside them and follow along putting the instruction into practice in real time?
I believe this could be really useful in the right situation. Maybe someone fixing a tricky problem on a boiler would be able to follow along with a tutorial, or someone trying to fix an accounting issue on a report, or someone learning new software for example.
But it's not a fix-all solution.
Can you imagine being sat in a performance review with your manager and they ask you to hold on for a sec whilst they re-watch a bit of video because they've forgotten the structure of the meeting? Or would you want a chef to be scrubbing through videos on their phone whilst preparing your meal because they need to check the instructions on how to present your food? (that's hardly hygienic)
So the conclusion I've come to is this – video only options have a place, just not everywhere.
The best way forwards is still matching the outcomes to the most appropriate solution rather than choosing a solution to push no matter the context.