Learning Video For Learning Professionals (Series, Post 4)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


You probably didn’t expect me to write a heading like that, huh? I’ve written a book that explains why video is really good, so why would I say not to waste money on video?

I guess what I want to say is when you don’t make good use of this technology, it’s a colossal waste of money. It’s a misuse of resources, and it’s a drain on your time.

As cool as video can be for learning, it’s actually uncool for some types of learning. And even when you use it for the right kind of learning, if it’s done poorly, it’s a waste of time. Let me elaborate.



First, video sends primarily visual messages. We have a shot of a man walking with a limp and we know that he has hurt his foot. A young woman looks at her watch and then the camera cuts to her running through a parking lot, so we know she is late.


Video is a good learning method only for content that is easy to convey visually. The pictures have to be relied on to tell the story. When it comes to video, people watch more than they listen.  

So if you can’t easily teach your topic with pictures, don’t waste your time, money, and resources on video. Video is not good for complex or detailed topics, such as accounting or HR compliance processes. It is good for topics that involve psychomotor skills, such as changing a tire.

Second, video needs to be made up of smart pictures. Let’s say we’re teaching someone to change a tire. We cannot just sit the camera on a tripod and leave it there for ten minutes. We need to change the shot constantly to keep our viewers’ attention. That means showing the process of changing the tire from different positions. Doing a close-up and then cutting to a wider shot.

The reason some people don’t watch C-SPAN is because they become bored if the picture doesn’t change regularly. Compare a press conference on C-SPAN to one on CNN or FOX News, which gets a lot of viewers. They are constantly changing the shot.

This is the reason filming an education program can be so ineffective. People get bored watching a lecture after half a minute. This is the least ideal video learning environment.

People often ask me at conferences, “How can I make seminar and lecture videos more interesting?” I tell them they can’t. All they can do is make them less boring. The tricks for doing that are a conversation for another time.

If you happen to join me for the “author’s chat” at the ASTD Bookstore in Dallas, or at my program during the conference, I’ll touch more on these issues.

Related Tags:
About the Author
Jonathan Halls is an author, trainer, and coach. He wrote Rapid Video Development for Trainers (ATD Press, 2012) and was a contributing author to Speak More (River Grove Books, 2012) and the ATD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development 2nd Edition (ATD Press, 2014). He is author of the ATD Infoline, “ Memory & Cognition in Learning” (ATD Press, 2014) and has written numerous articles for T&D magazine. Jonathan is an ATD BEST Awards reviewer and has sat on the advisory committees for the ASTD International Conference & Exposition and TechKnowledge.

The former BBC learning executive now runs workshops in media, communication, leadership, and creativity. He is on faculty at George Washington University and facilitates ATD’s Master Trainer Program ™, Training Certificate and Rapid Video for Learning Professionals Certificate program. Jonathan has been training, speaking, and coaching for 25 years in more than 20 countries. He describes his work as “at the intersection of media, communication, learning, leadership, and innovation.”
Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.