Media Skills: New Competency for Learning Professionals
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It’s the year 2020, and Tanya receives a call from an internal client: “Our warranty team needs help dealing with difficult customers.”

Five years ago, Tanya would have dispatched Pedro, her senior trainer. The problem is that the two-person training office was downsized. Pedro is now in charge of change management. Now, Tanya is working solo when it comes to training.

Based out of her company’s head office in Phoenix, Tanya’s client is a manager in suburban Atlanta. “Can you send someone to do a workshop? We really need to focus on listening skills,” her client says.

The stark reality is that Tanya is stuck in a one-person training department with a fast-dwindling travel budget.

Good news: Tanya has a video camera

Tanya knows active listening is a significant problem in the company’s warranty service department. She’s heard it from managers in Connecticut, North Carolina, and Florida.

Nevertheless, she simply doesn’t have the time to facilitate a workshop herself. She’s knee-deep in a leadership innovation project and working on an ROI study to get more staff.

But it’s the year 2020, so Tanya is not worried by the situation. She has video cameras and editing software that she can use to create media content to help them learn. Tanya will save time and cost of travel (let alone the hassle) and provide media content that can be watched over and over again by multiple internal clients.

Learning professionals need for media skills

Leaning and talent professionals will increasingly need media skills as part of their professional toolkit. Just as trainers use flipcharts and whiteboards, they will increasingly turn to video cameras and portable audio recorders in the future.

Many trainers have already transitioned from a “classroom only” work style, in which standup training was their prime activity, to embrace virtual learning solutions such as webinars.

Creating professional audio, video, and screen text—whether standalone or embedded in e-learning, consumed online or in a classroom—is the next step; it saves time, money, and the hassle of travel. It also frees up trainers to focus their creative energy on one-off projects such as Tanya’s lengthy ROI study and offers learners the flexibility to learn anywhere, anytime and at their own pace.

Media production: the next learning frontier


In just a single month last year, nearly 200 million Americans watched 49 billion online videos. According to comScore, 2013 saw a 16 percent increase in the number of people watching educational videos.

Also, people are no longer crowding around their desktop computers to watch video, as families did around radio sets back in the 1940s. Statistics show that 50 percent of mobile traffic is video; people take content with them and show us how learning truly can be portable.

Advancing technology that’s cheaper and easier to use is probably the single most important development leading us to a world in which everyone is a media producer.

A $100-video camera can make you a video star—if used well. And free online software gives you everything you need to edit the end product. If you want to create an engaging podcast that has broadcast quality sound, a $50 USB microphone and computer does the trick.  So, the cost of production and good med is not about expensive equipment; it’s a matter of time rather than money.

Yes, affordable and easy-to-use equipment is a key to the future, but only one of several. Being able to conceptualize and create engaging content is a more important creative competency.  Knowing when to use media—and when to steer clear of it—is another crucial analytical skill.

Understanding the psychology of how different media methods, such as audio, video, and text, work as communication and learning aids is another vital skill, because it equips practitioners to truly harness media to facilitate learning.

For example, some research suggests you have 10 seconds to convince a viewer to continue watching your video. Other research states that readers’ minds begin to wander once they start scrolling a web page. How do we maintain attention and interest and structure content so it looks professional and leads to learning?

Professional media techniques for learning

We can learn many of these skills from the world of professional media. Indeed, broadcasters and writers have developed tried and tested techniques to produce high-quality text, audio, and video.

To be sure, many of us already find ourselves in the situation Tanya does. And learning media competencies offers talent professionals a real advantage in the future. They can deliver more learning with fewer resources, and without the constraints of the learner’s time frame or location.

Over the next few years, talent professionals will find it is essential to learn professional media skills—so they can create meaningful content that aids learning, impresses their clients, and offers a sound investment.

Moving forward

In the next blog post, we’ll take a closer look at required media skills for learning—so you can add media to your professional toolkit.

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 ™ and ATD’s 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.”
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