Seven Myths About Instructional Video: Which One Is Limiting You?

Written By

John Parsons

May 02, 2016

Over 100 years ago, “motion pictures” were a misunderstood medium. It took artists and audiences decades to get it right. Today, the same holds true for online video. Although we’ve had online video since the late 1990s, we’re still discovering new ways to use it, especially in training. Sometimes we don’t see the full picture. What’s worse, myths can limit how we use video.

At Viddler, we hear a lot of myths and misconceptions. Here are our top seven:

Myth #1: Everything worth learning can (and should) be reduced to bite-sized, two-minute videos

Shorter is not always better. Very often, important skills require longer demonstrations or more explanation. Think about what makes a good live training session, then apply those rules to a video. If the instructor is engaging and informative, a longer live session or video won’t be a problem. If he or she drones on (“Anyone? Anyone?”), then minutes will seem like hours.

Long lectures are problematic, whether live or on-demand. But for video, the secret is not just making it shorter, but also making it more engaging. Think about it—a good instructor inserts questions, shows examples, provides supplemental material, and requires feedback and response in class. Online video should let you do just that.

Overall video length is important. Shorter can be better—but for training video, interactivity is much more important.

Myth #2: Video should be free; YouTube is all I need

Sorry, but YouTube is not free. It’s true you don’t pay for video hosting, but you do give up any semblance of ownership or privacy. Google can insert advertising, auto-recommend other videos, and even take down your videos whenever it wants. With effort, you can make your videos private, but the default state is public. Anyone can see and download your training videos—even your competitors.

YouTube was designed as a social medium and a publishing and advertising platform, with a focus on generating ad revenue for Google. That’s not a bad thing, but using it for training is problematic.

Myth #3: Video is expensive; our company is too small to use video for training

The high-cost myth has two sources. People think that “video” means only high-end, professionally produced footage or a permanent, in-house production team. Good training videos can come from many sources, many of them very affordable. Even smaller companies can affordably produce excellent video training.

The other source of this myth is failing to see the cost of not using video for training. If your business involves a widely dispersed workforce, like a field sales or support team, then use of video is critical. Pulling your team members out of position to attend live training can cost your company a lot.

Fortunately, interactive online video is exactly the right solution for remote training. The measurable increase in productivity is well worth the modest investment.

Myth #4: Video files are too big for company intranets

It’s true that video files can get really big. Depending on your combination of files and formats, video could be the largest percentage of your company’s digital file total. Whether that means “too big to use” depends on several factors:

  • Local vs. cloud—if you insist on hosting video content locally, on your company’s intranet, then it’s very likely you’ll have space problems. IT departments usually take a dim view of large data files that are accessed relatively infrequently. The answer, of course, is to host video in the cloud and access it on-demand. With a robust, secure content delivery network (CDN), file size is not a problem.
  • Courseware architecture—too many courseware apps insist on embedding video within the lesson, creating long download times and filling up space on users’ devices. Again, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach solves that. Make sure your courseware allows video to be played on-demand, using a robust CDN.
  • Playback speed—increasingly, training is happening on mobile devices, where network speeds are not constant and large video files create a potential playback problem. Not all training-video platforms are equal. Be sure the one you choose lets you optimize video playback across networks of different types and speeds.

Myth #5: Online video is not secure

It’s true that some platforms are relatively easy to hack. However, a well-designed and well-managed video-training system is extremely secure, even when it comes to tough problems like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

When choosing an online, interactive video-training solution, security and privacy are legitimate concerns. It’s important to make sure that the right people see the right videos and that you exclude competitors and unauthorized viewers. Take a close look at your video platform’s user management and security features.

Myth #6: People don’t pay attention to training videos

This is only true when the video experience is a passive one. Sitting through a long, tedious video—with no opportunity to respond or interact—should probably be against the UN Convention Against Torture. However, this is a completely avoidable problem.

Training-wise, requiring users to watch videos isn’t always effective. Even if you can track who watches what, and for how long, the only guarantee is that you know the video has been played. It’s very difficult to guarantee that a trainee isn’t playing solitaire or taking a nap. (By the way, it is possible to test whether someone is really watching, but usually, not much actual learning takes place.)

The real answer is interactivity. If the video-training system allows and encourages user participation, then attention and engagement will rise. Aspects of interactivity include:

  • In-video questions—letting each user respond to multiple-choice, true-false, ranking scale, text, and other question forms.
  • In-video comments, notes, and links—sparking conversations and other interactions related to specific moments in the video.
  • Personal bookmarks and notes—for user-selected locations in the video.
  • Related documents—associated with each video.
  • Role-play and rehearsal—letting each learner use a webcam or mobile device to respond to an instructor’s challenge. This can include performance review by a manager or team leader, peer review, and a friendly competition leaderboard.
  • Interactive transcripts—providing a searchable-text means of finding the desired moment in a video.

Myth #7: Online video is not as effective as face-to-face training

First, you have to ask yourself how effective face-to-face training really is. In many cases, studies have found that live training loses its effectiveness without consistent reinforcement. This is problematic, especially for remote teams that cannot afford to stay in one place. Even when your workforce is in one location, schedules and time pressure often make live training and consistent reinforcement difficult.

Truly interactive online video allows for training reinforcement via webcam or mobile recording regardless of the trainee’s location or schedule. It also provides a more efficient way to deliver instructional content in the first place.

This does not rule out face-to-face training. Sometimes, live training events can be real milestones—especially when soft-skills training is combined with team-building, networking, and camaraderie. However, a “blended learning” approach is usually best. Adding online video to live events can yield spectacular results.

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