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eLearning Learning
April 27, 2020

Using Video to Engage and Educate Learners

We live in a video-driven culture. For example, today I woke up and opened the news app on my smartphone and watched several short video segments to catch me up on today’s current events. Then, after breakfast, I looked up a YouTube tutorial on how to fix my broken sink. When I finished, my daughter showed me her new smokey-eye from the make-up tutorial she watched from her favorite blogger. And later, we both relaxed by watching a new docuseries on Netflix. Every piece of content I consumed today contained a video element.

When we look at the modern landscape of learning, video plays an important role. Our learning audiences are more attuned to viewing video and – more importantly – remembering the things they see in video format. At d’Vinci, we leverage this insight to elevate the learning experiences we create by using video and animation. Whether we are guiding users through a step-by-step process, demonstrating best practices with performance scenarios, or simply marketing a new course with a teaser video, we recognize the impact video can make on your learners.

Video can be more than just informative and instructional; it can evoke emotion. It can be a medium that we use to tell a first-hand account of a difficult situation. It can be words of wisdom from a veteran professional in your industry. It can be a testimonial from a peer that highlights a success story. Ultimately, video – if used strategically – can be used to connect learners to content, keep their attention, and create a deeper level of engagement throughout the learning experience.

Learn more about how d'Vinci uses video and animation in learning.

Related Article: Our parent company, JPL, has needed to be more agile than ever in order to adapt to the current social distancing protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. See how they are shifting the way they work in order to continue to produce and deliver effective video content for our clients. Learn more.


Announcer: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.

Susan Cort: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host, Susan Cort. Today I'm joined by d'Vinci CEO, Luke Kempski, and d'Vinci Client Solutions Consultant, Angeline Evans, who's going to talk about using video to engage learners.

Angeline consults with existing and prospective clients to shape custom learning solutions that meet their organizational needs. She knows how to complement proven adult learning theories with creative ideas to produce a meaningful experience for the learner. Angeline has collaborated with clients in the corporate, medical, government, and nonprofit sectors to shape strategic videos that inform, inspire and reinforce learning objectives. Her article, How to Create Videos with Purpose, was recently published on Learning Solutions Magazine. Welcome, Angeline.

Angeline Evans: Thanks, Susan, thanks for having me on the podcast today.

Luke Kempski: We're so excited to have you, Angeline.

Susan Cort: Angeline, our listeners may remember you as one of d'Vinci's podcast co-hosts, but today we're making you switch roles so you can provide your expertise on using video in training.

Angeline Evans: Yes, I am sitting in the other seat today.

Susan Cort: Make you work hard today.

Angeline Evans: Yes.

Luke Kempski: Of course, we're really enthusiastic about this topic, Angeline. Susan and I have both been video producers in the past and still even work on a project here and there today. From an instructional design standpoint, what topic, or situations, or learning objectives motivate you to want to use video?

Angeline Evans: Good question right off the bat, there's definitely quite a few. First, I think if we're training a topic that we think we might see learners really resist to accept that new information, or maybe it's a topic about change that's occurring in the organization, I would consider using video to really level with everyone.

In these types of situations, I think it's always great to bring in a trusted voice from the organization. It might be a leader or even a CEO, and have them share why the learner is being presented with this information. Reinforce why they, the learners, matter, so really tying back to that human aspect, how they can make an impact in the organization and how they might take positive action after the training.

This type of video might be used for rebranding initiatives, new policies, health and safety in the workplace, anything really related around the organization's culture. It just really adds again, that human aspect to training to share the 'what's in it for me' for that particular learning solution. Especially with e-learning, which can really feel disconnected in that asynchronous environment, videos like this can help bridge that gap.

Then similarly, you might see this similar type of video serve as a welcome message from leaders at new hire orientations to add that personal touch. That's one way, and certainly not the main way, but it's one way I think of when I think of kicking off training.

Another is, of course, to train best practices for soft skills or behavioral-based skills. If you're creating e-learning that is about communication techniques, it's hard to really demonstrate that in an asynchronous way without the type of role-play or other interactivity or activities that you might see in a classroom environment.

An example that we did for the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police comes to mind. What we were trying to train them was around advanced interviewing techniques, specifically around interviewing victims, witnesses, and suspects in the field in a variety of situations. It's one thing to narrate and put on screen, "Hey, do X, Y, and Z to achieve the best outcome." It's another to show a scenario-based video demonstrating that skill.

Then we were able to take it a step further by also incorporating debrief activities that allow the officers to really dissect the scenario through questions and reflective exercises. And then just to build on scenario-based interviews. They're also a great way for choosing your own adventure approach. I love those books, growing up as a kid, just to see the alternate endings you could have.

With the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police, the same audience, we used this approach to show how different response tactics could result in different outcomes. For example, when interviewing a victim that recently experienced a trauma, building rapport up front is extremely important.

We wanted to demonstrate that by presenting officers with an initial scenario, and then we allowed them to choose how they could respond. Then based on the response they chose, they could see that scenario play out with alternate endings and really either see the repercussions or the positive impact that their response had in that situation.

Luke Kempski: That's great. I mean, really good variety that you point out there of applications of video. I know there are also different approaches to those applications and you kind of brought up some of them, whether it's just a trusted voice on camera or whether you're doing scenarios. Tell us about some of the approaches that you've been involved with the most and the impact that you've been able to have with them.

Angeline Evans: To add what I mentioned about having that human approach from leadership and using scenario-based situations and interviews to train your audience, I would also mention that you can be really prescriptive with how-to videos of a process. Whether you're talking about something as serious as how to follow a protocol in a medical lab environment, or I worked on a video that taught users how to make High West Whiskey, which some would argue is equally as serious and as important as a medical procedure.

Luke Kempski: [unintelligible crosstalk]

Angeline Evans: Right.

Angeline Evans: Those processes are often too complex to really give them the justice via normal e-learning techniques, and videos' superpower is really to simplify complex content with how the information is presented, especially with movement. You can’t achieve the same movement with e-learning as you can in a video.

Then of course you can also use video to grab attention with peer testimonials. Luke, you mentioned subject matter expert interviews. I think that's awesome to impart words of wisdom and it really builds credibility in the training. Then also software training. Anytime you have to train a technical application, it really does usually require video because you need to show them how they're going to use the tool and walk them through the steps.

When I look at the types of videos approaches I've been involved with the most, I would say video interviews are probably the top, whether they're peer testimonials or subject matter expert videos, live actor demonstrations, motion graphics animations, usually to tell a story, but often those how-to videos, and then software tutorials.

Luke Kempski: Excellent. I know we see more animated videos these days, and sometimes there are even less expensive ways to create and use these animated videos. Have you had much experience with those and how have you seen those be used effectively?

Angeline Evans: I would say a new tool that's really come around this past year that we've been using a lot is Vyond. For those of you that aren't familiar with it, it really gives an animated character design to a motion graphic style video. The limitations, though, are that the design is limited. It's very template. It has some out-of-the-box character libraries and scene libraries that you can leverage, but you don't have to be a motion graphics designer to create the video.

It's very user-friendly and you can really build it yourself. What's cool is you can also build your own avatars, so you can actually build your characters to look like specific individuals, and you can also incorporate custom elements. So you can even incorporate your own existing video clips or images to make it a little bit more custom, but at the end of the day, it could look like someone else's video. It just depends on what's important to you.

I know we have some clients that really don't want their motion graphics video or their animated video to look like everybody else’s, they want something that's going to be more unique. For others, that approach is perfectly fine and they do look very polished and well put together.

Luke Kempski: How do you decide what's best in terms of using live actors versus using those animated or illustrated characters?

Angeline Evans: It really depends on the topic, the organization's brand identity, and the ability to represent diversity accurately. Some topics, for instance, when I mention the videos we did for law enforcement officers, it would feel disrespectful to demonstrate interview techniques that officers are going to use with victims and witnesses in an animated form. That needs to be real people and it needs to feel authentic.

But if you're telling a story and it's more conceptual or what if, then animated characters can be a really engaging way to go. We worked with SBP, which is the St. Bernard Project. It's a nonprofit that focuses on disaster relief. We worked with them to create several e-learning courses for homeowners around disaster recovery, so what to do before and after disaster strikes.

One of the modules talks about the importance of flood insurance, and we were able to really sell that message through storytelling with animated characters. We showed a story of John who lives in a flood zone and is required to have flood insurance and a story of Sue who doesn't live in a flood zone and does not have flood insurance. We were able to really capture the importance of flood insurance even if you don't live in a flood zone by telling a fun story and playing out a scene of a bad storm with both of these characters.

Animation really has the ability to create levity around serious topics, but it's so important that you're also being considerate of the audience and the story you're telling just because you don't want that levity to be disrespectful.

Susan Cort: It probably makes the learning a little bit more approachable for some people too especially depending on the topic that might be difficult to show otherwise.

Angeline Evans: Absolutely. We've also used it with PCAR, which is the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape around preventing sexual violence in communities. It was really a video and a training for preventionists, and helping them identify prevention strategies they could take in their community.

I know animation seems like an odd visual approach for this type of topic, but we wanted to tell a story that would resonate with everyone, so we told a story about a river, and people were falling in the river because the bridge was broken. At the end of the day, the moral of the story was to repair the bridge. You can save people from drowning, but ultimately, you have to fix the root cause.

What was neat about that is, with something as sensitive of a topic as that, you don't want identifying traits in your characters. We were able to create these very generic looking-- They didn't look like people, they were the same. I would compare them closest to minions maybe if you've seen that movie. They were shapes that were representing those individuals. That way, one, you're not stereotyping, two, you're putting yourself in the shoes, and three, you're really just focusing on the message.

It also then, again, added a little bit of levity around that serious topic and resonated with the audience by telling that story, and they were able to connect that, to prevention in their community.

Luke Kempski: Those are really excellent examples and really show the wide variations when it comes to rationales for whether to use animation and animated characters versus using live actors on video. I know that with the popularity of YouTube you can see a whole wide range of different levels of what we would perceive as quality levels, I guess, when it comes to video.

Certainly, when it comes into-- From an investment standpoint, from a client standpoint, whether they're just shooting something with their phone, or whether they're hiring professional crews with lighting and actors, makeup, and all of that, how do you advise clients in terms of where they should focus in terms of the range of production values when it comes to using video for learning?

Angeline Evans: I would say the first two questions that come to mind is, how evergreen is the content going to be? Is it going to change often, because you probably don't want to invest a large production value on something that could change next quarter, and who is the message coming from? If you're hearing from people on the ground, we want the authenticity to really shine. We don't need to be the most polished video with perfect lighting and consistent mic volume.

We recently, or in the last year, we supported Constellation Brands. They are an American wine, spirits, and beer producer with products like Svedka, Corona, that High West Whiskey. How-to demonstration was with them, which I mentioned earlier, and we've talked with them on other podcasts, but we worked with them on a project about changing consumer dynamics due to the COVID pandemic.

Their insights team was uncovering a lot of changing consumer needs and wants because of the lockdowns that occurred. Fear around health and safety, business closures, just a whole personal reevaluation of what's important in life. This was a pretty traumatic year for everyone.

In this project, they wanted to share these insights and feelings firsthand from the consumer as a way to present them to Constellation employees and distributor partners, because as a result, Constellation was going to shift their strategic approach to meet their consumer needs.

In this instance, of course, due to the trauma the world experienced during that pandemic, these videos really needed to be raw, and they needed to be authentic. So they asked consumers to film themselves, and we solely supported with the post-editing to craft together that story. The end result was really emotional and impactful video. It inspired the audience to change their way of thinking.

They were excited about the strategic changes that were taking place because they were going to evolve as a company in lockstep with their consumer, and their consumers is who matters most of them.

Now, on the other hand, if you're shooting a video on a new product that's coming out and teaching your audience why it's the best and the most awesome product you're going to interact with, it probably warrants all the bells and whistles. I personally feel the same way about leadership interviews because I think higher production quality adds to the credibility of that video because first impressions are everything.

Luke Kempski: Very good examples. The whole range allows you for taking advantage of different opportunities that you may have to use video that you might not otherwise have, and at the same time, making sure that in those situations where you really want to manage the different elements, that you can take a more professional approach and a higher quality outcome that lasts longer.

Angeline Evans: Earlier you mentioned about the types of tools that you can use for a lower-cost video. Something we also do a lot of is develop videos in Articulate Storyline. When you create a training, you still have to market the training afterwards. Just because you create it, it doesn't mean people are going to come and take it. Oftentimes, you invest a lot of your budget and your manpower into creating a training, and there isn't a lot left over for that marketing component that's going to really sell the training experience. And video is a great medium for that because you can distribute via email, on your company's SharePoint site, or social channels.

We've used Storyline just to do some low-level animation and added sound design in the background with some good music, and actually featured images from the course and have that what's in it for me and the benefits and then output it as an MP4. So you're getting a low-level motion graphics video to really add to that overall training initiative.

Luke Kempski: Yes, that's great. You have that trailer, to sell people on coming in experiencing that learning project.

Angeline Evans: Yes.

Luke Kempski: Good stuff. In your work, have you had situations where video has really had a big impact on the learning, and why do you think it would have such a big impact in that situation?

Angeline Evans: I would say the biggest impact is when it's used for hands-on application in a safe space, like for instance training. If you're using video to immerse learners in, for instance, a 3D environment for them to actually simulate tasks more in that choose-your-own-adventure approach that I mentioned. When video is used in that way to enhance the practice of a skill and you can really show in some way the outcomes because of your decisions, whether it's positive or negative outcomes based on what you chose to do, I think that's really going to go a long way because you're letting them practice before they take those skills in the field.

We've done that in a number of ways whether it's doing the choose-your-own-adventure where you see alternate endings, but in the same way, demonstrating a process and using video and having them stop at points in the process to choose proper steps and maybe see a process play out. You could even incorporate gamification and have point systems tie to that as well.

Luke Kempski: Yes, there's nothing like practicing in a safe environment rather than on the frontline with a customer in a hazardous situation, for instance.

Angeline Evans: Then also capturing the knowledge of subject matter experts, I think is just extremely important. That's true knowledge transfer as new generations enter the workforce and oftentimes they can have a long shelf life. Typically if you're interviewing a subject matter expert, they have become very well known at your organization or in that particular field and that's likely not going to change, so their words of wisdom even after they retire are still going to be worthy.

Luke Kempski: Good point for sure. Are there any new approaches or technologies that you think will become increasingly used when it comes to using video for learning solutions?

Angeline Evans: Something I'm hearing a lot lately is interactive video. We use video now and embed it into e-learning in different ways, but we're going to see more micro-learning which I know is a buzzword we've been hearing for a long time but featuring just the video portion, so quick five minutes or even less of interactive video content.

People are already seeing video as the go-to medium for delivering content with things like YouTube and TikTok and social media stories, but from a training perspective, how can you make those short videos interactive and a learning experience? Can you have a call-to-action on them or a knowledge check incorporated while still keeping them short and sweet like the videos we're used to seeing on those everyday platforms?

That also feeds into there's going to be more steps towards using VR as an approach and we even see that now with the pandemic this past year not being able to go a lot of places. I think people turn to VR to immerse themselves in different environments and really using that as an approach. Then more tools like Vyond where the everyday person can create their own motion graphics style videos, and you don't necessarily need a full media production, motion graphics suite to deliver a simple flat design motion graphics animated story.

Luke Kempski: Yes, definitely exciting times ahead for the future of the uses of video for learning and as it becomes more mobile and for micro-learning, now emerging into interactive video and the VR, certainly a big bright future for video in the learning realm and I'm excited to see what's next.

Susan Cort: Thanks, Angeline. Great advice for people on how and when to use video in learning and I think you're giving them all a great guide to get started on their next project.

Luke Kempski: Thanks so much for joining us today, Angeline. Really appreciate your insights into the latest and greatest when it comes to video for learning.

Angeline Evans: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Susan Cort: Luke, great conversation with Angeline today. What are some of the takeaways from your interview her?

Luke Kempski: Yes, I think she had some great takeaways. One, when we talked about example applications, she talked about communicating change with a trusted voice, like a company CEO or a subject matter expert, really making sure that people know what's in the training for them to do the intro perhaps.

She also talked about soft skills training. Then using scenarios to help teach soft skills and provide opportunities to learn context around applying soft skills. She also talked about using video to simplify tasks or to teach more hands-on skills. Also using interviews with subject matter experts or peers to connect with the learners, and to do demos.

Then she also talked about different approaches, one being using Vyond for animated characters and when that's appropriate and maybe when that's not the best application. She used the example from the chiefs of police project where she felt that using animated recreations of police officers and victims would not be respectful and appropriate in that situation, it would be better to use live people in a video scenario. But then in other situations where you may not even want to portray particular characteristics around the characters to use animated characters, you can control those things better and even make them more 'characteristicless' when it comes to certain representations of demographics, or even things like age and other aspects.

She talked about doing higher-end video when it comes to content that's going to be longer-lasting, and if something's going to be more, kind of consumed quickly and then gone, then maybe just shooting on a phone would be okay for that, or something that you might not get access to if you didn't use phone recorded video. Where she gave that great example from Constellation where they had interviews of consumers talking about their insights on different changes that were happening, that they'd captured on the phone, well, hey, the learner would really miss out on the opportunity to hear those insights if you didn't use those videos. They are really authentic as well, so the learner is going to be more forgiving maybe to audio not being as great as it would be if it's controlled in a video example.

She also talked about some of the newer approaches to video, using video for micro-learning where the video is the learning program and maybe you're building interactions into those, distributing them in a way that's very mobile-friendly, and easy to use, and also taking video to the next level with adding it into a virtual reality environment. So lots of exciting things, I think the future is really bright in using video for learning, and Angeline was great to bring about some of those perspectives.

Susan Cort: Absolutely. Thanks, Luke. Many thanks to d'Vinci's Angeline Evans for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about, you can reach out to us on d'Vinci's social channels, through our website dvinci.com, or by emailing us at poweredbylearning@dvinci.com.

Announcer: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.

Jenny Kerwin

By Jenny Kerwin, Client Strategy Manager

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d'Vinci Interactive is an award-winning comprehensive learning solutions provider for corporate, government, medical, non-profit, and K-12 target markets.

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