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Seven responses to seven myths about online instructional videos

Posted on: May 4, 2016

7 by andymag, on Flickr
7” (CC BY 2.0) by  andymag 

This Learning Solutions article tried to separate folly from fact about online instructional videos. In doing so, it might have offered a Viddler-sponsored bias and a few myths of its own.

I offer a simple blow-by-blow following each of the article’s main chunks.
Myth #1: Everything worth learning can (and should) be reduced to bite-sized, two-minute videos.

Reflection 1: Some things should not or cannot be on videos; optimal video duration.

Some things that cannot be on videos might include sensitive issues (what these are depends on context), sensitive people (e.g., those that need protection), and intrinsic knowledge of staff. Such issues are a matter of policy, mindset, timing, and much more. A push for videos is not going to budge these issues.

While the article made a good point that short videos are not effective in themselves, it ignores research from providers like edX that have suggested the optimal length of videos for motivated learners.
Myth #2: Video should be free; YouTube is all I need.

Reflection 2: YouTube could be all you need especially if are smart about it.

You would expect Viddler to declare “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.”

People conveniently forget that the ads and monetisation came later. The fact now is ads and your usage data are the price to pay for “free”. Once you get over that and realise that the learner who has grown up with YouTube takes no issue with that, you focus on more important things.

Might privacy be one such issue? From the article: “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.”

The article conveniently left out one important word: With LITTLE effort, you can make your videos private. It is a setting you see when you upload or record a video on YouTube.

As for “anyone can see and download your training videos”, see my reply to #5.
Myth #3: Video is expensive; our company is too small to use video for training.

Reflection 3: Video is expensive. And it is not.

Video for any organisation, big or small, is relatively easy and low cost today especially if you already have cameras, lights, microphones, computers, and a dedicated team. Simply go back in time by five-year bounds and compare the costs of manpower, equipment, and professional development.

The real cost is time and effort. If an organisation decides to jump on the online video or MOOC wagon, there will be a sudden need for many videos. This then leads to a sudden need for equipment, professional development, and/or new hires.

This problem is repeated time and again because very few organisations share their practices. If they do, other organisations do not take the advice until the issue becomes real.

Side note: What organisations typically do to deal with the huge demand for new instructional videos is to use templates, e.g., talking head formats. These are simple, self-recorded, and require minimal post-processing. These are also the most boring and ineffective because they layer old pedagogy over new technology.
Myth #4: Video files are too big for company intranets.

Reflection 4: Yes, that is why there is YouTube.

Enough said.
Myth #5: Online video is not secure.

Reflection 5: Anything online is not secure. If you think about it, anything offline is not that secure either.

If you are stupid enough to share a trade secret on YouTube or any open sharing platform, then you deserve what is coming to you.

Learn how to secure your videos if that is important to you. That said, if security is your primary concern, why are you thinking about videos? Go back to your cave instead.
Myth #6: People don’t pay attention to training videos.

Reflection 6: People do not pay attention to what is not meaningful or interesting.

The article hits the mark on a painfully true issue. The tips they offer focus on interactivity and they are all good.

I can only recommend two more: Make videos meaningful and provide them just-in-time.
Myth #7: Online video is not as effective as face-to-face training.

Reflection 7: My immediate response was: This old argument?

My delayed response was: This old argument?

The medium of teaching and learning is not the issue. The context is.

A key question to answer is: What circumstances or affordances favour one medium or the other or both? The point is to provide a meaningful and powerful learning experience, not reinforce an outdated mindset or blindly follow policy.

Closing thoughts
You can rely on technology to instruct the same way or to educate differently. The best integrations online video challenge the status quo. Instead on focusing on the instructor and delivery, there should be a focus on the learner and interaction. Doing the former might be more efficient; doing the latter is more effective.

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