Saturday, November 27, 2010

10 Things to Remember about Online Video

Everyone's talking about video for education purposes. It has crossed the threshold from something old and expensive to something new and accessible. It's in. The sure sign? Elliott Masie has decided to offer one of his patented, latest-cool-thing Learning Labs just to riff on its uses in training and education.

Take higher ed as another example: "The educational use of video on campus is accelerating rapidly in departments across all disciplines—from arts, humanities, and sciences to professional and vocational curricula." That revelation from a study by the Copyright Clearance Center (with help from New York University and something called Intelligent Television).

But even without a study, even without an eLearning guru, if you're online you know. Seems like every product or service, educational or otherwise, has at least one, if not multiple videos online to train, educate, persuade, inform, or at least impress you about their goals or products or services. Brightcove's Jeremy Allaire, writing for TechCrunch, says that "video has gained enormous momentum as a fundamental media type for all content on the Web." Technological ease of use will do that.

I'm all for it, and I think it's high time.

This situation seems to me a direct parallel to what happened a few years back when the podcast wave hit us, and suddenly everyone was highly excited about the opportunity to deliver audio to learners. Audio for learning! Where did that start? 45's on phonographs in the classroom? Or does it go back further? Video for learning has been with us forever, too, in every format and every era. There was never a time in the history of video that it wasn't used to teach or to train, and in high volumes.

And yet, it really is a new thing. Combine the explosion of broadband with the advance of compression and delivery technologies like Flash and Silverlight, and the old is new again. Throw in the high-def quality, amazingly low-cost shooting and editing capabilities of consumer products like the Flip cam and Apple's iMovie software, then popularize it with a juggernaut like YouTube, and suddenly that 1984 Freightliner is Optimus Prime. If you're teaching or training and you aren't locked and loaded with double-barrel video, you're missing it.

So what does it mean to use video as a learning tool in the age of YouTube? This is actually a particular strong suit of mine, having started my career in video production (this would be my chance to mention my Emmy, but I'll mostly resist), and having continued to find the best uses for video through a parade of learning technologies.

So here is my mini-Learning Lab, in case you can't make it to Elliott's.

10 Things to Remember about Online Video

Thing 1. Don't record a lecture and think you're done. It amazes me how often this still happens. Videos need to be produced, not just recorded.

Thing 2. Unless of course you can put the video up on an interactive site. It becomes something really interesting for learning when users can tag it and bookmark it and comment on it and jump to anyone else's comments. (Check out Veotag.)

Thing 3. Just because it was popular on YouTube does not mean you should copy the style. People will watch anything on YouTube if it's entertaining. Sometimes they're laughing at it, not with it. If you're the expert, then packaging matters.

Thing 4. Pay close attention to the first 30 seconds. That's the only part your audience is sure to see anyway. Use more short videos rather than few long videos.

Thing 5. Punch it up! Pace matters. Learn from Phil DeFranco. (And see Thing 4.)

Thing 6. More information! Part of the problem with a lecture (yes, even one with slides) is that it's a slow, analog delivery. Everyone, particularly everyone online, is used to multiple streams of information simultaneously. Watched CNN or Sports Center lately?

Thing 7. Put the video in an interactive context. Even YouTube, which is just about watching videos, allows you to rate, comment, share, favorite, subscribe... you get a control panel full of fun with every video. (See Things 2 and 6). Your extras can really enhance learning.

Thing 8. Invite everyone! It is not hard to make a video, so let learners make their own. Educators have known the value of user-generated content for generations. They call it homework. And you don't need to hold learners to the same standard of quality to which they hold you--but be prepared for some good stuff. They'll surprise you.

Thing 9. Don't have a broadband network that will handle video? YouTube works just fine.

Thing 10. It's all about content. Things 3, 4, 6, and 7 aside, if the video is meaningful, people will engage with it. Hold to what's true in non-video education and training: People need to understand the value of the learning in order to fully engage with it. If your content is good, you're more than halfway home.

And another Thing. Use the medium for all it's worth! This is fun stuff. More specific tips for the actual planning and production of videos, here.


  1. Because most video on the web is compressed with lower resolution make sure you are framing your subjects properly. Primarily focus on using medium shots and close-ups -- that is if you truly want people to see your work.

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  3. Here is an alternative to video that is very powerful: