Thursday, 20 March 2014

Videos v e-Learning

Think back to your school days and remember when the TV trolley came into the classroom?  Okay in my day it was obviously a tube set with a VCR underneath, in yours it may have been a fancy smancy projector or even a nice LCD, but it mine it a big TV.  That always signalled good times to me but probably for a host of the wrong reasons.  Whether it was a documentary on how the Romans built walls or the last day of term and Robin Hood, I liked the TV coming in because it meant I didn't have to 'do' anything!  TV we inherently think of as being 'lazy' media because we sit back and watch.

I wrote in the last blog about how MOOCs and e-learning are often very similar but that MOOCs often rely heavily on video information.  Let's explore that a little more, is video a 'lazy' media that has lower level learning or does it have a place in or above e-learning? 

Of course video is delivered electronically (and mostly these days across the web with sites like YouTube and Vimeo) and if we're going to get stuck into definitions again, if you use video to deliver learning essentially by very definition this is e-learning isn't it?  It is.  But it's also different from what the majority of people think e-learning is.

Video is usually described as being a media rich platform.  What that means is simple turns is that it has a heck of a lot in it - if you think about making an animation of a man running compared to a video of a man running, the video has a lot more detail and 'information' in it.  The problem with this is that lots of the information is just information that maybe doesn't add anything to the point you're trying to get across.  Video is often 'quick and dirty' (no, not like that) in that you can capture it at real-time speed and often get across points very quickly using the media - this is again because of the richness and amount of information being transmitted both visually and by audio.  From a learning technologist puritan views we could easily dismiss video as an easy and therefore lower way of producing learning, but are we doing it an injustice?

Video, like e-learning, can be very good or it can be be very bad.  Good video can be incredibly informative and a much quicker way of getting information across, but think of it like painting a house.  If you just slap it on it will probably look bad.  You need to do your preparation first and set the scenes the information, mask out what you don't want covered and everything you need to pull it together - this typically takes longer than actually doing the painting.  Thinking of video as only being an entertainment media rather than a learning platform is as misplaced as feeling that games have no place in learning (learning is pervasive remember, it's in everything we do).

Video really takes off when we can start to use it within our learning rather than the entirety of our learning.  I remember back in my military days we created an e-learning piece around military drill where we spent a couple of hours shooting drill experts performing all the marching and moves with rifles and various pieces we needed.  We then spent a few weeks putting this into a learning piece where all the videos were controlled by the learner with revision pieces, zoom details and instructions and testing pieces.  It was pretty good (and more than a couple of years ago!) and great fun (we green-screened it to eliminate non-useful information).  Why did it need the e-learning piece?  We used to just chuck a nice video of the drill on the screen, surely that was the same?  And this is where we traditionally see the limitation of video - it was very much driven by the producer - this is what you see type approach.  Of course, so was most e-learning and we've come a long way in producing e-learning with a more 'pull' approach so video can also get the same treatment.

Working recently with the Icehouse in NZ for business start-ups, one of the training providers is making video for use on the LMS with hyperlinks and pieces built into the video that you can click on.  What they're doing is trying to create a more interactive approach - you could argue you could do this just as effectively within your surrounding learning system, but by adding some interaction they're trying to pull in the user to become more involved.  The criticism of video I stated earlier is often to do with it being a passive media that delivers something to you.  We actually need to look at that too, because sometimes this is exactly what is required.  Think about watching a really good film, it pulls you in and you become totally absorbed in it.  If our learning video can hit that type of note, then we're really on to something.  Put another way, how often does e-learning really pull you in so that you become totally absorbed in it? 

The main limitation in video for me is actually about the doing part.  Video can show you how to do things, explain in full colour and great depth, but it's not the same as doing.  Doing things for me is the greatest way to learn, we're trying to bring more and more doing into e-learning for just that type of reason; video alone may fall short on that... unless of course...
The future for video is also pretty cool.  If you've not heard of 'augmented video' then take a look at this: http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_mills_image_recognition_that_triggers_augmented_reality.
Of course, just to hammer home my point around the use of video you'll notice that it's a TED video explaining it.

So e-learning can actually learn a great deal from media like video and games; particularly around immersion into the media.  Likewise video can learn from good e-learning around how to actually involve the learner.  This means that there's definitely a place for video in e-learning (and learning in video), the trick as always is to design learning that has a variety of media and activities to immerse, engage and get the learner doing things that they're going to remember.