Thinking of using video to jazz up an online course? The perks are plentiful: behavior modeling can be shown, rather than described; moving images have emotional appeal that helps content resonate; and video’s mass appeal is apparent even among the less-than-tech-savvy. Surveys show that 91% of all internet users have visited YouTube, with about 60% of users returning to watch videos at least once a week. It’s a near-universal guarantee: people love watching videos.
But in a culture of rapidly evolving technology, even the best tools can be improved upon. While videos are an increasingly popular medium for delivering content across many platforms, research shows that the human attention span is dwindling. One way of continuing to engage learners (and consumers) is to make videos shorter. Another way is to make your videos interactive.
What is interactive video?
Simply put, interactive video offers collaborative tools that flip the viewer’s position from passive observer to active participant. The viewer is often called upon to respond to and alter the direction of the content, creating a customizable experience that can help sew the growing gap between a user’s short attention span and the length of the video. An example is this fun video for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Users control the images, creating a unique result that transcends the experience of simply watching a music video.
Why should you use it?
But interactive video is more than just a fun use of technology, or a tool created to simply buy more of a viewer’s limited attention span. It also enhances learner autonomy, which improves learning outcomes by giving the viewer some control over the process. One study found that students whose learning environments included interactive video “achieved significantly better learning performance and a higher level of learner satisfaction” than students who were taught with non-interactive video or in traditional classrooms.
Let’s say you’re developing a training program for baristas at a chain of busy coffee shops. Instructing the employees how to make the company’s signature lattes is a fairly straightforward task that could be accomplished with in-person demonstrations and written quizzes. But teaching the new employees strategies for maintaining excellent customer service is a more complicated undertaking—it’s scenario-based learning, without the ease of clear-cut right answers.
Here’s where interactive video could be used. Trainees could view a video of a difficult customer demanding a refund. At a certain point, the video pauses and asks them directly what to do next. Once a choice has been made, the video would resume from a point that responds directly to the choice: a pacified customer, for example, thanking them for the offer of a free coffee. Because the trainee was given autonomy in the situation, he sees the outcome as a clear response to his own choice—and the appropriate behaviors are more likely to be recalled when the new barista finds himself in a similar, real-life situation.
Interactive video doesn’t need to be as complicated as the example above to be effective. The simple act of calling upon the viewer to participate in his learning can have a deep impact on outcomes—peppering a video with short reflective questions for viewers to think about, or asking them to click on the screen when they identify certain key markers, can increase engagement and improve learning outcomes.
What’s the catch?
The main objection to interactive video is the cost. The production of even short case-based learning scenarios can be significant, sometimes requiring the work of script writers, actors, producers, filmography and audio techs, and programmers.
The technology itself is improving every day, however, and there are now a number of interactive-video tools that are designed for use by amateurs. Depending on your company’s needs, and the specific learning objectives embedded in your training programs, the cost of interactive video may well be worth it.
For more on different learning strategies, check out these blog posts: