Training videos have been around for a long time. And while they can offer flexible and convenient ways for employees to learn at their own pace, many learning designers and trainers choose the wrong format to achieve their intended goals. Fear not, though. Here, I’ll cover the different types of training videos and how to best use them in your training programs.
Animated Explainer Videos
As the name suggests, these videos take graphics and illustrations and animate them to explain complex or abstract concepts in simple, engaging ways. This approach can help reinforce key points you want to make or simply add a little visual variety to keep viewers engaged—like spicing up an audio recording. They are perfect for introducing new product features or procedures, illustrating points or processes that are otherwise difficult to show, and providing scale or context to abstract concepts.
Here’s a simple example that gives viewers a clear (if not terrifying) look at how our sun compares to other stars:
You can also overlay animations and motion graphics to existing footage to emphasize important features or aspects of your products and services, such as in this promotional video for an air purity monitoring system:
Screencast videos capture the screen of a computer or mobile device and provide step-by-step instructions for a task or process. They are ideal for demonstrating software, applications, or website functionality.
We are moviemakers in corporate training, so we often look for ways to make our screenplay and script development faster. ARC Studio has useful tools, but their screencast video provides both clarity on how easy their product is to use but also builds excitement because visitors to their site can immediately see how this tool will save them time:
These videos feature real people demonstrating skills or procedures in a live-action setting. They are useful for demonstrating customer service techniques, sales processes, or leadership skills.
This is our specialty because it involves real actors and real performances. An added benefit of using real human beings over animated avatars is getting to see microexpressions. Our brains pick up a LOT more information that we even realize, so having a competent actor deliver lines with nuance and subtext make the training more memorable and impactful.
In this bystander intervention training that addresses sexual harassment in the workplace, we wanted to show that harassment doesn’t have to involve the immediate people involved, but can ripple out to other coworkers. This is a complicated concept to show, but through talented, live-action actors we were able to build tension and pose questions in our viewers’ minds:
These short, focused videos provide bite-sized information and are perfect for on-demand skill development. They can be used as a supplement to larger training sessions or provide standalone training tips. The benefit is that employees don’t need to spend much time “off the floor” but can add incremental, professional development throughout their day. It also keeps attention fresh and motivates learners to want to come back.
Recently, I created a series of writing prompts to help instructional designers and learning designers write stories that teach. Often, starting a training program with a compelling story will earn buy-in from your learners and they will stay engaged and energetic longer. These writing prompts were compiled into a playlist that you can watch here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/9957526
Even if you have a longer-form video, consider breaking it up into segments. In this Introduction to Ethernet video, the trainer has created chapters or segments that each address separate topics, but that still fall under the banner of ethernet—including enterprise network, the MAC address, and something called Half-duplex Ethernet:
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Videos
VR and AR videos provide immersive, hands-on training experiences. They are ideal for job-specific training, such as simulating workplace scenarios, and for high-risk industries where hands-on training may not be feasible.
Be careful not to rely too heavily on novel technology, as it wears off quickly. You can have the most advanced, flashiest gadget in your training and students will only engage for about five minutes if the training content isn’t engaging.
You can maintain learner interest by designing with clear rules and objectives—like a videogame—and making them active participants in the choice-making. For example, we built a training film that included a VR application that was used as a “cut scene.” So viewers would watch some of the drama and then it would pause right in the middle for them to take action. Learners had to garner information and make decisions about where to go next. All of these clues in the VR environment were integral to the plot, so they were motivated to find them—otherwise, they worried they would miss an essential part of the storyline. Here is a case study video that shows how this program looked:
When using training videos, it’s important to consider the following tips for best results:
Make them accessible
Ensure that videos are optimized and available on multiple devices. Transcribe and caption your videos! You never know what environment or physical restrictions viewers have that would prevent them from getting the most out of your content.
Encourage interaction: Encourage employees to interact with the videos by asking questions, including quizzes, or including clear calls-to-action. At the end of our writing prompts series, there was always a “what to do” screen at the very end. This reinforces learning and increases retention.
Keep them concise
Make training videos concise and to the point. Avoiding lengthy logo intros and boring or tangential explanations. While you may think that more is better, it pays far greater dividends to have content that solves the specific problem your video addresses.
Content creation is iterative. Get feedback and evaluate the effectiveness of your training videos, and then make the necessary improvements to ensure these tools meet the needs of your team. Just like you’re trying to reinforce a growth mindset within your students, extend the same attitude toward yourself and embrace “failures” as learning opportunities.
To sum it up, training videos come in varied forms, and each offers its own unique benefit and suffers its own disadvantages—depending on your training goals. But taking time to consider what your ultimate objective is for training, as well as the learning environment of your audience, you’ll be able to pick the right modality for the job—whether it’s animated explainer videos, screencasts, live-action scenarios, microlearning content, or VR/AR videos. Try to meet the learners where they’re at, and you will continue to drive innovation and proactive human capital within your organizations, as well as produce training that has clear, measurable, and effective results.