How to Create a Learning Video They’ll Want to Watch

Everyone talks about video as the next wave of learning delivery, but you might want to read these tips before shouting “lights, camera, development.”

Hiring Mark Zuckerberg to deliver a workshop or run a retreat is not always the most practical or cost-effective solution. Know what’s not impractical? Bringing thousands of today’s industry leaders and visionaries to your employees through short-form video to share the lessons they’ve learned through triumphs and failures in their own careers. This kind of video-driven thought leadership education is an efficient way companies can adopt to scale best practices from visionaries who are out there right now, setting the pace in every industry.

But watching a TED Talk on creativity and becoming a more creative problem-solver at work are two different things. How can a chief learning officer transform inspiring thought-leadership into practical know-how, especially in the soft skill areas so crucial to leading-edge businesses today?

Choose actionable content from recognized experts that is fine-tuned to the specific competencies needed. All is not created equal in the world of video learning, and broad-stroke inspiration is rarely the right tool for the job. You want short, focused lessons that can become the basis for more in-depth discussion that applies the lesson learned to the daily problems your employees need to solve. At the same time, recognized expertise and strong delivery are powerful learning aids –– they’ll hold viewers’ interest and significantly improve retention.

The “flipped classroom model,” pioneered by Khan Academy and actively used in schools across the country, offers an excellent, practical approach to applying experts’ best practices to your company’s unique needs. In collaboration with content providers, CLOs can design lessons in which the “lecture,” or the video, is the spark rather than the core of the learning experience. Learning leaders can design follow-up discussions to help employees connect the video’s takeaways the challenges they face at work, past and present. Ongoing exercises can help them extend and apply the learning going forward, and they can help learning leaders assess the lesson’s overall value.

Here are a few things known about video-driven learning for business:

1. Shorter is better.Numerous studies, including this one from the University of Rochesterbased on millions of video views, have shown that six minutes or less is the ideal length to maximize student engagement in a learning video. The longer the video, the less of it people tend to watch.

2. One expert at a time on camera. From birth, mirror neuronspredispose humans to attend to one learning “model,” or speaker, at a time, looking into their eyes, and keying in to their voice, gestures and facial expressions. This persists throughout the lifespan — when watching and listening rather than collaborating, people are better at learning from one person at a time. This is doubly important in thought leadership education, where the expert’s authority is the anchor and focus for learning.

3. Storytelling works. The human brain naturally pays attention to and remembers narrative. So lessons that embed key information in a story structure that includes inciting incident, rising action and climax are better at teaching that information than non-narrative forms.

4. The “flipped classroom” model works best. A learning video can deliver a short, powerful burst of information and inspiration. Following up with hands-on exercises and discussions enables employees to apply the learning in the context of your company’s culture and their actual work lives. A 2010 meta-analysis of existing research by the U.S. Department of Education showed this to be true for learners of all ages.

Increasing bandwidth, shrinking video file sizes and the tech industry’s drive to scale has collectively produced an explosion in online and video-driven learning. There’s tremendous opportunity here for CLOs and their companies to take advantage of unprecedented access to cutting-edge ideas from today’s top performers. It is now feasible to bring in the likes of Mark Zuckerberg as a guest teacher. But only careful attention to emerging research and best practices will ensure you maximize the value of this instruction, keeping your company’s collective brain one thought ahead of the competition.