Tag Archives | elearning

How to use video in your eLearning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 7th November, 2018
elearning, news

Wondering how best to use video and audio in your e-learning?

We recently collaborated with Elucidat, whose authoring platform is used by many organisations to empower people-centred elearning.

We created a five-minute interactive piece to showcase Elucidat’s video and audio capabilities and help you decide which multimedia approach is right for your learning goals and budget.

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Tor Cooper joins as Office Manager

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 28th February, 2018
news

This February we have had the pleasure of introducing Tor Cooper to our team as Office Manager. Tor joins us after 12 years in eLearning at Brighton-based agency, Brightwave. Read More

10 uses of video in learning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 24th October, 2017
elearning, news, video know-how

I was asked to write something about which type of video is good for which learning application.  Let’s begin by asking “what is video actually good for in learning?”  People don’t want long, detailed information in a video, because it means sitting through something not so pertinent, till you get to the bit you want.  No, text is better for the details.  Video, however is much stronger than text for delivering high-level messages with impact and emotion.  This is the core function of video in learning.

Context established, let’s have a look at the various video forms:

1. Talking heads

A talking head is the simplest sort of video to produce.  Plenty of L&D people shoot these themselves.  The main strength of a talking head is the power of the testimonial.  It’s not so much what’s being said as who is saying it.  In an onboarding film talking heads of your new colleagues relating what it’s like to work here seem believable, especially when compared to a voice-over cut to shots of the office saying the same thing.

Another advantage of the talking head is concision.  People don’t talk like books, they naturally speak in high-level concepts.  A talking head interview is a great way to get a lot from your subject matter expert.  It’s quite easy to know the right questions to ask, harder to know what the answers should be.  So, formulate your key questions and let the SME take the strain.  A clever, informed person will answer concisely and without going into unnecessary detail.

Let’s return to onboarding:

Q “What’s it like to work here?”

A “Really nice.  Nice people, nice environment, they make you feel at home.”

Mix this with a smiling face and it’s worth any amount of whizzy graphics and sexy voiceover.  Concise and believable.

In a set of onboarding videos it’s usual to combine talking heads from the shop floor with an animation and a piece to camera.

2. Animation

Animation sits somewhere between a video and text.  Animation is usually used as a snappy way of delivering compressed messages, but perhaps with a little more detail than your average video.  After all, you can put a lot of text into an animation and you can easily depict concepts with diagrams and visual analogies.  Of course, voice-over and music are key to providing an emotional hook.

In the case of onboarding, an animation is great for giving a breezy briefing about, say the values you expect the new starters to work with, or maybe the main points of health and safety. Content that’s quite dry but you want to ensure people get the high level points quickly.  Give them an overview and they can discover the detail.

3. Pieces to Camera

The final video element we often find in onboarding is a piece to camera from the head of the organisation.  Let’s face it, these are usually a bit headteacherish and dull, but you kind of need them.  Why?  It’s all about giving the message clout.  If the CEO has bothered to put some time aside to say this, it’s definitely important.  This is the one person the viewer can look at as synonymous with the organisation.  The buck stops here.

As an L&D professional, it’s not that often you’ll be able to get the CEO or another high level exec to present your message, but when you do, you know it’s as important to them as it is to you.

4. Presenters

Presenters are usually used as part of a mix.  Essentially they put a face on a message and join up elements in an efficient and engaging manner.  Good presenters are expensive, but having someone engaging on screen can, nevertheless, be a cost-effective bit of screen time, because hiring a presenter for a day can be very productive.  Presenters can be used to link bits of eLearning in a course, or perhaps a series of expert talking heads.  Given a good enough script and a bit of spice they can bring an emotional hook, usually when they explain the reason behind the learning.  Presenters can say just about anything you write for them and make it sound authoritative and convincing.  But don’t overuse them.  As with any video content, short is sweet.

Sometimes colleagues are used as presenters.  Colleague presenters bring a basic level of audience trust with them if they are talking about their area of expertise within the organisation.

There are two ways an amateur presenter can work for you –

  1. They have a natural talent for presenting
  2. They are very enthusiastic despite their lack of presenting polish

Or anywhere along this spectrum.  Never pressure someone into presenting who has no hint of either of the above.  If that’s the only talent you have, better to go another route.

5. Drama

You can do it with low or high production values, but drama is still the most expensive form of video.  For that money it’s got to be powerful, and it is!  But drama depends on the script.  Don’t waste money filming a bad one and don’t underestimate the skill involved and write it yourself.

Done well, drama can bring that holy grail of the L&D professional – you watch it with your emotions and your intellect follows.  If it’s drama it’s telling a story and making it emotional.  Your characters don’t have to burst into tears over the quality of photocopies, but workplace issues must matter to them.  Just like on TV, you identify with the characters and start to think about the issues through their eyes.

As long as your subject matter is interesting enough for there to be at least two opinions about it you can make drama about it.  Probably the best value is got from making drama about tricky management issues such as diversity, sickness absence, or recruitment.  Topics which have shades of grey.  Drama weaves its way through the subject matter bringing the hidden issues to life.  The drama doesn’t teach like a text book, and nor should it.  All drama needs to do is to get emotional attachment to the subject matter.  Now you have an engaged audience they are primed to receive the dryer elements of the learning – because they see meaning in it.

I’ve made drama about a wide variety of subjects – IT security, the right and wrong ways of making a sale, a patient pathway, customer management, modes of advertising and even offshore subcontracting.  The possibilities are endless.

6. Comedy

Comedy, of course, isn’t a practical category like a talking head, but people do ask about how to use it in learning.  Comedy is a form of criticism – which makes it great for learning!  Comedy makes you stand back from what you’re watching and take a critical position.  You are engaged, but not so much with the action as with the commentary on the action.

Of course, writing comedy is a specialist skill.  And, comedy doesn’t always work across territories.

You can have comedy in your drama, or people often like making spoofs of well-known TV shows.

7. Role-plays

In L&D the term “role-plays” usually refers to an everyday scene acted out by people who actually do this stuff in real life.  I used to think these things should aspire towards verisimilitude, but now I also enjoy thinking of them as like The Only Way is Essex.  We know these colleagues can’t act, but they are having a great stab at it and we think they are great sports for trying.  I think such films are more enjoyable than the completely poe-faced ones that often look like weak drama – because they have no subtext.

A variation on the roleplay is to have a colleague acting opposite an actor.  This ups the level of the performance a great deal and can get some pretty good results.  They can seem very realistic, although it should be remembered that they will be necessarily longer than a scripted version of the same scene.

8. Factual/Documentary

This heading covers a multitude of programme types – everything from a classic documentary to a news report, to a magazine show, so really too much ground to summarise here.   A couple of tips:

  • A documentary needs to have an argument – a thesis it sets out to test.
  • A magazine show is like a dinner party – have a great host and don’t go on for too long.

9. How to

A how to video is an instructional video about how to do something.  Usually it’s physical, like changing a tyre, but it could equally be about how to use some software.  Can such videos replace text and illustration-based instructions?  Where video is weaker is in random access to the information.  Of course, you can scrub to and fro in a video, but it’s a bit haphazard.  If you put your video clips into an interactive framework you can create a navigable video manual.  This is a good replacement for text as you have much better random access.

10. Ted Talks

Ted Talks are what come to mind when people think of a filmed lecture.  Don’t be fooled that, because Ted Talks are longer it’s proof that video needn’t be concise.  A Ted Talk or a good lecture, is still more precise and high level than the long book or years of experience from which it springs.  A good lecture is still highly compressed, there’s just more of it.  I enjoy Ted Talks for getting an overview of someone’s theoretical perspective without having to bother to read their book.  And of course, seeing the speaker’s passion is what makes you buy in to the subject.

Summary

In summary, whatever video form you use its best use is for high-level and precise messages, usually with an emotional element.

eLN Glasgow – Show your work

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 26th September, 2017
elearning, news

A couple of weeks ago Tom Hickmore and I attended the eLearning Network Glasgow event ‘Show Your Work’. As my first eLN event and first event with Nice Media, the pressure was on (a slight exaggeration, but it’s always nice to make a good first impression). With Tom focused on his talk for the day, I was keen to meet some new people and get a feel for the latest L&D thinking especially with my new video production hat on.
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Goodies and Baddies – Drama doesn’t have to be black and white

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 26th June, 2017
video drama, video know-how

When we say a drama needs to be based on a conflict, and that involves a protagonist and an antagonist, it brings to mind a hard-nosed clash that you’ve seen with Batman versus the Joker or James Bond shooting at Goldfinger.  This can sound alarm bells.  While such whizzbang, violent conflicts are great fun to do, they’re not usually what we seek in the world of corporate drama.  The next models that come to mind are perhaps soap operas and other more human-scale dramas.  But even these frequently feature stand-up rows and tears, not the sort of thing we can usually entertain.

The fact remains, however, that to articulate a story in drama, conflict is essential, and the starting point is a protagonist and an antagonist.  So, how can we make these characters realistic, but nevertheless credible in dramatic terms?

The protagonist and antagonist want the same thing, but disagree on how to achieve it.  In a corporate context, this could be two people trying to solve a problem at work with one following the received wisdom on the topic and the other stubbornly doing it their own way.  Depending on whether it’s a compliance drama or one about innovation, one of them is the protagonist and the other the antagonist.  They are both working for the good of the employer, but one is misguided, the other struggling to do the right thing.  In this little conflict, neither is really a goodie or a baddie, but one is a protagonist, who advances the cause of the drama, the other the antagonist who stands in the way of the correct working method being enacted.

The most important thing about the protagonist/antagonist structure in a learning drama is that the protagonist can champion the right way to do things without seeming to lecture the audience.  To do the right thing they need to fight for what they believe in.  Whereas if they just tell us what they believe, they come across as merely a rather boring conformist.

Of course, the protagonist doesn’t necessarily have to fight against another character, the antagonist could be a setting a process or an idea.  If our protagonist is trying to conquer a task we could tell the story like a sports movie.  Sport is a vehicle for the participant to objectify an internal struggle.  And this is how the drama is constructed.  It’s an inner struggle, articulated through the mechanisms of sport, which takes place amidst a variety of antagonistic outer forces which together form a collective “antagonist”.  So you could say the antagonist is a multi-headed beast – several characters and events that block the protagonist.  (Of course, I’m only talking about one common model of sports movie here, there are others).

A workplace learning example that could be structured similarly is crisis management.  Here the manager needs to control all the elements in the scenario rather as one might in a game of chess.  The crisis is characterized as the antagonist and the manager needs to manage it by moving the pieces on the board as it were.  Like a sports movie there will be antagonistic elements, such as an angry person who refuses to fall into line, but they are not the antagonist, they are just an element of it.

The other day I watched Eddie the Eagle with my 6-year-old boy.  It’s a movie about the British no-hoper who, against all the odds, got into the Olympics as a ski jumper.  I found it interesting that his route to the Olympics was in stages based on the size of the ski jumps he could tackle.  These are rather like learning points which became plot points in the story.  As a result, I learned quite a bit about the size of the jumps and other technical details.  But, of course, the thing I remember best is the moral of the story, which is that it’s not about winning it’s about playing, and if you set yourself against the odds people will appreciate your valiant efforts.  So, it affected me as a very anti-sport person, as rather effective pro-sport propaganda.  And for a few days I remembered something of the technicalities of the sport as well.

Coming back to goodies and baddies – one reason we don’t want passionate, violent clashes in our workplace dramas is that we don’t want them in the workplace.  On the other hand, if we were to take a workplace topic, something people are unlikely to get passionate about, and pump it up to the level of a melodrama, we’d have a very entertaining film which no-one would think for a moment is based in reality, but the audience would love it and would no doubt remember it and tell their friends.


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

 

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
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Cake: Why Drama is Good for Learning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 23rd June, 2017
video drama, video know-how, video production

Stories take impersonal facts and give them meaning. While Drama is not designed to deliver the level of detail you might find in a documentary style treatment, the impact, the engagement and the retention of the message will be much better.


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
Read More

Why Drama for Learning?

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 30th May, 2017
video drama, video know-how

Relax and watch the TV

Why does Eastenders have more appeal to a broader audience than Horizon or Panorama? The answer is – you don’t need to use your intellect to engage with drama. And it’s easier to get emotionally involved than it is to get intellectually involved. It’s easier to eat comfort food than it is to eat celery. But unlike a righteous diet regime, with drama you can have your cake and eat it! Drama can deliver messages that have intellectual concepts bound up in them. And while we can’t do that with the sort of detail you’d get from a documentary style treatment, the impact, the engagement and the retention of the message will be much better.

Write a story

Drama is a form of storytelling. Storytelling is a learning buzzword, but why is it so important in learning? Story takes facts, events or ideas and shapes them to create meaning.

St. Paul has been called a spin doctor. It’s meant as a compliment. Paul had extraordinary literary skill which he used to reshape the disparate and sometimes contradictory records of Jesus’ life. He also had the political skill to get his interpretation of the gospels accepted by the church. Paul and his followers wrote vast tracts of the bible post-Jesus, ensuring that a coherent and engaging story was told. This work played a major part in ensuring that Christianity became such a compelling and powerful force in the world. Here, story was the vehicle to spread ideas. Ideas with a spiritual, social and political impact. *

From the sublime to the ridiculous – Keeping up with the Kardashians is another example of the power of story. In this worldwide franchise, the jolly antics of this A-list family look spontaneous and genuine on the surface, but are in fact coordinated and staged by a team of story specialists. “Real” events are framed with staged activities to form stories. Stories that project values, have archetypal characters, plot points, acts and all the rest.

People want stories and want to believe in stories. It’s the principle way that hearts and minds are won and how political change is affected.

Dramatize it!

Most mornings I listen to the Today show on Radio 4 in which John Humphries interviews politicians. The core of his technique is to rhetorically question the position of his interviewee – testing the strength of an argument by trying to demolish it. This format brings out the best in the speaker as they are forced to defend their position. We get the passion and we get to the nub of their argument.

If the BBC let politicians simply tell us what they want us to hear without cross-examination it’d be like listening to a party-political broadcast, and as such, ironically, a lot less engaging and believable.

The latter is what we have seen many a time in a corporate learning drama – characters speaking the company line, showing no passion, and not getting into arguments over the issues. It gets the message across, but it’s not engaging and not convincing either. Of course, most large organisations are understandably wary of depicting their staff as being in conflict with one another, less still argumentative and they’re probably a bit wary of showing passion.

So, it’s our job to carefully guide them past these concerns, to bring in depictions of conflict so their messages can be convincingly delivered. An understanding of the principles of drama can give us the confidence to do this. To sell the client’s idea in a drama you need a champion of that idea (protagonist) and someone who tries to shoot it down (the antagonist). Together, their dialogue allows you to deliver a corporate message with passion and credibility.

Real Drama for Learning

The result of this approach is Real Drama for Learning. Dramatic content that’s as relaxing as watching your favourite TV show. A treat for the learner, a boon for the L&D manager.

Real Drama for Learning – we need it!

* Thanks to the Rev. Ruth Thomas for her Christian review of this paragraph.


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

 

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
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Character in Real Drama for Learning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 26th May, 2017
news, video drama, video know-how

In this blog, we will be looking at how characters come alive in ‘Real Drama for Learning’.

Conflict is KING

Most people intuitively understand how dramatic story makes use of archetypical character functions (protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, sceptic, etc.) to bring contrasting aims and opinions in line with what the various characters want to achieve. In this blog, we will explain how this mechanism works when we introduce ‘Real Drama for Learning’.

In the real world, everyone experiences behaviour in colleagues that doesn’t sit well with them. In fact, we find it difficult to identify a work place where conflict doesn’t exist. In learning videos however, most often we see people pretending to be ‘professionally’ excited about issues that are not influenced by personal issues. And because of that we struggle to believe them.

On the other hand, we readily accept tense situations when watching a fictitious crisis unfold in a scenario where characters are tasked with preventing an escalating situation descend into full-scale disaster.

In ‘Real Drama for Learning’, we cross the line into that territory where learning situations become recognisable, identifiable and hence more believable and memorable.

Authenticity and believability

To create an authentic story universe, we need to understand the characters’ position and sympathise with their aims and struggles.

Actors can make characters look like real people if the script contains believable dialogue. A good script provides actors with personality traits that flow from being precisely tailored to portray the character they play and evolves naturally in the situation they’re in.

So, how do we create these characters – shaped by the words they speak?

Complexity

People have highly complex personalities. The more contrast or idiosyncrasy we see in people the more we tend to find them intriguing – or even fascinating. To mimic these traits in our fictitious characters, (irrespective of which story function their archetypical role fulfils), we need to give them contrasting yet believable character traits. Doing this makes the characters more complex and hence more identifiable and likeable, (or in some cases detestable – but still human). It also gives us the possibility of making them vulnerable and flawed. Further, by making them imperfect from the onset, it leaves room for character growth as the story evolves.

Archetypes vs. Stereotypes

Let’s begin by exploring how we differentiate between archetypes and stereotypes.

Stereotyping is a popular but simplified characterisation of people often made according to how they visually appear or behave. It’s a superficial judgment: all capitalists are greedy; all blondes are stupid; all white, male politicians are untrustworthy. Stereotyping also exists about cultures and countries: the English have bad teeth; Muslims are terrorists; the French are great lovers but smell of garlic, et cetera.

In drama, rather than stereotypes we use archetypes. Archetypes are how we assign a role to a character in a drama. The Hero, the Mentor, the Villain and so forth. They are less reductive than a stereotype because the same character can play a different archetype in a different story.

When constructing the character gallery, we always begin by pairing the two (and often only) main characters: The Protagonist and the Antagonist. These characters (as our caricatured Story Specialist, Zach Forsythe, explains in the Real Drama for Learning introductory video): “… must both want the same thing, but nevertheless be bitterly opposed.”

These conflicting characters are the drivers of the struggle. The theme for their conflict is the perceived dilemma of how to pursue the right or wrong ways of dealing with the subject matter. The achievements/setbacks (often peaking in so-called dramatic ‘plot points’) become the times/places/situations where the steps in the learning points journey are reached.

In Tom Hickmore’s blog Real Drama for Learning – an Introduction, we mentioned ‘The Problem with Brian’ – a story about how best to handle an employee’s absenteeism. To create the opposing opinions and aims, we created two characters (Protagonist and Antagonist) who both had an interest in solving the problem but based on opposite solutions. We created their personalities, equipped them with positive and negative behavioural traits and established an obvious growth opportunity for the Protagonist. These ingredients are all classic elements used in conventional storytelling. The happy ending, (the protagonist winning), leading to the moral of the story, provides our learning outcome. And the growth in the Protagonist’s character makes us want to side with the winner and adds value to the learning experience.

Follow in the ‘Hero’s Footsteps’

But why do we always sympathise with the ‘underdog’? Normally, we choose to sympathise with the character whose goal we find the noblest. In ‘Real Drama for Learning’ we associate this quality with the positive learning outcome by making the steps towards achieving the desired outcome – also called plot points – the same as the learning outcome steps that the learner needs to take and understand. This way we associate the learning process with situations that are both relevant and engaging.

The Matrix

We have created a consisting of a character matrix and lists of positive/negative personality traits that you might want to experiment with. We hope you enjoy the game of creating contrasting characters and discover how the opposing perceptions of your subject matter that this reveals makes for an exciting learning journey.

Download (PDF, 315KB)


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
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