The Value of Video in Learning

“It’s not the medium, it’s what you do with it.”

That’s what L&D experts have been saying in social media lately, and I 100% agree.  A haiku can be just as immersive as VR, depending upon the audience, and how good the poem is.

But all media have intrinsic strengths and we’ve been researching the evidence for the strengths of the various forms of video when deployed in a learning context.

Here’s a taster of what we know:

  • 87% of young executives say they would choose to work for a video-enabled organisation over a company that has not invested in video.
  • 75% of senior executives watch work-related videos on business-related websites every week and that 59% of senior executives prefer to watch the video if both text and video are available on the same topic on the same page.
  • Studies by consultancy show that adding video can improve your ability to remember concepts and details — with effects that can increase over time. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.

90% of L&D teams are already using video. 

While we love nothing more than being brought in to create a high-budget drama or documentary, at the other end of the spectrum, lots of our clients are creating their own video content and we are supporting them to get the best from their teams with advice on kit, upskilling, processes and brand guidelines.

One of the most powerful case studies of this kind of thing was shared at Learning Technologies back in 2016 by Ian Slater of GE Oil and Gas.

Ian had rolled out a programme of user-generated video to “overcome training and quality horror”.  His engineers and operatives were encouraged to film YouTube style tips about the kit they worked on and these were edited and shared via Totara.  The result was a 60% reduction in the training base cost and 50% reduction in travel costs.  They are now selling this video training to their lease partners and it is net profitable!

As successful as this project is, the Q&A revealed that they would have benefitted from consulting some video experts early on to ensure they had the most appropriate equipment and had sorted their storage and archiving processes.

Video is a very simple and effective way to communicate a process.  And even the most basic video has a pulling power, with many studies showing people more inclined to watch a video when invited than read text.

Video Forms

We are all natural-born storytellers.  When you interview someone for a talking head video they automatically summarise and re-order information to get a point across quickly and effectively.  It’s storytelling – just turn on a camera and ask a question.

 Of course, as well as video of process and talking heads, in its more advanced forms video can have a lot more impact.  It’s more like watching TV – with TV-style formatting such as news stories, personal stories, documentaries or maybe quiz formats.  Other times we might kick off a course with what is effectively a marketing film.

Perhaps the most entertaining video is drama. 

Take any idea and show how it could play out in the real world.  Ideas lead to behaviours – lead to actions – lead to consequences.  People can get hurt.  Showing what happens when things go wrong makes you want to make things go right.  Make it interactive and you can affect those changes as you watch.

Don’t forget Interactive Video.

It has a lot going for it:

  • Engagement – viewing becomes active
  • Discovery – one of the best ways to learn
  • Immersion – navigate and remain in the story
  • Adaptation – the asset adapts to the learner
  • Gamification – badges and scores if that’s what your audience responds to
  • Compatible with authoring tools – you don’t need a specialist tool to make it
  • Fully trackable
  • Mobile-friendly


As well as stats, case studies and what we know from our experience as video experts, there are also theoretical arguments for the strengths of video.

Dual coding theory suggests we learn through two cognitive systems: Verbal and nonverbal, and these two streams can be processed simultaneously.  Because video engages both audio and visual channels, it can be a powerful and effective tool for learning.

Danish educational theorist Knud Illeris believes that learning involves a subjective connection between the learner’s interests and motivations and the learning content, which always includes a cognitive, emotional and social dimension. Video, be it talking heads or drama, naturally lends itself to such connections.

Nick Shackleton-Jones’ Affective Context model suggests something similar:

“If people care about something – for example not looking stupid when they start a new job, – then you can design a resource like ’10 mistakes to avoid in your first few weeks’ and people will use it. In the second case – where people don’t care about something – we have to build affective context if we want them to learn. This typically involves a different set of techniques: simulation, exposure, scenario, storytelling etc.”

It’s clear how video fits in here.  Video, especially personal stories and drama are powerful ways to create meaning and to make people care.  The future of learning is in an emotional connection to the subject matter.

Is video the future of learning?

Josh Bersin, Forbes Contributor, corporate HR, talent management and leadership analyst says he’s seen the future of learning and it looks like TV!

“Companies like IBM, Sears, and Visa are starting to turn off their old systems and build a new generation of learning infrastructure that looks more like a ‘learning network’ and less like a single integrated platform. While corporate compliance and mandatory training will never disappear, these are now becoming back-office functions, making the LMS far less strategic than it once was.

“This is pushing vendors like Workday, Oracle, SuccessFactors, SumTotal and others are now reinventing the LMS — focusing on developing video-learning platforms that feel more like YouTube than an educational course catalog.”

To facilitate lifelong and point-of-need learning, users will access a library of bite-size learning through a Netflix-style interface from a variety of devices.

I read something else in social media this week that suggested video is “The Golden Child” of L&D!  Well, that’s a nice thought.  The eLearning Industry article by Treion Muller went on to say that,

“YouTube and subsequent video-based learning products have paved the way for a budding market and growing demand for short, entertaining, video-based learning alternatives.”

Later he warned that keeping up may be impossible – who adapts will survive.  Sounds like hard work, which we hope to make easier for you.

Want to know more?
If you want to learn more about the business case for video, ask us for a Discovery Workshop and get access to our Video Toolkit.

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