No, No, ANYTHING but Video!

In Connecting the dots between informal learning and video, Kim Benton attempts to make the case for why more learning resources need to be in the form of video.

Excuse me while I run from the room screaming.

But first, let me offer my screaming credentials. I’m sold on the value of video, used judiciously. I’ve even blogged about it here.
Used injudiciously, however, it is counter-productive.

Benton argues: When someone searches for information on that portal, what do they find? Reference documents. Articles. Contact info for their subject expert. A slide deck. A voice over or podcast. Same answers apply to someone that wants to share information for the rest of the community to learn from. They put together an updated slide deck, write a few words about an article they want to share, perhaps you invite them to record next week’s podcast.

These resources are not as effective as video resources. Here’s why:

Cisco estimates that 50% of all internet traffic will be video traffic by the end of 2012 and it has already surpassed the amount of peer-to-peer traffic on the web (that’s to say that video already accounts for the statistical majority of all internet traffic).

Why do you suppose that is? Can we infer from this that video is the preferred medium for communicating today (aside from being in the same physical room)?

I think we can.

I beg to differ. That millions of people break up their workday by viewing LOLcats, or even TED Talks suggests that video is a preferred medium for consuming entertainment. It tells us just about nothing about what media are the most effective for communication which has as its goal the facilitation of organizational initiatives.

Benton continues: Studies are all over the board regarding how much of human communication is nonverbal – 50% on the very low end and up to 90% on the high end (Wikipedia page on Body Language sites several bodies of research on this). Even for simple messages, we long to see the face on the other side of that message because so much is lost without body language and visual aid. It is just the way we’re wired.

If up to 90% of what you want to communicate [share] [teach] [learn] comes down to body posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements, your learning – formal or informal – is not as effective as it could be if it isn’t on video.

But see, that’s the thing. In the corporate training space, most of what we are trying to communicate doesn’t at all come down to body posture, gestures, facial expressions or eye movements. Except when we’re teaching interpersonal skills, like coaching or interviewing, what we’re trying to communicate is conceptual – stuff about where our product fits in the competitive scheme of things, or procedural – just how the cartridge loads properly in that new copier. A video demonstrating someone loading the cartridge could be just the ticket. But a 15 minute talking-head extravaganza explaining the market? No thanks. Give me a Powerpoint with pie charts, please. All that non-verbal gestural communication is great when one is present in person – there’s a lot in how people respond to one another that is transmitted via these channels. But witnessing how someone who is not a professional actor responds to the camera is just not all information-packed.

Video helps us digest more information in a shorter amount of time than other formats

On what planet? Ever try to “skim” the main points in a video? Not possible. Even full length feature films have to cut stuff out of the books from which they are adapted in order to work in the video format. The relative density of content in different formats depends utterly on what KIND of information is being communicated. It’s true I could spend a lot of text and a fine diagram describing cartridge insertion, but a one–minute video demonstrating somebody do it, complete with great audio of what the “click” of proper engagement sounds like will get the message across much more effectively. But to wade through the first 20 minutes of information that doesn’t apply to me to get to the last 10 which does is a whole lot less efficient than scanning a text document is.

Informal learning has so much to do with sharing good information and making it accessible to everyone, but to really tap into that and get the most out of your people and social technologies, you have to make video the center of your informal learning world – by encouraging the creation of it as much as the searching and viewing of it.

Please God, no! I do not wish to watch interminable videos of the CEO pontificating on the vision of the org. I’d love it, though, if she’d participate in a “welcome to my office” blog or discussion forum in which we could ask questions about that vision. Crafting a well-done video takes a lot longer than does crafting a well-written post. My co-workers and I all have stuff to do besides communicate. So let’s use the written word were it is most effective, and save the video for those messages which really benefit from it.