I recently concluded an experiment. The purpose was to explore how to use interactive videos effectively as an instructional tool. The content was centred on a 4-part framework for assessing the danger in a violent situation to be able to respond appropriately.
So here’s what I learned:
1 – When you think of medium matters
When designing, the stage at which you think about the medium matters immensely. The same idea for choosing a certain medium can completely wreck the design or add to it constructively depending on when it’s factored into the picture, especially in a case like this where it’s almost a foregone conclusion.
We focussed on the learning value we wanted to create, focussed on developing instructional clarity throughout the curriculum and only then analysed where we could use videos to achieve the targeted outcomes. The idea of using interactive videos, considered after instructional clarity was developed, was very helpful in manifesting the approach. But starting out with the medium in mind derailed design thinking completely!
2 – The medium isn’t the message
How technologically advanced (or y’know, fancy) a medium is, has nothing to do with how clear the instructional intention is. (In fact, it’s so much easier to lose sight of instructional integrity when given a gimmicky thing to play with!)
We had a round of exploration where we gathered any number of samples of interactive videos. This was actually more confusing than constructive because our brainstorming was reduced to designing interactivities and trying to work in mechanics… all with no clue of why. What was the learner supposed to take away from the experience? So we had to scrap the information collected and start over.
3 – Experiments help explore the medium
The medium was useful to create a way to experience the stress and fear of the problem situation (i.e. a violent crime at the workplace). I’m not saying it isn’t possible to draw out these reactions with other media (it most certainly is), it’s just that it was easier to do with a video – it needed a lot less skill on my part.
4 – Instructional focus matters
Had the focus been on in-depth knowledge of the model, a video-based approach would have been decorative, ineffectual, high-cost clutter. As we were going for an appreciation of the importance of the model, myth busting and situational skill building, videos were a good option.
5 – Design is shaped by instructional convictions
Videos are a wonderful way to bypass the false dichotomy of learning by doing vs. learning by observation. Movies are the simplest way for each of us to see honestly whether we tend to unquestioningly consume content or engage with it. When you’re playing a video clip and explicitly being asked to observe or study a specific thing, whether the focus of analysis is in the video or in your reaction, you’re being taught excellent long-term learner behaviour: to engage with the content. That’s with just the externally added cues. Going further, breaking the fourth wall has so many opportunities for wrecking learner passivity if you can shoot custom videos for a course!
6 – Ditch the documentation (well, almost)
Storyboarding should play a smaller role than conversations and doodles. To have everything driven by documentation makes such a complex, experience-oriented production more difficult. In this experiment, we were working off existing video clips rather than shooting our own. So it was important to really talk through what each of us in each function pictured and wanted to do. To capture discussions, we doodled.
7 – Fancier can be tougher
The need for UX is more pronounced when designing interactivities for videos as compared to other media. If things are constantly changing on the screen, the interactive elements have to be well designed, otherwise the assessment of learner performance is more clouded (than in other media) by lack of mechanical skill than actually improper learning.
This was an area where it particularly helped to have a fresh pair of eyes critically look at the output and give feedback!
So there you have it, the merry mix of things I learned from my experiment, from process and pitfalls to challenges and opportunities.
If I had to tell you the biggest impact on my thinking, it’s that instructional clarity comes before everything else.