Using video to sell The Big Idea

Martin Addison
Here is a recap of one of the themes that were covered by Martin Addison, CEO of Video Arts, during his Bootcamp talk 

Learning is often designed to fill learners with facts and information. This is great if you want to increase their understanding of a subject, but what if you actually need to change their behaviour?

There are essentially three types of learning. There is knowledge, which is about what we want people to remember. There are skills, which are often things that we want people to practise, so they will be able to do them easily and competently. And then there is the category which addresses attitudes and behaviours – ‘the big idea’.

With knowledge, we can use simple exposition by passing it on and testing with a quiz. With skills we can use an instructional approach – demonstrating the skill and getting people to practise it. We can then give feedback and build skills through coaching. But ‘The Big Idea’ needs a different strategy. It needs to take the learner through a process of guided discovery to get them to buy-in to the learning.  With this approach, we present the learner with a situation, which provokes a response which, in turn, creates a consequence which learners can reflect on to change their behaviour and their reactions to other peoples’ behaviour in the future.

The first three elements – situation, response and consequence – could be personal experiences, where you are placed in a situation in real life or a group and learn from the insights. However, we are also able to reflect and learn from observing the experiences of others. Watching others gives us clues as to what would happen if we did the same thing. So, guided discovery can be heavily influenced by vicarious experiences and that’s where story-based video becomes such a powerful medium. Video can allow us to sit in and observe a situation and to gain insight as events unfold – think of it as an accelerated life experience.

For this to work well the learner needs to care about the consequences because it’s highly relevant to their personal goals and problems – relevance drives out reluctance to learning. Additionally, learners need to identify with the characters and care what happens to them. For that to happen, the characters need to be credible, so viewers really become engaged in the story emotionally.

It may only take a two or three minute video story to trigger the process of reflection, although this isn’t because people can’t concentrate in the ‘YouTube’ era. Anyone can sustain attention for longer than that; particularly if they are confronted by a problem-solving challenge (as gamers will know), or if they are engrossed in a story (like the latest TV box set).

And the benefit of ‘The Big Idea’ for learners? By using video triggers face-to-face or online we can support a process of guided discovery. Rather than just telling them what they need to do, this approach allows learners to reflect on their behaviour – and actually change it themselves.

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