Video Production for eLearning and Training

Video is just one of many media formats available to trainers and instructional designers, however, unlike other “new media” formats it has stood the test of time as the most cost effective way to share subject matter expertise and perspectives with a large audience across diverse delivery channels and “screens.” Used effectively, it builds an emotional connection with your audience that encourages buy-in and promotes knowledge retention.  For training objectives that focus on human performance, video may be the only way to realistically demonstrate human behavior.

The exciting opportunity for training and communication designers is that recent technology innovations have reduced the cost of equipment required for professional video production and deployment.  For many years, video was excluded from eLearning and instructor-led training designs because the cost of production was prohibitive.  While many larger companies maintain their own internal production capability, very often the internal video production studio is difficult or impractical for training developers to access.  Internal studios generally cater to the Executive team and may “charge back” for services at a rate similar to outsourcing video production.

Now, the “tools of production” like cameras and lighting are affordable even for small to medium sized development teams to own.  Often no “studio” is needed, just a small quiet space like a conference room is all that is needed to begin producing quality media.

The challenge for instructional designers is adapting their current skill set and development work flow to exploit the new technology developments that make video more accessible and affordable.  While technology has decreased the cost of producing video, it has not reduced the importance of establishing a clear vision, diligent  planning and skillful production.

As an eLearning designer and producer for almost 14 years, I have worked with dozens of software tools and used numerous styles of media to connect with learners and make the experience engaging or at least tolerable.  However, only in the past 5 years have I really explored video as a staple media for my projects.  I have experimented with video since the late nineties, but when I was a manager of a large corporate eLearning development team, I often found video production contractors difficult to work with and very expensive.  I would frequently complain of the “Hollywood” mentality I encountered whenever video production was involved.  I still remember asking a Producer to explain the budget item “craft services.”  I nearly fell off my chair when they explained that this was video-speak for catering services for the crew.

Much has changed since then including my perspective as an eLearning developer.  I have come full circle from avoiding video to embracing video as my “go to” media for eLearning projects.  Even in the past 2-3 years advances in compression and authoring tools have made the incorporation of video in eLearning projects not just feasible but relatively easy.  The web and the proliferation of low cost, high quality video recording devices has demystified much of the production process and put the “tools of production” within reach of small departments and development shops.

In fact, with the help of a little green screen magic, even novice producers can achieve good results and with practice, good can be transformed into excellent.  In the posts that will follow in the weeks ahead, I will provide a roadmap for creating chromakey video interviews for eLearning.  In later posts I will discuss more detail about each step in the process.

If this topic is of interest to you, consider attending my live workshop at Learning Solutions 2012 in Orlando Florida.   I will give you a flavor for the information on the blog, but in person, I’ll have all the toys, uh, I mean tools available to shoot an interview, edit the footage and incorporate the finished clip in an eLearning segment.  Participants will be part of the crew and get hands-on experience creating a segment from start to finish.

Instructional Analysis for Video

The ADDIE model for instructional designers is a familiar framework from which to start the design of a video segment.  In this post, I will focus on the “A” or Analysis phase as it relates to video planning and production.

The Analysis phase is an opportunity for you to educate yourself about the content, the audience and the individuals who are important to your audience.  As you conduct your analysis activities, identify interview candidates and topic areas that may be supported by video.  I generally consider the following when conducting analysis research and SME interviews:

  • Who is the audience and with whom do they identify?
  • Who can best tell the story about your content?
  • What person or persons do Learners most respect as subject matter experts or leaders?
  • Will these individuals agree to appear on camera?
  • Where are the individuals physically located?
  • If they are remote, do they travel to your location for meetings or other events?
  • If you plan to conduct interviews with SMEs or Learners to collect other analysis information, is it practical to record a portion of the interview on video?
  • Are there other activities related to the content that would be helpful to show with visual media?  For example equipment operation, people working together and other related scenes.

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether video is helpful to support the instruction.  This information will also help determine if adding video to your project is practical given budget and time limitations.

You should also consider the legal implications of shooting and distributing video as part of a training program.  You should have a signed release from each person appearing in your video.  If you are creating a training product for your company, employees of the company may have already given permission for the company to use their likeness for internal video and training products.  Non-employees, however, should sign a “model release” document that you will retain on file.

Do not assume that a verbal agreement is adequate.  You may invest many hours of time shooting a video only to find that you don’t have the legal authority to distribute it.   There are several Apps for smart phones and tablet computers that allow you collect a digital signature and then send pdf copies to the talent. I recommend using these apps or a standard release form provided by your legal department.  If you don’t have a legal department, consider using a document from a supplier like LegalZoom.  The forms are relatively simple so you don’t need to hire an attorney.


At the end of the Analysis phase, you should have a pretty good idea of “who” and “what” will appear in your video.  You should make this determination based on what will be valued by your audience and learner population.  It may be tempting to choose individuals you know or are easily scheduled.  You may be surprised to find that subject matter experts and Executives are flattered to be in your training video.  Later I will discuss how to minimize fears and ensure that even in experienced subject look and sound good on video.

Project Management for Instructional Designers

In this post, I sit down with Greg Stevens, Instructional Design Ph. D., SkillQ Learning Architect, experienced project manager and PMP trainer. We discuss the importance of project management skills for trainers and instructional designers. We also talk about the requirements for getting PMP certified.

I have worked with Greg, off an on, for almost 20 years. Greg is a fountain of knowledge in the ISD field and a fantastic trainer. We will follow up on this topic in April, so leave your comments and let us know what project management topics you want to hear more about.