Online Learning Videos
Mention the phrase "online video" or "interactive video learning" and you're likely to get mixed responses, puzzled looks, or both. Some equate online video with YouTube or Netflix. For the majority, online video is a digital TV - a place to passively watch favorite shows (plus ads) or a company's latest marketing pitch.
Live video streaming, or two-way digital video is expanding - and occasionally working. However, although live streaming is interactive by nature, it has some serious scheduling and bandwidth limitations for eLearning. To the training and workforce development professional, on-demand, asynchronous video is essential for both online and blended learning environments.
The question: How can we distinguish on-demand, interactive video learning from the entertainment, marketing, and advertising uses of video?
The Quest for Interactivity
Interactive video learning pre-dates the digital era. "Edutainment" pioneers experimented with ways to make viewers less passive, and more engaged with pre-recorded content. The 1950s CBS children's series is a case in point. It featured kits containing a plastic overlay for the screen - on which children could color each scene with special markers. Its success was limited. Pre-digital interactivity was mostly commercial in nature, with ratings companies like Nielsen searching for ever more accurate audience metrics and responses.
Internet-based video - like all other web phenomena - was a potential breakthrough for ad-centric interactivity. In theory, viewing rates could be scientifically measured and the results sold to the highest bidding advertiser. The Web also provided immediate feedback from the viewer, in the form of click-throughs. However, for educators and trainers, interactivity has been more difficult.
Passivity vs. Activity
Online video, like its analog parent, can be extremely passive - providing visual and auditory stimuli, but not inherently requiring a response. Even in otherwise interactive eLearning courses, video segments are dense "blobs" of content to be watched, and then responded to afterwards. Making the video itself interactive is the challenge.
To understand how to make video more interactive, it's important to know that the video player environment is critical. Not all online video players are the same! All have basic functions, like play/pause, a progress bar, and full screen viewing. Some have buttons or overlays for social sharing, voting, and links to other sites - all beloved by advertisers and marketers. A few have gone further, adding overlays used for eLearning as well as commercial purposes. In 2006, a Lehigh University undergraduate school project (called "Interactive Tube, " which became the basis for a patent owned by ) allowed user comments, assessments, and calls to action to be added as clickable overlays on the video timeline. Other innovations have followed, but too often the "pull" of advertising revenue has sidelined the needs of eLearning.