If you listen to marketing’s thought leaders, you’ll hear that video is transforming the industry. The rise of video has infiltrated every aspect of the marketer’s ecosystem, including the workplace.
From a corporate standpoint, video-based learning is touted as an easier, cheaper alternative to expensive in-person training.
Video-based learning certainly does have its pros. Videos can be paused, watched at a more convenient time, or shared with others who need the same primer or refresher, regardless of geographic location.
That said, video-based learning has some serious limitations, too. Here are the five biggest challenges in video-based learning that I’ve encountered.
1. Lack of time
Marketers are notorious for multitasking—emails and phone calls at all hours, a dozen fires to put out, and campaigns to keep up with at any given moment. With so many irons in the fire, marketing managers can find it tough to carve out even 10-20 minutes to focus exclusively on a video—even if that video is designed to help them succeed in their role. Though hitting pause is always an option, it can be tough to retain the full lesson without watching the entire video in one sitting.
2. Lack of privacy
With so many “open concept” offices these days, managers often find themselves sitting among the teams they lead. That can make for some awkward viewing, particularly if said manager happens to need the latest video on, say, “how to deal with a problem employee.”
3. Appearing dated
Remember the 1990s? So does your hairstylist… and so do your marketing managers, if you have them watching videos that look too dated or staged.
People tend to learn better (and are more likely to watch something from beginning to end) when they can personally relate to the content in front of them. For marketers, that means putting together a sequence that accurately reflects the current decade and the diversity of age, gender, ethnicity, and more. Doing so is tough and expensive, which is why even professionally produced e-learning videos so often appear dated.
4. Not enough bandwidth
Streaming video requires a significant amount of bandwidth. For brand and marketing personnel who may be coordinating with other teams offsite, the ability to quickly access company information is critical.
Telling colleagues to “please hold” while frantically waiting for a video you need to load is extremely disruptive, especially for remote employees who don’t benefit from your office’s ultra high-speed Internet.
Bite-size learning is all the rage in the online learning space, especially as companies reshape and modernize their training programs to appeal to Millennials. Searchable, skimmable, actionable content that fits into the workday is in; long courses that take you away from the office are out.
However, video is neither easily searchable nor skimmable, which makes it tough to be genuinely actionable.
With all that said, don’t count video out entirely. In some instances, such as learning new software or leading users through a particular sequence of steps, video is extremely helpful. But it isn’t a learning panacea, and we shouldn’t treat it like one.
Using text as an alternative
Studies suggest that good old-fashioned text-based learning is an effective (albeit counterintuitive) alternative.
Though video is great when you’re a marketer attracting consumers, when you’re a marketer trying to learn new information, video isn’t always the best.
Moreover, watching a video literally taps into a different part of the brain than reading an article, and it is a much more passive experience. “The brain gets a much better workout when reading vs. watching,” according to a Psychology Today article. “When we read something, we are actively involved in processing the information in front us.” That’s when we’re more likely to retain what we’ve learned.
Text has another big advantage, too. It’s easy to reference and re-reference. If a marketing manager isn’t sure how to give a copywriter feedback on the latest ad campaign, he or she shouldn’t have to fast forward to the right spot in a video. It’s quicker and easier to skim through the main points of article, pull out the needed information, and get on with the day.
Companies that wish to help new marketing managers to succeed must account for when, where, and through which channels they are most likely to learn rather than default to a medium just because it’s sexy.
Marketers need learning tools that can match the fast pace and agility of the modern workplace. Given video’s inherent limitations, I question whether video is the best learning format for today’s busy, distracted and always-on workplace. At the very least, video shouldn’t be the only form of learning you offer.