Less is more – it really is!

dining tableIn Seth Godin’s recent blog post ‘the secret of the five top‘, he explores the reasoning behind why banquet tables are set at numbers of 10.  Apparently, this number is for maximum efficiency for serving staff and for table setting.  “Bigger” he says, ” you couldn’t reach and smaller there’s no room.”  Seth points out that although this is efficient for the banquet organiser, it really isn’t conducive for social interaction.  Parties and banquets are all about social interaction yet large tables of ten places barriers in the way of social interaction.

Having attended several wedding and conference banquets in recent years, I understand the issues perfectly.  These large tables have the opposite effect.  You end up talking only to the three or four people near you whereas you feel alienated from those directly opposite (that is if you can actually see them over the ornate table centre display).

The same is true of the classroom.  Let’s imagine that you have determined that classroom is the best option for at least one element of the learning solution.  It may seem more efficient to cram 8, 12, 24 or more people in the same room.  After all, you can tell 24+ the same stuff as easily as you can tell 6 …. can’t you?  Well, yes, I guess if your classroom is a glorified lecture theatre where your learners are passively awaiting the gush of information.

The thing is, we know that’s not effective.  Social interaction in the form if discussions, group activities, small group case studies, tutor facilitation, individual consolidation exercises, assessments and indivial feedback is.  Why then, is all this put at risk by organisations insisting that just because there are enough chairs and the room is big enough, they’ll fill it to the rafters.

Remember this…. When we favour quantity over quality there will be consequences.  Can you afford the consequences?

Video – The star of performance support?

In my previous blog post I paid homage to video, the come-back kid. In this post I’m going to explore a few pros and cons our beloved video has.

With the popularity of YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare and the like, it has never teen easier to sell the benefits about using video for learning and performance support. Wherever we go; on our PCs, on our laptops, on our mobile devices – video is there.

Why? Well, we are visual creatures primarily and, as the saying goes, pictures paint a thousand words. In which case, how many words would moving pictures paint, let alone ‘talkies’ (and they said it wouldn’t catch on).

Videos are a great way to engage audiences with its storytelling properties. In a formal setting we could:

  • Watch a film showing good/poor behaviour. Analyse it and add reflective notes to a forum
  • Use videos as branching scenarios where you choose the next bit in the story from selecting from given responses to each clip until the final scene which will expose the final result

Then we have the video as performance support. Videos seem to have transformed this arena. So much so that should you search for a ‘how to’ guide on practically anything, it is highly likely there will be a clip for that.

The problem with video … oh yes, there are problems with video… is that in the world where we are encouraging more learner-control, these don’t quite give them that. Yes, they can be classed as ‘on-demand’ but they are far from self-paced. You can fast-forward, stop and rewind, but you still can only listen and watch at the pace at which they were recorded.

This can cause problems. For example, the other day, my other half needed some instructions to help him install some software and searched the vendor’s website for some help. The only thing he found was a video. Now, my spouse is an experienced techy guy and only required a quick checklist or simple steps to run through as he installed the software. I’ve also experienced the same and it’s very frustrating.

It’s great to get an overview to get yourself ready before you carry out the steps. A video will set the scene and, as the visual creatures we are, we feel more prepared for the activity. Allison Rossett, in her book Job Aids & Performance Support calls this type of performance support a ‘planner’. It does what it says on the tin – it helps you plan for when you need to do it.

What he needed was a ‘sidekick’. Something quick to help him carry out the steps at that moment.

So a word of friendly advice… if you are developing a collection of on-demand videos for performance support, be sure to consider your audience, their needs and in what situation they will need that support. If you only provide ‘planners’ then you might be setting yourself up for a fall if you don’t also provide ‘sidekicks’ to help at that exact moment of need. These could be checklists, quick procedure steps or step by step diagrams. Think aeroplane safety cards – what use will a video be when you can’t remember what you saw in the video/demo at take-off?

The Come-Back Kid!

No, not me – although I have been very quiet in the bloggersphere lately.

I’m talking video. Yes, Video, …. YOU are the Come-Back Kid. In the learning world that is. I’ll bet if anyone does a search on Google (other search engines are available) they’ll have you pop up at least once in the search results.

Isn’t it great how accessible learning is nowadays? If you want to make a gingerbread house for Christmas (not that my gingerbread ended up as a house – more like stars. I ran out of patience) or fit a new car radio you had as a gift; from tuning your new bow to get the best grouping arrows to clipping your West Highland Terrier – you can bet your bottom dollar, you’ll be there, video; somewhere on YouTube, Vimeo or on a product site to name but three.

You’re there for those who just downloaded a new piece of software, to help show them the way to use it; to give a helping hand; to provide support; to help them learn something new. You’re there to engage us emotionally with content that would otherwise send us screaming for the exits or dribbling into our morning coffee. You’re like our favourite movies, making emotional connections; allowing us to consider from different perspectives; to put ourselves in others’ shoes.

Oh but, video, you’ve been around for a long time now and brought us some of the finest British comedy talent into our dull little corporate lives. Some of us will remember, fondly, how you brought subjects like, ‘how to run meetings’, ‘dealing with challenging behaviour’, ‘customer care’ to life in glorious technicolour. How many of these faces are now ‘national treasures’ here in Britain and fondly thought of elsewhere.

Now you bring us a plethora of video content. No longer on reel-to-reel, nor on VCR; but moreover on DVD and the Internet. From desktop to mobile. According to the following delightfully engaging piece, we can expect 90% of all Internet traffic to be video by 2014. Its content is not specifically about using you, video, for learning purposes but, as we do with so many other things, we can learn from it.

BoT: What’s a VIDEO worth? from BoT Videos on Vimeo.

Everyone who is anyone seems to want to create another you, video. Including me. You have become so accessible that armed with just a reasonable digital camera and a affordable video editing software or a screen-capture program such as Camtasia, we can easily get started. And, if you are canny enough and follow some best practice guidelines, and make use of a number of freely available screen-capture or video editing software. Even with the basics, we’ll have great results.

Yes, video, you rock! But just hold on to your horses there a moment, Come-Back Kid, before you get yourself all carried away … and us with you … like we did with your predecessor the eLearning tutorial! There’s a time and a place for everything. And, although you are now the A-lister again, you still need to consider which will be your best roles, versatile though you are?

We’ll ponder that for a while and find out at a later date…