Exploring interactive video learning best practices

by Sharon Vipond |

Rapt Media is honored to feature Sharon Vipond, director of research for The eLearning Guild, as our guest writer. For the last year, Sharon has been researching and creating in-depth case studies around different use cases for interactive video.

“Raise your hand if your organization is doing a great job using video to support learning and performance.” This is the question video learning thought leader JD Dillon asked a few months back in a Learning Solutions Magazine article on video for workplace learning. If you’re timidly raising your hand and nervously looking around to determine other people’s responses, you’re not alone. Many learning practitioners—even those who recognize the benefits of video learning—remain “stuck” in traditional classroom learning paradigms.

The eLearning Guild firmly believes that those who know the most about making e-learning successful are practitioners; the people who produce e-learning every day in corporate, government, and academic settings. However, we know from our research that those same learning practitioners need to better understand how to balance traditional learning approaches and disciplines with the use of evolving technology solutions, such as interactive video.

Listening to the buzz from our nearly 83,000-strong worldwide members, The eLearning Guild knows the learning and development community is fully awakening to the power of interactive video.

Strong interest in interactive video learning research

In a recent article, “Interactive Video and the Changing Face of Training,” Jack Leigh made the point that in 2015, 86 percent of e-learning customers “expressed some level of desire to access interactive visual content on demand. … The amount of people who strongly agreed that they wanted interactive video increased from 34 [percent] in 2013 to 46 [percent] in 2014.” To many of us, it is becoming increasingly clear that understanding and using interactive video is an essential knowledge and skill area for today’s e-learning leaders and practitioners.

In response to requests from our practitioner community, we focused our recent research on interactive video and published the following case studies highlighting best practices for leveraging interactive video learning in corporate and academic learning:

Using interactive video for today’s workplace learning

JD Dillon, one of our Guild authors (and the video learning thought leader mentioned above), identified four ways in which today’s instructional designers use video to support workplace learning and performance:

  • To instruct
    In this case, the objective is to help the viewer acquire knowledge by telling them how to do something—the right way. Instructional videos can be used in a variety of ways and are particularly effective with novices and/or employees who require additional structure as part of their learning experience. This could be through straightforward delivery of practical tips, screen-capture process steps, or use of scenarios.
  • To share knowledge
    Video is a powerful tool for helping employees share their personal knowledge with the entire organization in an informal way. Video is an increasingly familiar way for people to share their insights and ideas. It can be a lot simpler and quicker to put together, as well as being considerably more contextual than the written word. Wouldn’t you rather tell someone how you do what you do versus writing it all down?
  • To immerse
    Video is a powerful storytelling medium. It adds emotional context and a feeling of immersion that the written word often cannot convey as effectively. Instructional designers can leverage this real-world familiarity with video-based storytelling as a way to connect with your employees and increase engagement during learning experiences.
  • To start a conversation
    We know learning is inherently social, so why don’t we use video more often to bring people together to share their ideas and opinions? Despite the lack of formal training structure, shared conversation is a great opportunity for learning. Using interactive video can provide an opportunity for employees who typically didn’t interact to collaborate and share their function-specific insights into common workplace challenges.

Lessons learned from our interactive video case studies

Our case studies produced numerous insights and practical advice for interactive video learning practitioners. Here are just a few examples of the guidelines and best practices we identified:

  • Think outside the training box
    Don’t think in terms of courses or curricula. Look at interaction and engagement tools such as a journey metaphor or experience mapping to encourage individual action. Don’t get sidetracked with traditional training approaches. Interactive video learning is interdisciplinary and more about a holistic view of the consumer experience, content marketing, and brand journalism.
  • Keep the user experience front of mind
    Use a “design thinking approach” that helps maintain a user experience (UX) frame of reference. In practical terms, this means resisting the urge to cram too much into learning content the video, and staying focused on what the viewer can reasonably comprehend and absorb.
  • Make the stories and interactivity fun and creative
    Viewers respond to an interactive story that engages them and keeps them exploring and learning.
  • Use gamification elements to create engagement
    Games and “playfulness” are powerful learning tools. Incorporate gamified learning by using competitiveness, skill-based learning, self-directed goals, achievement-based elements, puzzle solving, and big wins (e.g., badges, points). As a side note, the topic of “gamified learning” is extremely popular among today’s learning practitioners. Here are several research papers on this important topic: Test Your Gamification Knowledge, Overcome Myths and Misconceptions of Gamification and Promote Gamified Learning, and The Art and Science of Gamification, to name only a few.
  • Build a marketing plan
    Create a detailed marketing and communications plan that describes desired outcomes and how you will measure success.
  • Deal with internal issues
    Deal with internal security and technical issues impacting video streaming early in your design. Use responsive design principles and consider creating separate versions of interactive videos for PC/tablets and mobile devices

Benefits of interactive video learning

If you are not yet sold on interactive video learning, read our case studies and also take a look at Guild author Paul Clothier’s specific learning benefits of interactive video. Although Paul talks about these benefits in the context of mobile learning, his insights apply more broadly to other types of learning as well. Following are Clothier’s descriptions of these learning benefits, with additional discussion of how each benefit applies to this case study:

  • Engagement
    “Interactivity makes videos more engaging and immersive; hence, interactive videos make it possible to maintain attention for longer periods than typical videos,” or even other types of static training. As we also saw in this case study, the overall quality and warmth of the video presenter are essential to viewer engagement and satisfaction.
  • Discovery
    It is widely recognized that “one of the very best ways to learn is by discovery. Interacting with videos that provide branching and options can help facilitate this. [Discovery] promotes learning and increases information retention.” As we saw with the navigational structure described in the case study training solutions, viewers can (and very often do) go back and discover additional aspects of the training that appeal to them or aspects that they need to review.
  • Immersion
    With navigable, interactive video, learners can “move smoothly and seamlessly from one video to another … without interruptions or breaks in the narrative.” Having this type of navigational flexibility and ease of use “provides a higher degree of emotional engagement and immersion.” Both critical learning elements for today’s multigenerational and multicultural audiences.
  • Adaptation
    As we saw with several of the video case studies, “decision points in the video timeline”—provided primarily at the beginning, but also throughout—enable instructional designers to adapt the training to specific audiences as well as to individual viewers. As a result, video users have “the opportunity to decide what they want to branch to or what they want to learn.”
  • Tracking
    Most video engines also provide “the ability to track user interactions within the video.” Although instructional designers may use a variety of assessment approaches for their evaluation strategy, interactive video solutions can track future metrics such as “what the viewer tapped, when they tapped it, what they completed, when they left the video, and so forth.” As the learning practitioners featured in our case studies soon learned, these metrics will become useful in building their future community of learners and will help determine learner “preferences, abilities, attention spans, or personality profiles.”


I believe that the majority of learning practitioners certainly understand these benefits of interactive video learning and why it provides better knowledge retention, increased learner engagement, and more options for reaching out to their increasingly diverse and multicultural learning audiences.

However, I also believe that many learning practitioners still do not understand how to join the evolutionary shift from traditional training approaches to multifaceted, multi-disciplinary learning approaches which enable them to create more effective outcomes. For example, understanding how to leverage such concepts as digital marketing, brand management, consumer marketing, communications, and learner engagement in the context of digital learning.

In response to these challenges, the Guild is working to build and sustain a global community where learning practitioners worldwide can better evolve their knowledge and expertise in digital learning, and create effective interactive video learning solutions for all of its learners.

About Sharon Vipond, Ph.D., Director of Research, The eLearning Guild
Sharon Vipond is the director of research for The eLearning Guild and a researcher and writer with core competencies in adult learning, courseware development, delivery, and certification; enterprise training software evaluation; large-scale project management, human capital management, and organizational development. She holds a Ph.D. degree in organizational communication from the University of Minnesota. She has been researching and creating in-depth case studies around different use cases for interactive video.

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