If you’re not currently using video in your learning and development programs – you’re doing your employees a disservice.

No, not the cat, cute kid, repeat type of videos. I’m talking about real people in practical situations to help your learners engage, changing their mindsets and behaviors.

Wait, now. There is a thing or two we can learn from cute cat videos. According to Forbes.com, 6 Qualities To Make Your Videos Go Viral include:

  1. Brief content
  2. Positivity
  3. Relevance
  4. Engagement by the creator
  5. Being informative
  6. Inspiration

The same qualities found in viral videos translate to interactive, engaging training content that learners will retain.

When you put the power of video together with solid learning design in your training and development, you have the secret formula to creating programs that transfer to results you want. Don’t get rid of the readings and discussions yet. A multimedia or transmedia, approach to learning earns your program the greatest benefits.

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. ~Socrates

To demonstrate the benefits of video for the adult learners in your organization, I’ll match three characteristics from the pioneer of adult learning theory, Malcolm Knowles.

1. Adult learners want some control over their learning and objectives.

Do you remember being in a classroom setting where the instructor said something compelling and you needed some time to think about it and process? Every time that happened to me I wished I could pause, rewind, or replay what I heard. With video, your learners can control the flow of information to review or master topics that will lead to their success.

2. Adult learners have a vast amount of workplace experience, and they want to use it.

Creating videos that mirror your employee’s direct experience and model the options and changes you’re trying to motivate is the perfect fit. Use videos to prompt discussion, encourage employees to solve problems, and reflect field experiences.

One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty, until you try. ~Sophocles

3. Adult learners are most motivated to learn when they know WHY they need to learn it.

Sure, you could show a PowerPoint about the pitfalls of unethical behavior. However, a video of the way a workplace can change and affect employees, the community, and other stakeholders is a much more powerful and motivating learning tool. To build in the transmedia approach, tell a more complex story through the use of readings, discussion, and even role play to round out the benefits of starting with video.

Let’s match up what makes a compelling video with the practice of engaging and motivating adult learners.

From the three characteristics I chose to highlight in this post, it’s clear that a viral video matches up with engaging learning by being brief, relevant, and informative. What about the other three qualities of viral videos? How do they fit in? To explain, I’m going to share a story with you about teaching my adult college students about integrated marketing communications.

Adult learning using video

I could have shared the definition first which, according to businessdictionary.com is “An approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign, through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other. As defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, integrated marketing communications ” … recognizes the value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion and combines them to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact.”

Instead, I started with this video of a flash mob playing Peer Gynt on a Copenhagen Metro.


I asked my online students to view the video and predict what the video had to do with Integrated Marketing Communications. The definition came after the video so they were very clear about why they were watching (see characteristic #3) and what they would do after watching it (see characteristic #1). After we’d had some fun discussing the connection, I asked students to share times when communications at their place of work were integrated and in tune, and times when company communications what discordant or out of sync (see characteristic #1).

Using the video, in this case, did more than engage learners in the definition of the term. The video engaged their emotions; it appealed to multiple senses; it was uplifting and inspiring.

My online class had 35 students in it the first quarter I used video in this way to teach. Every single student answered the questions about integrated marketing communications correctly on the final exam. Every. Single. Student.

How will you use video to benefit your learning and development program? Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s learn together.


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