Authentic e-Learning

I’m currently working with a client on developing an online programme that is partly about a key business process and partly about a software application that supports that business process. We are using WillowDNA’s Pathway platform to deliver a mix of learning activities organised as a ‘learning pathway’. The interactive bits are developed in Articulate and we are using Camtasia for software walkthroughs. We are also using lots of short videos produced in house featuring key people in the business (including the CEO) and also stories from users in the field from across the worldwide business.

In the last couple of years the use of video in e-learning has grown significantly. In the old days video was way too bandwidth hungry for corporate networks and it was also very expensive to produce. The bandwidth restrictions are now much less stringent and suddenly there are devices all around us that will capture high quality video and tools that will allow us to publish that video simply and quickly.

This morning I reviewed a 30 minute video which contained some ‘to camera’ pieces from the leadership team. The footage was completely unedited and so contains practice runs, people looking away from the camera, asking the cameraman questions and even joking with the camera team about the mistakes they are all making. Now I know that our task is to remove all the mistakes and end up with a something that looks professional (the way the BBC would do it) but it dawned on me that by taking out the less professional bits we also lose a lot of the humanity. The unedited video made me smile – I warmed to the CEO making mistakes and joking about it. I know that the final edits will get across the message succinctly but will the whole thing feel authentic?

For me this feeling of authenticity is critical for successful learning experiences and sadly it’s one of the things that almost always gets edited out in e-learning programmes. When I deliver a face to face workshop there are lots of authentic bits included – by accident more than by design. We may tell a joke or share a story or just laugh about something that has come up in a Q&A session. I think it’s important that we strive to keep this authenticity in online learning as well. When it comes to video, speaking ‘off the cuff’ to the camera is so much better that using a script. It may feel a bit scary and there will be some pauses and moments of imperfection but overall it will feel much more authentic.

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