I have very little memory of a life before easy-access, simple-to-use internet (I was born in the 90s). What memory I do have is fuzzy and certainly rose-tinted; I do not think the dial-up tone could sound like a lullaby to anyone who didn’t hear it in very junior years.
Yet a recent series of unfortunate events in my kitchen prompted me to ask myself -
'Before the internet, were people fastidious in the keeping of instruction manuals? And if the manual was missing, what did they do?'
Instructional videos: the added extras that aid digital learning
You see when I face an appliance-related challenge, I know the answer isn’t written down anywhere in my home – because I know myself very well. The instructions were thrown out with the packaging.
The answer will be in my back pocket, on my mobile phone, and it will be described to me in the comforting and erudite tones of what I like to call a YouTube D.A.D.
Now, to be a YouTube D.A.D, you do not have to be male or to have fathered any children. YouTube D.A.D.s are the good people of the world who record themselves performing jobs around the house that aren’t typically mastered as a rite of passage, and sends the result out into the ether for domestic luddites like me. In short, a YouTube D.A.D creates step-by-step instructional videos to guide you far beyond the black and white text of a paper instruction manual.
For example, the challenge I faced this weekend: pulling out the washing machine filter to see what’s inside. What the YouTube D.A.D brings to this equation, more than just being a real-life, 3D person, is all in the acronym:
Didactic – They tell me what I need to do, giving straightforward instructions with no unnecessary filler.
Amiable – They have attitudes conveying that this CAN be done, with little stress and no injury. (Even by you, Kate, even by you!)
Descriptive – They tell me why I am doing what I am doing, not just how and when.
To better explain, let me look at how an instruction manual would have told me how to pull out the filter:
- Remove the kick panel.
- Place a low and wide container under the water filter to collect the residual water.
- Drain the water by slowly turning the filter counter-clockwise until all the water has come out.
Now let me tell you how my YouTube D.A.D's explainer video told me to do it:
"Use something flat and thin to jimmy out the kick panel at the bottom. Lean the machine back so you can easily get a bucket underneath for the water. Twisting the water filter, you might feel it’s very stiff, that’s a good thing! It means there’s something blocking it that you can pull out to fix the issue. You will just need some brute force here to slowly open it, letting the water out carefully."
The difference a YouTube D.A.D makes
My YouTube D.A.D is calling out that the panel won’t be loosened by human fingers, while the instructions leave me to come to that conclusion myself (I assume after I’d bruised my fingertips!). And only a person actually performing this job in real-time would think to tell me I need to lean the machine backwards. Following the instructions, I am also sure I would have immediately given up as soon as the filter didn’t budge at my first hesitant twist. But following my video, I’m happy when it doesn’t give!
The information I’m getting from the video isn’t only helpful, it is giving me instructions in the context of why I need them in the first place. I’m not opening the filter for fun or out of curiosity, I’m opening it because the machine is not washing – there is a blockage. Add to this, it’s being presented in a positive way – making me, in turn, feel positive and capable.
A Pew Research study found 'roughly half of YouTube users say the platform is very important for helping them figure out how to do things they’ve never done before'.
Without doubt, videos have given an added edge to workplace learning and employee training; as showing someone precisely how to do something, rather than describing it conceptually, is always beneficial. In our blog ‘why video learning works’ we discuss how research has shown that humans can often respond much better to interactive and visual stimuli than text alone as our brains can process images 60,000 faster than text, and a team of neuroscientists from MIT found that we can process entire images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.
As a Learning Experience Designer, I am always conscious of how best to present information to the learner for maximum benefit and effect. Videos are an excellent learning tool, but being a passive medium (I often have to watch and wait before I can ‘do’), they can elicit a passive response when used in the wrong way. As I said before, there is nothing worse than extraneous filler with an unnecessary and lengthy backstory while I’m waiting for the presenter to get the point.
I’m usually watching a video because I need the information right this second – my kitchen is flooding!
What also comes to play with YouTube D.A.D.s are two of the concepts described in the book Multimedia Learning by the Professor of Psychology, Richard Meyer.
The coherence principle, where information is kept to the bare minimum of what we need to know to help us perform a task to save working memory.
And emotional design – the setup, feel and general attitude of the video acknowledges the situation I am in (I want to know how to do something, and I don’t know how) and encourages me to reflect the attitude of my teacher. For YouTube D.A.D.s, that attitude is one of measured capability and positivity.
The good news is these creative and effective learning videos do not necessarily need big budgets or cutting-edge video production - someone simply talking to the screen like my YouTube video ‘D.A.D’, narrating a slide deck, using screen recordings, or demonstrating how to fix a wayward washing machine can impart impactful learning. We talk more about how to make great explainer videos here.
Just remember to put the audience first: if a video is never watched, understood and used by learners – then what was the point in making it?
Start creating truly effective training video content and effective digital learning assets today with Logicearth. We partner with you every step of the way to find the best solution for your L&D dilemmas. Our in-house design team and content development services can supercharge your current learning offerings, or pick from a vast portfolio of platforms and ready-made content. The solution is here, speak to one of our learning consultants today.
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