e-Learning’s Strength: Trimming the Fat in Learning | MediaScript

Many years ago MediaScript was tasked with putting live compliance and continuing education courses into an online format.  It was then that I first noticed a huge discrepancy in the amount of time spent in the classroom versus the amount of content actually being taught.  When sitting in a classroom it is hard to see, especially when you begin watching the clock and wondering if the class will ever break or end.  Here is a classic example of that situation: We did a lecture-capture recording of a live twelve-hour compliance course (over a few months) in order to create a twelve-hour online course.  To make the course ready for online viewing, we had to remove audience introductions (“Let’s go around the room…”), pauses for writing and sharing experiences, reading, breaks, Q&A, etc.  Following those edits, we were stunned to discover that we had less than three hours of actual classroom/teaching content.  Only 25% of classroom time was actually used in presenting material!  I thought this was an anomaly, but in tracking and editing hundreds of classes over the past decade, I’ve found that the introduction of content covers less than a third of actual class time.

Getting over the shock of seeing a class fall so far short in time, I began to examine e-Learning in a different light.  What I discovered was that, as a society, we have been programmed to absorb information in smaller chunks.  Commercial television runs five minutes and then a break.  Most YouTube videos are under five minutes.  Two minutes is the rule for many online promotional videos.  Even during NFL football games less than 15 minutes of the entire game accounts for actual playtime!  Once MediaScript started developing classes with the concept of using “bite-sized” video segments, also known as “microlearning”, we found that retention rates of the content soared.  The content was not hidden or diluted behind hours of filler or frivolous banter.

Increasingly, companies are turning to e-learning to deliver critical content and training to employees.  Workers today process this content in small online media-based segments and we reinforce its retention through exercises which include video-based test questions, written responses and, of course, typical multiple choice questions.  All of these exercises offer instant results and feedback.  We have even built in a test help system that will take a participant back to the section of the lecture that pertains to an incorrect answer.  The ability to quickly surmise what was missed, followed by the instant discovery of the correct answer from the video lecture makes the quizzes and tests a more complete  learning function.

The use of video based e-learning shortens the amount of time it takes to train or learn by delivering content in concise chunks.  This is how we are programmed to process information: process, then practice.  This “process, then practice” approach is exactly why the “Flipped Classroom” concept has gained widespread use in colleges and universities around the world.  And it all started when the fat was removed from the class.

Ron Horne is Chief Technology Officer of Mediascript, llc, and has spent decades in educational technology, writing, professional video production and IT project management.