e-learning tips and tutorials for e-learning designers

#DevLearn-113: Applying the Magic of Hollywood to e-Learning

Summary: Tom argued that quality is all that matters. We should strive for higher production values and shorter trainings that more fully engage our learners.

This session was presented by Tom Graunke, Co-Founder and CEO, Stormwind.

Why do we remember many details of a three-minute movie trailer? Because it’s exciting and engaging. Wouldn’t it be great if we could put that same kind of Hollywood magic directly into our training without needing the Hollywood budget?

In this session, renowned eLearning expert Tom Graunke showed us how to completely change the way we create and deliver training.

Tom began by showing a clip from the upcoming Ironman 3 movie and stated, “That’s the bar!” As the audience laughed, he told us his goal was to help us create amazing next gen learning… and he said he wasn’t kidding too. :-)

Here are the tips he said we could use immediately on our projects:

Super-charging learning for greater participation and retention

The most important rule is this: it’s ALL about exceeding expectations. The goal is to create raving fans! Tom says our e-learning should have our clients freaking out! As an example, he pointed to how we evangelize the things we love, such as the iPhone. Why do we do this, he asks? In the case of the iPhone, he argues it’s because Apple has exceeded expectations and, as a result, they own that particular market.

Eight secrets to creating Hollywood-style eLearning we can deliver on a reasonable budget

  1. The 6-8 second rule: Something on the screen should change every 6-8 seconds because that’s our attention span. As a result, delivery of training must be completely re-thought. This also means that signficant B-roll and graphics are needed. Why? Because crowd sourcing has changed everything and it can help us spread our message.
  2. Even lighting: Actors should be evenly lit from all directions. More lights are better. His general rule: whatever you think you need to light properly, double it.
  3. Quality audio: Having a good mic is very important.
  4. Good script writing: Don’t wing it with your scripts. Get it right even if you need to hire a scriptwriter.
  5. Speakers are not all equal: Don’t discount the cost of using real actors because prices are much lower than they used to be.
  6. Post production is 10-25 man hours per minute produced: So how do you do a two-hour class? Tom’s answer is you don’t create courses that long anymore. His recommendation: three minutes.
  7. Better slideware quality: Clip art is done. Instead, we should be using 3D animations, quality photos and backgrounds.
  8. Use music: It should evoke emotion.

He also offered more details on some of these topics:

It’s all about the story:

  • Like instructional design, there is a process: a main goal, with key message points.
  • We should tell a story, and learners should not have to read a story.
  • To do this properly, we should leverage third party talent and match the scriptwriting result to the audience – we should avoid boring, childish or fake presentations, while we also consider how our learning will be used and delivered.

The perfect story:

  • Since filming and post-production are the most expensive components of an e-learning, it’s important to create a simple layout for your course.
  • We should select the type of shots we want with care.
  • Match the graphics used (in terms of quality, colors, and feel).
  • We should have a clear goal of what we want to accomplish with our interviews and voice over, and know what we want the talent to say.
  • Again, Tom argues, script writing is key and so third party talent can help make the project more effective.

Maximizing talent:

  • Actors are needed for voice over, scripted message, and factual stories.
  • We should be willing to spend on talent based on the expected ROI.
  • Real talent, such as executives, should be used for emotion and/or behind the scenes story. Also, real talent can be interviewed, but never straight up into the lens as this tends to make the interviewee nervous – Tom argues an off-center production technique produces much better results. He also said a great interview question to ask is “Why did you do this?

The power of music:

  • This is arguably the most critical element.
  • Here, we can leveage crowd sourcing to find what we need, and it’s inexpensive too.
  • Music should be matched to the emotional goal we are trying to achieve.

Final output mistakes to correct:

  • Start with the end delivery in mind – will it display on an iPhone, desktop or other platform?
  • Resolution is critical – make sure it is appropriate for the delivery medium.
  • Bandwidth drives bit-rate and file size.

Customized advice on the four different categories of e-learning:

  • HD e-learning: Cut length in half or more – the #1 complaint of users is “This is painful!” No one has an attention span anymore. We need to address Facebook and YouTube video length. Tom argues that, since the learner gives us only 180 seconds, we need to use that time effectively. The best training, Tom argues, doesn’t look like training. We need to shorten our content and bring it to life. Here again, filming quality is key.
  • HD live learning: Use “good” video, not just in a box (like webcam). Use quality backgrounds and a good mic for top audio quality. Location is key and rarely will a home work. Changes on screen should occur no longer than every 20 seconds… we need to keep it moving. Remember that green/blue screen integration is now possible too.
  • Simulations and gaming: Leverage reality not cartoons or clip art. We need a well-thought out script that will draw the learner into the story. We must be visually engaging from the first second. Again, leverage music for emotion and engagement. Manage branching “paths” carefully as they get expensive. Also, a published scoring mechanism is key to involvement in terms of results, time, etc.; here, he’s arguing we should always score our assessments and make results public among the learners.
  • Teaser trailers: The goal is to tease the learner and draw them in for more information. Most training starts with “In this class, we’ll teach you the 89…” different things. Focus on the three key things we want them to know. Why should they care about those things too – what’s in it for them? Again, music is critical to match the message and emotion. Also, again, keep the message to under three minutes because of our limited attention spans.

Fighting for budget:

  • Of course, the number one complaint is “I don’t have budget for this.”
  • To fight for budget, explain that it’s all about ROI.
  • What does success look like (more sales, cut costs, etc.)?
  • We can also build a proof of concept or a teaser.
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