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Jan 2016

Interactive video is about to get disruptive

Blog posts

James Cory-Wright

James Cory-Wright

Head of Learning Design at Kineo

While video is arguably the most engaging and popular way of delivering online learning, in the workplace it’s largely underused and unevolved. All that is set to change. Fuelled by advances in digital video technology, and propelled by the advertising industry, interactive video is about to get disruptive!

Inviting learners to engage with content is key. This includes video, a medium that’s growing exponentially and played on all devices. But learners also respond best when it’s more than a passive experience, when it’s interactive and immersive.


What’s so exciting, and has such potential from an online learning point of view, is all the different ways you can interact with content within the video itself.

That’s not to say interactive video is a new concept, but the technology used to deliver it today is new. It’s becoming much smarter and richer both in terms of what’s on your screen and the data and analytics generated by the interactivity.

So how is this a richer, more immersive experience than in the past? For starters it does away with the suspension of disbelief required to dip in and out of the video, with conventional elearning screens in between. Now you stay in the moment because you interact with what’s happening within the video the whole time, even when answering questions, making decisions, getting feedback, and so on.

Seamless and immersive because it all happens within the video 

We can now have embedded hotspots (motion tags) that move within the video; we can use branching within the video to change the storyline depending on the decisions you make; we can show consequences of making that decision; we can add video within video to share expert views, link directly to other rich media or gather real-time data via social media tools – all without leaving the actual video. A seamless experience.

The applications are unlimited

Interactive video has had its successes, like the award-winning Lifesaver interactive film that mopped up the industry awards not so long ago. Now the tech is becoming more accessible and cheaper, which is great news as the new tech brings about endless possibilities for learning design. 

We now have a tool that can help us tackle soft skills, attitudinal or behaviour-based training, with video-based simulations and reconstructions. We can develop rich and context-based learning that enables learners to apply their learning in a safe environment. And perhaps most important of all from the learner’s point of view, develop training that’s realistic and credible. So let’s acknowledge two innovations that have had a particular impact on interactive video in terms of the learning experience:

Breakthrough 1: keeping the interactions within the video

In 2009, the Met Police’s compelling knife crime interactive video, ‘Choose a different ending’, broke new ground.

At each interaction/decision point, the options were displayed within the video itself, a technique that eliminated the need to “break the spell” by dipping in and out of elearning screens before branching off to other video clips. Now, it’s all a seamless experience.

It’s only recently that ‘within the video’ techniques have been made to work on iPads and iPhones, but now City & Guilds Kineo is able to deliver multi-device interactive video learning along with the array of analytics generated in it, which is enabling us to deliver a compliance simulation and a game-based solution for major clients in the energy and financial sectors respectively.

Breakthrough 2: embedded hotspots

“Down the rabbit hole” was how Duncan Brown of Outtakes put it, alluding to the rich potential for learning presented by this technology that:

“…allows viewers to interact with moving film online. Once clicked-on, moving 'hotspots' that have been attached to people or objects in the footage lead through to additional assets – more film, stills, audio, whatever you choose, offering further insight and information. All these interactions can be recorded and scored in an LMS... ending the separation between learning and testing.”

Kineo used this technique of embedded hotspots in an induction piece for leading hospitality business Compass, where the learner goes on a video tour of the O2 Arena, meeting different Compass people who talk about what it’s like to do their job.

Visible/invisible hotspots – where what you see, and don’t see, is what you get! In the Compass induction video tour, hotspots are visible with tags to indicate when and where to select, but it is also possible to hide them for a more “gamified” approach, or for a diagnostic, an assessment, a simulation of “Just how safe/risk averse/compliant are you really? Look out for the dangers and click on them when you spot them…”

Cinéma vérité and other creative approaches to video

As well as the flexibility and potential of interactive video, we can also capitalise on another feature of high-tech digital video equipment: its extreme compactness and portability. This suits ‘fly on the wall’ filming on-site, like driving a vehicle, in a factory, warehouse, kitchen, refinery, office, etc.; real situations that may be improvised for ‘spot the mistake’, ‘spot the hazard’, ‘spot the risk’, or even ‘spot the opportunity’ scenarios.

But what if the content is hard to visualise? Behaviour can be as much about what people think as what they do, especially in business-based situations, or compliance. How can the learner interact with that? The answer is to overlay the words on the video, including motion-pinned graphics of, for example, an incoming text message, which can follow the on-screen action.

Another example of how the video equipment and techniques have become more viable is ‘green/blue screen’ which was once shot exclusively in the studio. Now you can carry the kit around in a bag. And it’s an affordable way of injecting a bit of illusion, for example, dropping in global locations as backgrounds behind someone talking to camera and/or superimposing key messages and graphics in sync with what’s being said.

Click through to elearning

You can go as far down the rabbit hole as you like within the interactive video. As well as clicking through to further videos or animations, you can click through to responsive elearning content before returning seamlessly (a changed person of course!) into the video at exactly the point you left off.   

Interactive video menus and portals

As I have already suggested, this ability to launch and track content in any format, including SCORM, from within the interactive video, means there’s no reason why the video should not now become the menu – the portal – from which all content launches, whether video or text based. As Paul Clothier put it succinctly in 2013, “What was the contained object will become the container itself”.

Interactive video gives you rich data

The latest interactive video tech means pretty much anything and everything that happens in the video can be tracked. It can be made SCORM-compliant and, driven by marketing and advertising demand, delivers an amazing array of analytics, anything from scoring for assessments, quizzes and games, to how many viewers interacted with your on-screen hotspots (aka “motion tags”). The tech can fully integrate with content platforms and social channels through web service layers and APIs, opening up opportunities for richer blends, sharing of knowledge and real-time analytics.

All this, plus contemporary digital video production techniques, means businesses and learning professionals have a fantastic opportunity to develop real-world, realistic training – including gamification – with similar budgets to those spent on text and graphics-based content.

That’s not to say there’s no place for reading content – far from it – but the written content needs to complement and support the interactive video, which can now sit at the heart of the immersive learning experience.


More bang for your bucks

Today’s interactive video technology has the potential to completely turn on its head the hegemony of text-led online training. The million-dollar question is whether designers and developers of online learning, and those who commission it, have the bottle to make the necessary step-change. 

It’s all about “doing less, better” with shorter, high-intensity immersive learning experiences that are really focussed on the behaviours with the greatest impact, the mission critical know-how, and other topics that have the potential for real performance change.

It’s also about making the most of a major benefit of modern digital video production, which is being able to produce, in terms of duration, more high-quality video and interactive content to the pound than in the past.

Everything is now in place to change the world of online learning. So, what are we waiting for!

Click here to learn more about interactive video and content.

James Cory-Wright

James Cory-Wright

Head of Learning Design at Kineo

James has over 25 years' experience of instructional design and video scriptwriting. He heads up our team of learning designers and consultants, overseeing learning content design across all client projects. James has a reputation for creativity and innovation in elearning, having worked on numerous successful projects and regularly attends industry events, presenting our latest thoughts.

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