Using multimedia to boost your learning content isn’t anything new, but with a growing millennial audience–and a more multimedia-friendly audience in general–coming up with some awesome (and educational!) implementations for image, video, and sound is more important than ever.

Recently, the West Michigan Association for Talent Development Group held “Learning Revolution: A Showcase of Ideas,” which brought together several learning leaders for a series of roundtable discussions on various topics in the learning world. Here are some of the key takeaways for using new multimedia trends in your learning.

1. Use Video – But Only When Necessary

Microlearning–which breaks learning up into small, manageable chunks–is one of the hottest trends in learning at the moment. And what way to make your microlearning content more engaging than to add some video? Juston Espinoza, of Spectrum Health, a Michigan based health insurer, talked about some of the best practices for using video in microlearning modules.

As we’ve said before, video is simply more engaging than text. That said, you can’t just go into your learning project with only a broad idea of using video. Try to sum up your goal in five words or less. That goal could be “teach a process” or even “incite an emotional response.” Boiling your intentions down into a concise mission statement will give your team a clear path forward.

Once you’ve figured out what your goal is, you need to figure out how you’ll reach it–and there are a few different types of video that can help you do that:

  • Talking head: These simple, interview-style videos are great for getting on a one-to-one level and eliciting an emotional response from the learner.
  • Live action: These videos are good for demonstrating a process. Think how-to videos.
  • Animation: This type of video helps visualize abstract information that you wouldn’t be able to capture live.
  • Screen capture: Why tell your learner about a computer-based process when you can demonstrate it through video instead?

Video provides a lot of great options, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for your learner. Go back to your original goal; is a video the best way to get your learner closer to achieving those learning objectives? If your answer is “maybe,” you might want to pack away the camera before you allocate your budget to it.

Further, even if you do decide to go with video, don’t try cramming in as many tricks as possible; this is especially important for microlearning, where you’re already trying to be as efficient with the short time you have with your learner. Overloading the learner with too much information and too many cool tricks will more likely confuse them than enlighten them.

One of the last points Juston touched on was that, in this day and age, everyone seems to know a little bit about video. So, when looking at your budget, it can be tempting to reach out to amateur videographers–say, a tech-whiz nephew–to lend a hand to your project. Be wary, Juston forewarned: you’re almost always better off going with the professionals.

2. Virtual Reality Is the Future

Over the years, video has revolutionized the learning landscape, and now another technology is poised to disrupt it once again: virtual reality.

What was once a science-fiction dream is no longer some far-off future. It’s already here, and it’s already impacting how learners absorb instructional material.

Walter Shirmacher, of Innovative Learning Group, presented “The Real Reality of Virtual Reality.” He began with a brief history of VR, which spans back farther than you probably realize.

For instance, did you know that we can trace virtual reality back to the panoramic paintings of the 19th century? The paintings, which were larger than life and spanned farther than a person’s range of view, sought to make the viewer feel like they were transported into the art piece.

It’s fascinating stuff, but what does it have to do with learning?

Well, it turns out that those painters were trying to get at what learning VR developers are working toward today: immersion. The main draw of virtual reality is that when you’re strapped in, you feel like you’re almost there, wherever “there” may be. And that’s a major benefit for learners.

The closer your learning comes to replicating the “real deal,” whether that’s “on the job” or in the operating room, the more likely your learner is to correctly replicate the desired action in real life.

This was exemplified in an example Walter shared with the attendees–an emergency room simulator, which places the learner in the shoes of a doctor in an operating room. It sounds impressive, but you may wonder how that’s any better than any regular, in-person simulation.

Well, consider this: not only is this a good case of asynchronous learning–that is, the learner can do it on their own time without an instructor–but it also provides opportunities that would be impossible in real life.

The OR simulation provides on-screen text instructions to walk the learner through the operating process. It also quizzes the learner, who is more likely to make mistakes–and learn from those mistakes–in a low-stakes environment.

Obviously, there’s a lot to love about incorporating virtual reality into your learning. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. As Shirmacher pointed out, virtual reality poses many challenges that you don’t see in other learning media. For instance, incorporating interactivity such as branching scenarios compounds development time, meaning you have to devote many more resources to these projects than other learning projects.

Another trick to virtual reality is getting the experience exactly right; something as simple as modelling the learner’s in-environment hands incorrectly can ruin the immersion completely, jolting your learner out of the experience. Nobody wants that.

While VR is growing more accessible and easier to use–see consumer-grade VR products such as the Gear 360 and Google Cardboard–for the sake of the learning experience, it’s still best that you leave your virtual reality eLearning projects to the developers who have professional experience developing them.

Following these trends will pay big dividends for learner engagement – millennial and multimedia lovers alike. The goal is to create a memorable learning experience that keeps learners focused and captivated.

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