Why Videos And Movies In eLearning Are Bad Idea?

Why Videos And Movies In eLearning Are Bad Idea?
Summary: There are many great examples of using movies as an e-learning tool. On the other hand many of our corporate clients have a lot of challenges with using this medium. How is that? Why good examples of using movies (such as TED, Lynda, Coursera, etc.) are not so easily transferable to corporate environment?

Videos And Movies In eLearning

I am not against videos and movies as a learning medium. In fact - in could be a very powerful tool of transferring knowledge, building skills, explaining something or influencing ones behaviors. There are a lot of great examples of using videos and movies:

  • just take a look at interactive movie LifeSaver explaining how to help people in critical situations or
  • check the best speeches on TED.com or
  • try one of the free Coursera courses or
  • or log in to Lynda.com and learn something new using movie as a primary source of wisdom.

Movies are great because they stimulate both of our brain's hemispheres and affect both hearing and sight senses. Especially the latter one impacts us during consumption of this medium. Movies are also a very expressive medium with a strong capabilities of building emotions among spectators. Such emotions reinforce the cognitive process.

Videos let us to meet and experience people and places we can't see in person - this feature creates out of them a truly egalitarian way of communication. Movies are also considered as a credible source of information - especially when they are narrated by people we trust.

It is also worth to remember that feature movies has a big power in 'by-the-way learning' process. While watching a movie we can learn a lot about the World, history, geography; we can learn how to react in certain situations. Movies has also strong influence on our behaviors, shape understanding of culture, let us understand other people, etc.

Business impact of this medium is very strong at this moment. There are a lot of reasons of this phenomenon - check this Video Brewery post to learn about 18 of them. They concern marketing industry but still tell a great story about benefits of using videos and movies in the training function.

What's Wrong With Video As A Medium?

Let's take a look at challenges in using videos and movies in corporate environment we usually notice while working with our clients.

ELI - Videos and movies in corporations


Videos are much heavier than content based on text, pictures and flash animations. We usually don't have a problem with this volume while using movies at home - our private networks are handling it. Many of of our clients, however, reported such a problem in corporate network. Corporate network is scaled to support transactional systems - there is a risk of jamming it if you push additional volume of massive video content to it.

Cost of development

Professional production of movies (or event simple videos) is much more expensive than development of 'typical' e-learning content. This is not a problem of equipment (the prices of it dropped down dramatically in the couple of last years) but rather of the process. Movie production requires much more time and effort during filming and post-production.

To fight with this challenge we can cut these costs by taking decision to prepare such a video material 'on-the-fly'. We can just create a simple video material with our smart-phone and put it into the e-learning course. If we don't take much care about its quality disadvantages connected with costs diminish.


It is much easier to make updates to static content (text, pictures) than to dynamic one (animation, movie, simulation). Sometimes, to make such an update of video material we have to produce it from the scratch. Such a risk should be taken into consideration during budgeting of e-learning project. If we anticipate rapid changes of information provided by video material it is worth to decide either for simpler delivery method (text, visual) or fast and cheap preparation of the movie ('on-the-fly' approach).


Usability of videos is being constantly improved. We have a progress bar, preview, full screen mode, transcription, tags, etc. All of these features, however, are not giving us such flexible and convenient mechanisms of skimming and searching of materials as we are provided by simpler content forms (texts and visuals). It is quite easy to skim a post like this in less then 15 seconds (all you have to do is to take a look at headings and mind-map). If I had prepared a video with the same message you should have spend here at least 2-3 minutes just to find out if this material is interesting for you or not.


Videos are also problematic due to access challenges. To consume them you have to be able to see and hear - which means you have to either be equipped with headphones or let the movie be audible in the whole space (room, office, shop, etc.). Even if you have headphones you have to focus both your sight and auditory senses on the movies - which means that you can't control your surroundings (eg. clients). If you work in the customer service business it is a real problem. It is even bigger if we take into account that consumption of such a movie will be probably interrupted many times which will dramatically affect the quality of the learning process.


Well - it is easy to prepare just any video material. All you have to do is to ask somebody to say something to the camera. Such 'taking head' materials, filmed with no preparation at all are usually boring. An average subject matter expert (especially unprepared) is not a TED speaker - not every person has something important to say; not everyone can do it with full engagement and passion. Bad videos, apart that they are not liked by trainees, also destroy confidence in e-learning within the organization.

What we can do?

We should remember about all of these corporate challenges of using videos and movies. Such a medium should be used in these situations which reinforces benefits and decreases barriers and threats. We should also prepare videos with proper engagement from all perspectives: subject matter, instructional design and development.