ACM Logo  An ACM Publication  |  CONTRIBUTE  |  FOLLOW    

Amplify the Power: Five reasons to use interactive video

By Louise Pasterfield / December 2015

Print Email
Comments Instapaper

Using interactive video for corporate learning.

We adore video, we can't get enough of it, and there's no sign of our passion for it dwindling any time soon. According to research by Cisco, video will make up 80 percent of consumer internet traffic by 2019 [1].

As you might expect, music videos, comedy clips, and movie trailers are the most frequently watched content, but research suggests people also turn to video when they want to learn something. A global survey of video consumption found that 29 percent of respondents watched tutorials and "how to" videos alongside entertainment content [2].

Video has advantages beyond popularity. It can inspire, engage, enhance storytelling, add authenticity, and assist with mastery [3]. But it remains a passive experience; watch and learn. Enabling people to actively participate with video, make choices, and get involved can turn it into a more powerful learning tool.

Types of Interactive Video

What do we mean by interactive video? In its simplest form it is video content that requires the viewer to participate with it. There are a variety of ways to achieve this interactivity:

  • Branching. Viewers have to make a series of choices, usually about what happens next in the story. There are multiple paths and outcomes.
  • Hotspots or tagging. The video includes clickable links to further information. These could be highlighted with a visual tag or hidden away, so viewers only find them by exploring.
  • Multi-view. The video is shot from a number of viewpoints, allowing the story to be seen from different perspectives.

Benefits in Learning

Interactive video is popping up all over the business world in marketing, advertising, shopping and, of course, entertainment. It's also gaining traction within workplace learning. Video is already a big trend in the corporate learning sector with 98 percent of organizations expected to use it in their digital learning strategy by 2016 [4]. Only a small proportion of corporate learning video is currently interactive, but this is set to change as the benefits are more widely recognized. Here are five reasons to use interactive video in learning.

It's highly engaging. Keeping learners engaged remains the Holy Grail of corporate learning. Mandatory compliance courses in particular can suffer from the accusation of being dull and boring. Interactive video is a learner-centric, active experience that relies heavily on storytelling so learners are much more likely to feel engaged with the content [5].

It's easily gamified. Interactive video relies on the viewer being in control and making decisions about what happens on screen next. It's easy to gamify these choices and create a game-based learning experience with points for optimum decisions, badges to reward achievement, and a final score.

It's compatible with authoring tools. You don't need a specialist tool to create interactive video for learning. Most popular e-learning authoring tools allow video content to be added or imported. It's also possible to use the built-in functionality of authoring tools to create interactions in video such as branching and hotspots.

It's fully trackable. One of the challenges for businesses using interactive video for marketing has been the inability to track customer interactions. But this problem is easily overcome if the interactive video is integrated with a learning management system (LMS). This makes it straightforward to collect data on learner choices and other information.

It's mobile-friendly. Video and mobile go hand in hand; more than half of all views on YouTube come from mobile devices [6]. Given this link, interactive video is a good choice for organizations wishing to connect with their learners through mobile content.

Key Considerations

Creating interactive video for the workplace requires a different approach compared to a standard e-learning project. There are both design and technical challenges to overcome, and you may find you need to collaborate much more than normal. Some key considerations include:

Finding the right team. Almost everyone has a cell phone that can film good quality video so there is a temptation to take a DIY approach to interactive video. Of course, there are people who are great film-makers, instructional designers, and developers rolled into one, but the chances are a successful interactive video project will require a multi-disciplined team. Seek out the best people for each role and appoint an overall director.

Developing a strong narrative. This is the most critical part of the process. The story has to be compelling so people are engaged and want to find out what happens next. It also needs some tension and points in the story where decisions must be made. Make sure you include an interaction as early as possible in the story that way learners are engaged from the outset.

Options for filming. There are several considerations when it comes to filming. Will you engage a professional filmmaker or shoot in house? Will the video be shot from a single point of view or multiple perspectives? Are you going to use actors or willing amateurs? The choice you make will depend on the learning objectives and budget available for the project, but agreeing upon the filming strategy upfront will save time and effort.

Using branch mapping. Interactive videos include many interactions with variable outcomes so you need a way of managing the complexity. Branch mapping is a familiar instructional design tool and it works really well for an interactive video project.

Post-production. Once all the filming is completed the next stage of the creative process gets underway. It can take longer than you think to identify and edit the best clips and create the interactive structure around them. Make sure you budget enough time and resources for the post-production process or your interactive video will fall flat.

Gamifying. If you are gamifying your interactive video you need to design for a game experience from the very beginning-don't add gamification as an afterthought. Think about the look and feel of the game, the scoring and reward system, visual feedback, and replay options.

Test for mobile. Where mobile use is important, make sure you thoroughly test out the interactive video on as many different devices as you can get your hands on. Also, think about bandwidth variations and how they might impact the learning experience.

Film quality. Poor video quality can put learners off and negate the impact of the video. But most interactive video projects will have to balance concerns about film quality with the reality of time and budget. A good rule of thumb is to produce the best quality footage possible, even if that means creating shorter clips.

Interactive Video Examples

There are some great examples to inspire those hoping to introduce interactive video into their learning approach.

"Lifesaver" This interactive film by the Resuscitation Council (UK) teaches people how to perform CPR by putting them in the heart of a crisis.

"Our World War" The BBC produced this interactive episode as part of coverage to mark the centenary of the start of the first World War.

"Choose a Different Ending" This is a YouTube film created for the UK's Metropolitan Police to raise awareness of knife crime and the risks to young people.

"Can you Manage Difficult Conversations?" Dealing with a difficult work conversation is the subject of this interactive learning video for managers. (Sign in required.)

In summary, video and interactivity are two stalwarts of e-learning. They are regularly used in online learning because they engage employees and help them learn. But when combined their power is amplified and we are only just starting to recognize the potential of interactive video as a learning technology.


[1] Cisco. Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2014-2019. White Paper. May 27, 2015.

[2] Interactive Advertisign Bureau (IAB). Mobile Video 2015: A global perspective. Presentation. 2015.

[3] The University of Queensland, Australia. Insitute for Teachign and Learning Innovation. Video for teaching and learning.Pedagogical Benefits.

[4] Ambient Insight. The 2012-2017 Worldwide Mobile Learning Market. December 2013

[5] Clothier, P. Interactive Video: The Next Big Thing in Mobile. Learning Solutions Magazine. October 28, 2013.

[6] YouTube. YouTube Statistics. 2015.

About the Author

Louise Pasterfield has more than 20 years' experience of working on learning solutions for private and public sector global organizations. Her passion is how to make learning absorbing so staff can apply what they have learned immediately into the workplace. She is the Managing Director at Sponge UK. Sponge UK is the Elearning Awards 2015 gold winner of Outstanding Learning Organisation and the 2014 gold winner of Elearning Development Company of the Year.

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than the author(s) must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from [email protected]

2015 Copyright © ACM. 1535-394X/15/12-2856391 $15.00


  • There are no comments at this time.