Mark’s entire academic career was carved around video and multimedia for learning through his study of visual anthropology. His company, See Learning Films, was set up not only to create high quality video for learning, but to actively contribute to the discussion on how the medium can best serve learners. As well as creating video, he also teaches people how to shoot and edit their own video content in-house.
In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?
It’s a fascinating time for L&D as there’s such a visible push against the ‘status quo’. It feels like the entire culture of learning is being challenged at the moment – in a good way. Some organisations are reacting against ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches, others are trying to nurture a sense of autonomy in their learners alongside on-demand, person-centric technology and device-based learning, others are defending the importance of face-to-face learning, and of course many are looking at the mix.
Amidst all that, they are faced with the same questions along engagement and measurement. I’m not convinced that question will ever go away, it will always be an anxiety, and in many ways we need it to (hopefully!) keep moving forward.
Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?
It’s the people I work with on a day-to-day basis, and the friendships I’ve developed within the industry since setting up See Learning. These people are inspiring – from charities and organisations like Brandon Trust, Addaction, Charity Learning Consortium, and PTHR, across to corporates such as Kantar, Virgin, BP, Pluralsight, and BT; I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, and/or get to know people, who are truly passionate about what they do, who feel like they are genuinely living into their purpose of helping people to develop and learn; but in the process are loving the journey of learning and developing themselves.
These people work to hugely different budgets, with very different environments and learners. They inform my thinking because I see them delivering amazing initiatives, breaking from the ‘norm’, and often kicking their ideas outside of any kind of vacuum in order to share, learn, and generally keep pushing the boundaries of L&D.
What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?
Naturally, I’m going to say video! Now, people might say that video isn’t an innovation in learning, especially considering L&D has embraced the power of video since the 1970s.
We are just starting to learn how to use it properly and this is because it’s accessibility has shifted from ‘ off-the-shelf’ towards bespoke content that is relevant to a specific organisation. This is a huge deal for organisations.
Video tends to be an afterthought – we often come to it once the core learning content has been created, and often simply create a longwinded video version of that content. This is not where the power of video lies.
The innovative aspect of video in learning begins with understanding it as being central to the design of the wider content: how it links to, layers, and nuances with that content. It is how the content plugs in with, and accentuates other technologies.
Prior to coming into L&D, what attracted me to film, photography, and multimedia as a visual anthropologist, was the power of creating emotionally engaging content that people can learn from. If we can achieve that, we can deepen the connection between the content and the learner, and so there is a greater sense of proximity.
What “game changers” would you like to see and why?
My answer is a bit of a continuation of the previous one – we are right slap bang in the middle of the game-changer I’d like to see. The game changer lies in organisations having the power to create more of their own dynamic content – be that gamification, video, or simply embracing those miraculous audio-visual content creation machines we carry around in our pockets – the smartphone!
This isn’t just about getting the video professionals in, but empowering people to shoot content in-house themselves. We increasingly see organisations like J P Morgan, BP, BT, and MacDonald’s encouraging their staff to film stories and how-to videos from their own experiences and insights that can help others. That’s special. That’s saying to people, “we want to learn from you as an individual”.
The ability to create affordable, authentic and bespoke content that is relevant to a given organisation is a relatively new thing. We don’t need a celebrity or an actor to tell us about time management or health and safety. Sometimes actors are amazing for certain kinds of videos, but what matters is authenticity and expertise. We would never send an actor to deliver core learning content in a training room, so why do we do it in training videos?
What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?
I keep hearing how many L&D departments exist on the lower rungs of an organisation’s ‘investment ladder’. I would like to think this will change over the next 5 years. Organisations are becoming more people-focused than ever before and as this happens, I’d like to think that L&D will attract more investment. I also think that L&D will continue to move towards delivering learning around individuals as opposed to generic solutions.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
I was 21 when I started the long path I swore I’d take from turning my 3 GCSEs into a PhD in visual anthropology – so I wouldn’t really change anything there as it taught me anything is possible. It’s the 16 year old self I’d rather have a stern chat with and tell him to stop dossing about and start trying to fulfil his potential sooner rather than later!
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