Perils of 80s style training videos - Do you have research, blogs?

Oct 03, 2013

Ok I'm reaching out for my husband here. His company went through a 3rd party to develop training, which consisted of a 15 minute video. Yes, like the training videos from the 80s. First of all, I'm appalled that any company out there is still doing this, much less still in business. My husband said the audio was robotic, and at one point they got to watch a 5 minute video within the video. Oh boy. On top of that, it doesn't appear it will be used as part of an ILT class (which would only be the lesser of two evils). They want to sit new employees down and have them watch videos. I should mention, they seem to think the videos are pretty slick (in comparison I guess to the nonexistent training).

The good news is, it sounds like they are still in evaluation stage to see if they want to do two more "modules." Ben is going to provide feedback, but he wants to be able to back it up.

I want to help him save the learners from this disaster! What blogs, resources, research papers can you share on this topic? I'm so at a loss because nobody writes about this anymore because (I thought) nobody thought this was a good idea anymore!

Can you help us out? Thanks in advance!

8 Replies
Holly MacDonald

Rebekah, sadly I think many people have low expectations of corporate training. The passive nature of what you described is certainly not what we want our learners to experience. I'll do a bit of digging to see what I can find for you. 

I *just* saw this on twitter: (How People Learn). It's a 386 book, so not exactly a quick response, but I thought I'd share anyway.

Can you give us any insight into the industry he's in and/or the focus of the training? 


Rebekah Massmann

Thanks Holly! He's in the food manufacturing industry, but more specifically the lean manufacturing/continuous improvement/six sigma function. From what I understand, they have very particular types of meetings and procedures, so those will be the focus of the videos.

I do have some books I'm going to dig into to see what I can give him. I have a couple of Ruth Clark books, plus 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People, which has some cool stuff in it.

Holly MacDonald

Ok ,that's helpful, I think I'd focus on learning transference in terms of research: 

And of course the whole couched in the whole essence of Lean would give him some credibility - if the training itself isn't lean, then what's the point?

Hope that helps, I'm sure others will chime in too


Dave Neuweiler

I have a couple of thoughts on this...

First, it may be a difficult sell to persuade the owners (management) that the video is a "disaster." That's because video productions can easily run up to $3,000 per finished minute. There are a lot of production variables that drive cost, and I don't know what was involved here. But even if you consider $1,000 per minute, that's 15 grand that's already been spent on the training. You may see some resistance to suggested changes like, "we can't waste the money we've spent." And the larger the amount that was spent, the harder that'll be to overcome. You'll probably also get resistance to change because of "pride of ownership."

Second, video is just a delivery medium, the same as printed material or e-learning. So rather than dismiss the video because it's a video, I'd take a close look at in terms of instructional design. What are the objectives? Are the objectives met? Any learning can be boring, but if it fulfills the objectives, it's a harder argument to change it.

Third, I wouldn't go into a meeting to provide negative feedback without viable alternative suggestions in hand. The two things I'd shoot for are these. First, maintain the self-esteem of the people who planned and paid for the video. I know that sounds obvious, but it's real easy to slide down the slippery slope when giving feedback.

Second, try to find a way not to waste the money that's already been spent. If you want to propose e-learning instead, can portions of the video be edited and inserted into the e-learning?

I hope this helps!

Melanie Sobie

Here is a link to an article by Jane Bozarth that adds to what Dave is saying - did the video, even if it is bad, meet the performance objectives?  If no, that is a better argument for getting better training than critisizing the video because it was a boring 1980's style video.

Bruce Graham


At the risk of bursting your enthusiasm bubble here....MAYBE that is the culture of their company training, (good or bad...), and you will potentially destroy and goodwill to develop a long-term relationship with them if you try and immediately run over culture. I would absolutely LOVE to be able to convince every company to do "modern things", yet if they did, I would have no business left.

In my experience, most corporates are still like this, so let them be, and work with them over a long period to develop knowledge and achieve culture-change.

Have a look at this link, and then decide how you would work with them over the next 3-5 years to bring them to the here and now. I'm currently working with clients for whom video is a major culture change, and 98% of training is still based on reading paper things - AAAARRRGGGHHHH please don't write off the '80s so quickly and easily!


Rebekah Massmann

Thanks for the feedback, resources, and cautions!

I definitely agree that he shouldn't approach the situation from a negative place, or suggest they don't use the video they already developed. That's why he didn't immediately offer feedback right after it was shown.  What I'm hoping to help him help his company do is save future time and money from investing in more of the same. I believe they are in uncharted waters here. My understanding they don't currently have any formalized training in place (it's more like on-the-job training, working with the person next to you, etc.). If that's the case, the culture shift will happen regardless of what new training intervention is introduced.

Oh, and I should say, I've seen some really dynamic training videos, so I'm not trying to blast the medium in and of itself (which it may have sounded like because I was frustrated). However, my husband expressed that it was not well done. So that's a bummer.

Solid point about looking at the objectives, if they have them. I'm thinking the video could easily be combined with some ILT or e-learning for a nice blended solution. I'm not consulting with them though, just trying to help my husband show them some alternatives to consider before barreling into spending thousands of dollars on some videos that might not achieve the outcomes they are looking for.

Thanks again for your responses, they were very helpful!

Bruce Graham

You might want to approach this from the "70:20:10" model, very well understood - which basically says:

  • 70% of learning is through practice and on-the-job experiences
  • 20% of learning is through other people by exposure to coaching, feedback and networking and only
  • 10% of learning is through formal education-based learning interventions such as courses and reading - and videos.

That gives you/them the opportunity to set things in place that augment this and future videos.

Might be a way to move the whole thing forward?


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