Interactive Video Strategies for eLearning

One way to promote engagement within a course is to present your learners with a scenario which requires them to respond to the story, and actively seek out the information they desire.


Video is a powerful medium for accomplishing this, but the narrative of the clip can’t be linear to provoke a response from the viewer; it needs to be interactive.


What’s Interactive Video?


In its historical form, a video clip is passive. While the imagery and sound may stimulate an emotional or intellectual response, the storyline simply plays from its start to its pre-determined finish. There’s no opportunity for the viewer to react in a manner that affects the narrative or influences the action.


As a component in eLearning, standard video sequences tend to be more of a break from the main course – something for learners to sit through, then ask or answer questions about, afterwards.


With interactive video, the narrative is branched rather than linear. At certain points during the story, viewers can touch or click on a button or “hot spot” which appears on the screen, in response to a question or problem posed by one of the characters. Or they might choose an option that takes the story in a different direction.


This is accomplished at the planning and design stage, when the video creators shoot alternative scenes to reflect the choices corresponding to a range of learner reactions. These additional storylines sit like invisible layers on the main narrative, and the buttons or hot spots indicating each decision point or question are presented as an overlay on the screen of the video player.


A Self-Determined Outcome


Interactive video responds to the natural need of the digital generation to take an active part in their multi-media experiences. Desktop software, mobile apps, and Web portals aren’t passive environments; they won’t help you achieve your goals if you don’t interact with them in some way. And this attitude is extending to the materials we watch for information and entertainment.


By providing multiple outcomes to an ongoing narrative, and opportunities for the viewer to decide the path they take through a story, interactive videos turn the watching of a clip into an active exercise. Tools may also be included which allow the video authors to record the choices made and responses given by a range of viewers. This has obvious implications for education, and interactive video is currently being used for corporate training, consumer education, and eLearning.


There are also commercial applications of the technology, with interactive videos used for marketing, e-commerce, and visual storytelling.


A Layered Approach


Choices and alternative paths are at the heart of an interactive video experience, and it’s often necessary to shoot several minutes of footage for each minute of the narrative, to accommodate the various possibilities raised by different viewer responses.


In a typical scenario, the clip plays and at certain intervals a transparent overlay is used to indicate that an object on-screen may be clicked or tapped on. The viewer may ignore this invitation – in which case the main storyline proceeds unchanged. But if they exercise their right to click or tap, the learner may be presented with a range of outcomes, including:


  • Click and Collect: Choosing the highlighted object may add it to the learner’s store of collected items (Treasure Chest, Shopping Cart, Tool Kit, etc.). A gamification strategy may be in operation here, with points or merits for collecting objects of high value. Clicking may also trigger an alternative scene which takes the story in a direction that relates to the collected items.
  • Explore for More: Often presented as a question or dilemma, this choice may occur at points in the narrative where crucial or influential decisions can be made – typically based on information or skills acquired up to this point, and leading on to related information, or knowledge in greater depth.
  • Click and Quiz: This option usually indicates a brief pause in the main action, to assess the learner’s progress and skills acquisition up to this point. Depending on the results they achieve, the narrative may continue to the next scheduled topic, or loop back to provide opportunities for the learner to improve on areas where their skills or knowledge may be lacking.

Quiz answers on page

Interaction, Feedback, and Optimisation


With several potential paths available at points throughout a story, and a large body of learners taking the course, there’s plenty of scope for gathering information on the viewers’ interactions, responses, and decisions.


If you use a proprietary system, the interactive video software may have its own tools for aggregating and recording this data. Alternatively, the system may include application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow user interaction data to be fed into the learning analytics systems of your LMS (Learning Management System), Web analytics platform, customer relationship management (CRM) solution, or marketing automation suite.


Information like how many learners chose to view required course content, how long they spent on each exercise, their performance on quizzes, popular and unpopular choices, and the overall level of learner success may be determined, together with feedback gathered on the course itself. This data can be used to improve the presentation and design of the next version of your interactive video component.


Some Design Considerations

Budget timeline


  • Plan and Budget, for the Time and Extra Footage Required: With your overall course structure and learning objectives in mind, you should be in a position to map out at which points in your main story the question and decision markers should occur. You’ll then need to decide on the alternatives most likely to benefit your learners – and how choosing them should play out, in video terms.
  • Consider an Off-the-Shelf Solution: There are third-party interactive video applications available, which have templates and guidelines to reduce the workload in tying your alternative storylines together. It may be worth considering these if your in-house video editing skills are lacking, or you don’t have the budget to hire a professional consultant.
  • Format Your Videos for a Range of Devices: Learners won’t be confined to desktop or laptop systems, so your interactive video output will need to be accessible from a range of mobile devices including smartphones and tablets.
  • Shop Around for A Versatile Player Window: Some commercially available video software includes player windows with in-built layering and button-making functionality for eLearning and marketing applications. But several also come with in-built advertising. So be careful.






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