Harnessing the power of 360° video

In our first post on 360° video, we explored some of the practicalities and opportunities this exciting tech could have in digital learning. In the second part of this series, Kathryn Nixon looks in more depth at how 360° video could be used in an intelligent and exciting way in learning solutions.

360° video is big business these days. As the tech becomes more accessible (think Google Cardboard) and platforms optimise (Youtube, Vimeo, Twitter etc.), it's suddenly far easier to share, view and create this kind of content. And that means it’s already being used in many different ways.

Of course, the marketing guys have latched on to 360° video (and VR) – for them it’s just another way to communicate brand stories with a twist.

And if you're buying a house, you may have been offered a 360° video tour of your potential new abode... (Sorry estate agents but I will need to see that damp patch IRL before I buy.)

It's also being used in sports coverage with golf and football giving viewers access to events in 360°– and here it might actually add value, to see that goal/tackle/feigned head-butt or double bogey from all angles.

But you might be forgiven for thinking that the current trend for 360° video is well – a bit of a gimmick: a quick way to create a bit of hype. Perhaps you might think about the hype a few years ago for 3D films, which has now declined, with TV manufacturers recently announcing they are ceasing production of 3D TVs.

So when you're thinking about how it could be used in digital learning, and how that affects the new skills learning designers like myself might need, it's probably natural to feel well, a bit wary.

Because as digital learning creators, we know we're already in a world where our audience has the tendency to be sceptical (yes, I'm being honest here – our learners often don't come to our solutions with an open mind!)

That means we have to be really careful how we adopt new technologies to avoid being tagged with the gimmick label or, worse, complete disengaging our learners.

The first part of this series gave you a real practical insight into the best ways that our learners could experience 360° video, so now I'm going to build on that analysis and suggest some ways that 360° video could be used to add real value to our learning experiences and the types of subject areas where it could really come into its own.

1. Start with a bang

Often when it comes to our learning solutions, we want to take our learners on a journey – not just literally i.e. from the first topic to the last, but emotionally too. Creating that link is the first step to embedding behaviour change.

We often want to start that journey with some attention grabbing content that really gets our learners fired up and engaged.

When I was researching for this blog, I looked at a range of different ways people have been using 360° video. The Diageo piece mentioned in our first blog is no doubt a powerful experience and undoubtedly creates a strong emotional response.

I think that part of the success of this experience is the physicality of it. You feel like you're in those cars and with those people, and you see first-hand the impact of their behaviours. It's visceral.

It's the kind of hard-hitting approach that you could imagine working really well in health and safety courses, for example. A course could start with the learner immersed in an emergency fire situation; they're in a group and they need to find a safe way out of a building, the flames are rising…

Situations where your physical surroundings AND human interactions are paramount seems to me a great way to utilise 360° video. And you could consider limiting the perspective they have for added effect. Perhaps you can't actually look around you to see the fire because you're crushed in the crowd to get out. It would be scary, and learners would remember it.

Think about management skills or leadership training. Imagine if you could be transported into a situation where you could experience a real life conversation or presentation situation – perhaps you could look around the room and see all the different ways people might be engaging with you: from falling asleep, to looks of derision. What impact would starting a course by submerging your learner in their worst case scenario have?

2. To understand the world is to see it from every angle

The second key use that 360° video could have is in the notion of sharing perspectives. For me the idea that you could shoot a video from a different view point (say different characters) and then give the learner the chance to experience the same scene from each of those different points of view could be really powerful.

One of our key aims with this kind of learning is generating empathy. It's a term bandied about a lot in the corporate world but a simple way to do it is to get people to experience different perspectives to their own.

It makes me immediately think of diversity and inclusion training. What would it feel like to experience discrimination or bias at work? Imagine literally being able to put the learner in another person's shoes.

Some of the best 360° video I looked at was work from RYOT. They've created some brilliant mini documentaries such as Bashir's Dream and The Exhumation. In each of these, although they're not shot from the perspective of the person speaking, you are completely transported into their worlds. It's incredible to feel as if you are moving in the same space as the narrators and seeing what they see or how they live. And that kind of experience creates empathy. And empathy changes behaviour.

The power of 360° video is in telling these kinds of stories. The journalist who made the ground breaking Welcome to Aleppo, where you can move through the war ravaged streets of the Syrian City said in an interview, “I would say that VR [he includes 360° video in this term] is an expansive media and should be used for stories that demand scope and demand epic visualisation.”

And I agree. It shouldn't be used lightly, but for powerful, sensitive subjects where we want to open learners up to new experiences or perspective, where it can be incredibly valuable.

3. Make it pop*
(*with caution)

As I said at the start, the last thing you want to do is turn the learner off by using 360° video where it doesn’t really have a real purpose, other than to frustrate the learner!

So I say this cautiously… but I think in small doses, as our first blog highlighted, chunks of 360° video could add a real richness to some kinds of learning solution. Content like product knowledge could benefit from short 20 second videos where you can explore a product from every angle – and it wouldn’t need to be viewed with a headset either – desktop would suffice, using a mouse to navigate.

Imagine you want to evoke a certain mood or strong sense of environment – a few short videos – perhaps utilising cinemagraphs could work really well to create a sense of atmosphere and get the leaner into a curious, exploratory mood – a great way to approach learning.

In closing…

So hopefully both of these blogs have fired your imagination and got you thinking about how 360° video could feature in your next piece of stellar digital learning. And at the least, I hope it’s prompted you to get a google cardboard (or similar device) and take 10 minutes to experience some of the content that’s out there at the moment.

Because let’s face it, it’s probably here to stay and it could open up a whole new way of learning, working and succeeding.