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All Posts by Fred Cutler

Video for Quality, Compliance, and Safety in Field Operations and Training

Everybody knows how effective video can be for learning about complex business processes, equipment, and field operations. Most manufacturers of equipment provide carefully produced videos so operators can train at their own pace and review the video anywhere, anytime. 

Videos with “dos” and “donts” are great for promoting safety in your operations. 

BUT there are other, newer ways that businesses are starting to use video to make training more effective, ensure safety, and improve quality, especially in field operations.

Here are three of the key things they’re doing. 

1. Training

Not what you’re thinking. Sure, training videos are important, but that’s expected nowadays. Many organizations still haven’t realized the true power that comes from video now that we all have amazing smartphone cameras. 

Given the cost of training employees, it’s painful to see them retain only part of the information and ultimately forget much of it in just a couple of weeks. Even when employees really internalize the training, in many situations managers can’t even check the quality of their work unless they are right there in person as the work is being done. Add continuous retraining into the mix and monitoring employees’ performance gets really tough.

 Some cutting-edge business are using video for training in three, slightly more advanced ways:

  1. Training videos are presented with questions embedded in them and the opportunity for the trainees to ask questions and dialogue about what they’re watching. The engagement really goes up, so the information sticks.
  2. When the training is about equipment operation or fieldwork or client relations, the trainees' own phone cameras can record the their training practice exercises and instructors or managers can give feedback. After getting feedback, the trainees try again and upload a new, better performance of the task. That’s how people learn best; the people who study this kind of learning call it deliberate practice.
  3. Videos are truly effective in these programs when the tasks and skills are used on-the-job almost immediately. So when the training is over, it’s even more important to make sure the workforce is doing things right.  They can self-record in the field, doing the job, and the feedback process happens again. We know this sounds like a lot of work, but how much time and money would you save if your people didn’t make mistakes out there in the field with equipment or with customers?

2. Compliance with Legislative and Industry Standards

Videos can be used to help educate employees about relevant laws and policies that apply to their jobs and to the business as a whole. And then, when they’re able to film themselves doing their job (occasionally), you get a built-in audit of compliance with legal obligations. The same goes for employees obeying company and industry policies, and even legal requirements. Lots of employees say they’re unaware of some of the requirements of the job and this can be extremely dangerous. Video can help a lot. If you can improve compliance, you’ll get better safety, customer satisfaction, and it’ll boost your bottom line.

You can even create a mix-tape to use in marketing and sales, showing how great your employees are. 

3. Monitoring the Quality of Work Out in the Field

One of the problems facing field technicians and operators is that they don’t have great communication with their managers and peers due to the nature of their job. They’re out in the field, on job sites, and dealing with customers independently. 

Problems arise when they encounter something they don’t know, or they're simply not doing the job well enough. As a manager you can ask them to record clips as they perform some key responsibilities. Then you use new, user-friendly software tools to point out specific details where they need to do things differently. Managers can even record a video-comment, showing how to do it better. Similarly, if operators encounter a machine or a situation that they don’t have much knowledge about, they can communicate asynchronously (not in real time -- just like email and texting) with managers and other field technicians to get input on the best way forward. 

Imagine a coffee barista who follows all the right steps to make a latte, but when he gives the customer the coffee, he doesn’t do so enthusiastically. Instead, he looks like he’s dreading every second of being in the job. Obviously this can threaten the cafe's reputation and push customers away. What if the employee filmed himself for a couple of minutes and the manager saw the issue clearly. A manager might catch this in store, but might be too busy to notice or hesitant to bring it up. With a video, you can spot the mistake and correct the employee gently, constructively, and in a detached way rather than in the heat of the moment. It’s amazing how much video convinces people they aren’t doing things as well as they could. Most of the time we know what we should be doing and don’t realize that we’re not doing it!

It's really hard to monitor field operations. In cases where technicians and operators have limited connectivity you may only be able to talk to them at the end of the day, or in more severe cases, after a few days. Video is the answer. Phone video recording, uploading later when there’s connectivity, opens up countless quality-assurance and process-improvement opportunities for these field jobs. The sharing of videos quickly creates a network of priceless information which could facilitate future onboarding processes as well as promoting safety and quality. 

“How can I introduce video comprehensively into my business?”

The obvious starting point is to simply ask your employees to use their phones to record themselves during particular parts of their work and then send them to you (e.i. Using texting apps, Google Drive, YouTube, or email). But that sounds like a tech nightmare. YouTube or email might be a quick solution to start with if you have five to ten videos, but it would quickly become a jungle to manage if you really use video with a sizable workforce. Finding, commenting on, and archiving these videos just isn’t practical using Email and YouTube, and it's only slightly better with shared cloud file storage (Dropbox).

Another possibility would be to have your employees use a portable storage device such as a USB or an SD card with the video in it. But that just seems really old-fashioned and inefficient. 

And with these workaround methods you also don’t have the option to comment on specific moments during the video.

Businesses that want to take advantage of these three new ways of using video for training, safety, and quality improvement should use cloud video software designed for this purpose.

Some of the options are WeVu, GoReact, Bongo, Bridge Practice, Rehearsal.com, Vosaic, and Acclaim

WeVu is probably the best value for money, the most flexible, and easy to use. WeVu lets you organize videos, keep them private to the right people, and put comments right on the timeline of the video using text or audio or video for the comments. And you can even mark up and comment on images and pdfs.

Managers can decide what videos are available to whom and can change these settings at any point. Once uploaded, they’re stored in secure cloud servers and will always be available to whoever has access, but they key thing is that you control who has access to which video playlists and submission folders. You’ll be able to combine your own training videos with a space for your employees to upload their own recordings. They’ll get powerful feedback on their work and continuously improve the quality of their daily activities.  Managers might even be tempted to work at home -- giving pointed, effective feedback while enjoying a nice cup of coffee (in their pajamas).

Seven Different Reasons Why All Skills Learning will Rely on Video in Just a Few Years

So much education is about hands-on skills, from the skilled trades to health professions to the arts and beyond. Obviously, students learning these skills are given opportunities to learn by doing, but one key technology is now starting to be used so students learn their skills better, faster, and have more confidence. That technology isn’t fancy virtual reality or something powered by AI. It’s just video, but it’s video that’s recorded on students’ own phones. We used to think video in education was about watching how things are done. That’s 90's technology and pedagogy. Now, video for education has been flipped upside-down so its real power is students recording themselves to see how they’re doing and how they can do better. This isn’t catching on quickly, but eventually every skills learner will be self-recording for reflection and feedback.

This is all part of the skills revolution in pedagogy and getting past The Content Bias in Edtech, as we wrote in a recent post.

Here are seven reasons why EVERY skills program -- from nursing to welding to music to business presentations --  will be using student-recorded video in a few years.  

But first, a question:

If you’re in hospital and a just-graduated nurse is operating a new pump to keep fluids or medication flowing into you at the right rate… Would you rather the new nurse had:

  1. Passed a written test on operating the pump; or
  2. Done a rushed simulation in person once with an instructor watching and giving some written feedback; or
  3. Practiced many times on the pump while self-recording on a phone, reflected on what could be done better, then got peer and instructor feedback, and then tried again and received the instructor’s stamp of approval. 

I know what my answer would be.

Reason 1: Effectiveness

Evidence is now beginning to pile up in favor of students’ self-recording, watching, and reflecting, and getting feedback from their expert instructors. We see this in studies in Nursing and other health professions education (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). The results are similar in education for skilled trades (here), in teacher education and school leadership (here, and here), and in client relations and presentations (here, here, here. and here). 

For one thing, we’re human and a lot of the time we don’t believe we’re doing something wrong until we see it. We heard from a young Dentistry professor, teaching Master’s-level dental students a specialty procedure, that her students regularly deny that they have made a little mistake operating on a plastic model. Then they see the video, swallow their pride (pun intended), and admit they need to practice it again to do it better.

Educational research shows that being a self-regulated learner, capable of honest reflection and taking feedback to heart, makes a big difference in skills learning. When video recording is done with buy-in from learners, not only does the performance of that particular skill improve, but they also learn how to self-regulate so that all of their learning becomes more effective.

Finally, there can be no doubt that practice makes perfect. But how much practice? Almost every skills educator will tell you that their students don’t practice enough. Why? Because there’s no teacher or trainer looming over them to watch them practice. But with phone video and cloud storage that just doesn’t apply any more. If you want students to practice, tell them to practice, self-record, and upload. Instructors don’t have to watch every minute; they just have to know that it’s being done. We even think this applies to youth sports – kids and parents are so competitive, why don’t they demand that the coach assigns homework?!?

Despite greater effectiveness… Unfortunately in education effectiveness doesn’t always drive curriculum and technology decisions. That’s because it’s so hard to measure effectiveness. So we need to look at other reasons why all skills learning will use student-recorded video in a few years’ time.

Reason 2: Cost

Students don’t have someone watching them practice in person enough. It simply costs too much. There isn’t time for teachers to be there. So self-recording while practicing or demonstrating skills is a huge cost-saver.

Part of this is that in-person assessment and feedback takes a lot more time than the actual performance of the skill. Probably double the time.

Take a nursing student doing a head-to-toe exam. Doing a role-play with another student, this takes about 10 minutes. But getting into the room, getting into position, starting and finishing takes about another 5. If the instructor has time to give feedback, it probably takes another 5, as the student takes notes.

If the students self-record and upload, the instructor doesn’t have to leave the office. The 10 minute video can be watched and feedback given in about 12 minutes, maybe even in less than 10 minutes, skipping forward or playing at a faster speed, with a few feedback points given at the exact moments in the video.  

That’s a 40% savings in the instructor’s time. That time is a lot of money.

Skills programs are eventually going to recognize this because they’ll be able to properly teach more students with the same resources and produce better learning. The economics of not using video just don’t add up any more.

Reason 3: Accessibility

We know that video breaks barriers of time and space. In this case, it means that students and instructors don’t have to be in the same place at the same time. It isn’t just online programs that are wanting to make learning accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime; even on-campus programs want to make learning more accessible for students, including those with work or family commitments, or cost barriers to travel and accomodation.

Being able to do a skill, get feedback, and get assessed on it, from a distance, makes skills learning far more accessible. Even when the skills need to be learned in a specific context with equipment or materials provided by the school, students may be able to access them at times when instructors aren’t there (evenings!) and use video to get feedback. And think of skills that need to be learned on-location, in the field, like fitting valves on a pipeline. Video can make this far more accessible and cost-effective.

We heard a student in a French class at UBC in Vancouver say that recording her own skill (a presentation) “allowed me to create a presentation that I did not have to present in front of an entire class. I could record it at home, which meant I did not have to find childcare for my son, which I would have if we had presented in office hours. I still got the practice and feedback from my prof.”

Reason 4: Changing learner needs and demands

Every educator knows that students are less passive than they used to be. They are demanding that they graduate with competence and confidence in the skills they’re learning. At the same time, employers need specific, repeatable skills less than in the past. So employers and learners want programs to produce students with a great feel for the various skills in their professional domain. That means students are demanding more practice. They’re choosing programs based in Competency-based Learning.

Students and educators are also making learning more social than it ever has been. Group work, team-based learning, peer-review and peer-instruction are all finding their way into curriculum and classes. Students have more agency and more creativity in this context.  Since video is now such a ubiquitous and cheap mode of documenting learning and communicating, it seems natural that students will want to have a video camera in their hands to show that they’ve learned and to make original contributions to knowledge and dialogue. Quite simply, the evolving expectations of learners over the next fifty years will mean that they will ask for ways to show what they can do and get feedback from their teachers.

Reason 5: Changing teaching culture

Gradually, the cultures of teaching and course design are meeting students new expectations. Teachers, professors, instructors, trainers now want to see their students develop skills and confidence. Look at it this way: almost no new teachers, at any level, are content to do what was done to them and just talk at students and give papers and exams. They are now noticing all the educational research that shows learning involves deliberate practice with feedback, social support, agency, and modelling or mentorship from their teachers. Here’s the seminal article on deliberate practice by Anders Ericsson and colleagues.

Programs that are skills-heavy, especially the hands-on skills programs but also interpersonal skills programs, are noticing that their newer instructors are not afraid of students having a lot more control of their learning. Putting cameras in the hands of these learners makes sense to a new generation of teachers and course designers.

Reason 6: Rapidly changing technology

Skill programs, especially ones that involve the operation of technology, have to deal with the cost of that equipment. Think of a program in Automated Controls Installation and Maintenance. The technology they use must change all the time. Testing students using printed or even online materials would require a massive effort to keep up, year by year. But if students are simply operating the equipment and recording themselves, the assessment can be right to the point: Can the student do the job or do they need some coaching? The key here is that a student learns to operate equipment and solve problems in a given area, so it doesn’t even matter if the equipment is a bit out of date.

The student can then keep the video to show mastery of the skills to employers.

Reason 7: Badging and Blockchain for Qualifications

Which brings us to the final reason: Badging, Blockchain, Portfolios, AI and so on.

Resumes and interviews are dying out as employers look to hire hard-working, skilled, reliable people. In the software world most employers give extended problem-based tests to job-seekers. Other firms ask a candidate to come in for a day or a week and actually work.  Instead of resumes and interviews, employers are looking at Badges earned on short courses; ePortfolios showing the actual work that the person has done, including reflection on it; and various forms of network recommendations like LinkedIn.

What better way to prove that you can do something than by pointing an employer to video – hosted on your ePortfolio. Even better is if the course instructor or another expert has left comments and the student herself has reflected on the demonstration of competency. That shows humility, the ability to learn from coaching, and hopefully, that the learner mastered the technique.

HOW?

So how do you let students upload video assignments? Some of the big Learning Management Systems allow students to upload video, but they don’t really accommodate peer-learning or time-specific comments. For that you’ll need to go with these asychronous video tools:

  • WeVu – a very flexible, low-cost video platform for student-to-teacher and teacher-to-student video with groups, assignments, and time-specific annotations.
  • Bongo – a fully featured solution that includes structured question-and-answer assignments and grading with rubrics.
  • Practice.xyz – a solution for more structured challenges completed by learners and with guided peer feedback and upvoting.
  • Rehearsal – a more corporate-oriented solution where learners respond to video scenarios with their own video recorded on a webcam plus screencapture.

Education doesn’t move very fast in taking advantage of technological change to reinvent programs and curriculum. So it’ll take a few more years before all skills programs let learners learn from video of the learners themselves. I guess it took a while after the availability of paper and writing instruments for educators to shift from oral exams to written output, but it happened. Students could show that they could make an argument and communicate in an extended written form. Centuries later, smartphone video cameras and the cloud do something similar, breaking barriers of time and space for skills learning.

Ongoing Debriefing with Video for Health Simulation

You can get much more impact from your sims if you use video to let reflection, debriefing, and feedback take the time they need to sink in.

The power of simulation for learning has been clear for centuries. Even the mighty Roman military did simulations to make sure their armies were ready for battle. They also used simulation for soft skills so they could convince people in their conquered territories to be loyal citizens. (You’d never know this from Asterix, though.)

But the Romans didn’t have video to make debriefing happen powerfully anywhere across time and space. Now it’s so easy to record video, but the challenge is how to use it for simulation without breaking the bank — and how to break free of the constraints of using video recorded only on fixed cameras in a fancy simulation lab.

Finally, simulation in health professions is becoming mainstream. INACSL, the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation Learning has thousands of members and a big conference every year where simulation educators share knowledge and experiences. While simulation educators like high-fidelity, carefully scripted and organized simulations, there is a move to incorporate much more flexible, low-cost simulation and skills learning more frequently in nursing programs. This approach goes by a few names including “the frugal sim”, “low cost simulation”, “low-fidelity simulation”.  There’s even a site called lowcostsim.wordpress.com with plenty of advice for “Medical Simulation on a Shoestring.” The problem is that in places that need low cost simulation, video debriefing has been out of reach.

Simulation educators feel a tension between, on one hand, the high cost and logistical challenges of recording video, and on the other, the limited value of the video in a traditional debriefing where the participants gather immediately following the simulation. But this tension can be overcome with a slight change to how educators conceive of debriefing. 

Instead of a debriefing event, held in-person at one time, educators might think of a debreifing process that occurs as a dialogue over time and space. It includes not only facilitated debriefing, but “self-debriefing” reflection, which is just as effective. When debriefing is a process rather than an event, not only will it be more flexible, convenient and cheaper, but it will probably have a greater impact on learning. The Cloud has made this possible and now you could even say it’s easy. For quite a few years we’ve all been having discussions that are not in real time, using our devices: text messaging, Facebook, Slack, and even comments on Word or Google Docs.  That approach will work for simulation debriefing if we can just combine it with a video of the simulation. But can it be done in a low-cost simulation context?

Some of the simulation-specific video solutions, like EMS SimulationIQ, bundled with or an add-on to simulation equipment, are fairly expensive. Instead, low-cost sim educators should consider WeVu, a lightweight, inexpensive video system for education. WeVu allows recording with any camera, including webcams or phones, and then lets you share, make comments, and have a dialogue right along the timeline of the video.  With low-cost recording and an affordable video platform, debriefing happens over time and space. It’s more convenient and less taxing for educators and it has a bigger impact on learners, since they can take the time to consider how they’ve performed, get feedback, and ask questions about how to improve.

Here's how video works to make debriefing really stick

You would define the simulation or skills practice activity. Record with a laptop and webcam or an old smartphone on a little phone tripod (from Amazon). Make sure your audio is adequate – iphones are pretty good, some android phones are not bad, and a webcam with a speakerphone as the mic is probably best.

Tell your learners to use the top half of one page in Word and type their name in a bold, 48-point font, along with any other details like a student number. Then at the very start of each recording, your learners should hold up that half-page in front of the camera when the recording starts.

After all the simulations are done, you’ll just go to WeVu and upload them. You can then assign them to each learner’s own account and to an assignment (the names they held up on that sheet are on the thumbnail of the video in WeVu). Then you’re ready to ask them to self-debrief, reflecting on their performance in the simulation, which has been shown to really improve learning (here too). Instructors or coaches can go on and provide pointed feedback. Learners can then even ask questions along the video about how they can do better.

This even works for assigning students some skills practice. Tell them to record themselves or each other and then upload to the assignment you’ve defined in WeVu. It’s that easy. You’ll get all the submissions organized in one place and can watch some of it and give feedback. That will surely save time, as compared to waiting for students to file in and do the skills over and over in person. Learners will get feedback they can reflect on after the fact, rather than in the immediate aftermath of the simulation or skill exercise, when their hearts are still thumping too hard to benefit from the debrief. 

Step by Step Guide to cheap, effective video auditions for music and voice – Part 2

In this two part series, I provide a guide that helps you do an effective video audition for post-secondary music programs, on a budget. I’ll dive in to the differences in sound quality between premium recording equipment, dirt cheap audio recording, and the mic that’s on your iPhone. You will be guided through the step by step procedures of how to set up this equipment, buy or borrow it cheaply, and edit it quickly with great results.

Part 2: Video Best Practices and Audio-Video Synchronization 

In this two part series, we guide you to do an effective video audition for post secondary music programs, on a budget. We’ll dive in to the differences in sound quality between premium recording equipment, dirt cheap audio recording, and the mic that’s on your iPhone. You will be guided through the step by step procedures of how to set up this equipment, buy it cheaply, and edit it with speed.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to record your audio and video simultaneously through separate equipment. We’ll show you how to set up and record various audio equipment (Part One) and how to maximize your phone’s video camera (Part Two).

THINGS YOU WILL NEED

iPhone (or Android, or whatever other device you have for video).

Clean Room With a Window

Clutter will look unprofessional and could affect the room’s acoustics, colouring your tone in unpleasant ways.

Natural light beats artificial light when you’re on a shoestring budget so try to shoot in a room with a window.

Lamps and/or Daylight

Try to choose only white or yellow light and avoid blue light sources. When combined with daylight, white and/or yellow lights can give off a very professional and pleasant look.

Try to stagger your light sources height and length wise. For instance, combine your window with a lamp on a desk and a flood light on the floor.

Face towards your light sources and have the camera face away from them. You never want light coming from behind you in these videos.

Gig-Appropriate Attire

Most music schools require you to wear a full black suit to performances so dress business casual at least.

Something to Hold your Phone

Under no circumstances should you have another person holding your phone or even a good camera. The device MUST be stable. Everyone should have a mini flexible tripod for their phone, especially musicians. Here’s the Amazon.com search for “phone tripod”. They’re not indestructable, but they’re pretty good value for 12 dollars!

If you have a good camera and a real tripod, that’s a great alternative to the phone for the video.

Combining your Audio and Video

You’ve already read about how to get good quality audio recordings on the cheap in Part 1 of this series.

Import your audio and video both to iMovie. Leave the volume on your video untouched for the time being.

Line up the wavelengths from your video audio and your exported mp3/WAV audio that you recorded using your DAW. You’re basically just matching the pictures of the sound here so that they’re in sync.

Slide down your the video’s audio until it’s muted.

Watch through the whole video to see that your video is perfectly lined up with the audio from your DAW.

Finally, export your video as MP4 or .MOV to 720p or 1080p if possible. Some newer phones shoot in 4k- this won’t make your performance better and will make it exponentially longer to export.

Then, if you want to share your video in a secure way for others to comment on, sign up for your own private audition video hosting site at WeVu.video!

Click here for part 1 of this series to learn best practices on recording audio

We’re working on part 3, where we will compare the audio fidelity of cheap, mid-level, and premium recording setups.