Film as a Training Method

Film in the Beginning

John Wayne and Gail Russell

Film goes back a long way as a training delivery mechanism – almost right from the start of film making, people started making films to educate others about things. The British Army was already using film in the first world war as this footage from British Pathe clearly shows, demonstrating how to attach bayonets, put gas masks on etc. It had some obvious advantages over other delivery methods at the time in that it was:

  • Easily repeatable. Once a group had watched the film, simply re-wind the reel and play it to another group, over and over again as many times as was needed.
  • Consistent. Everybody had the same film to watch, so they were all taught the same things
  • Easily distributed. You didn’t need to create a whole team of trainers and move them around from venue to venue. You just sent the film to the venues and as long as they had a way of projecting it, everything was sorted.

But, it also had drawbacks in 1914.

  • You needed very specialist skills to make a film
  • There was no audio
  • There was no way of tracking who had seen the film unless it was done manually and recorded in ledgers
  • Images were in black and white and low quality
  • Frame rates were low, typically around 6 frames per second
  • Projectors were large and relatively expensive and needed a degree of expertise in order to operate them

Film Today

Filming with a smartphone
Smartphones, tablets and PC’s bring filming and playback within the reach of anybody. Editing film though still needs a few skills in order to get good quality productions.

Nowadays, we have solved most of the issues that the 1914 film maker encountered. We can make films (to a certain quality) and play them back on mobile phones. YouTube and other delivery methods give us built-in analytics so we can discover which parts interest people. Learning Management Systems allow us to track who has viewed the films and we distribute files easily in .mp4 format. Life is good.

The Value of Film as a Training Mechanism

We know that most people visiting this site will be familiar with Blooms Taxonomy (revised Anderson and Kratwohl) so we would like to point out, that most film only gets us to Level 2. It doesn’t allow us to let people practice or apply their knowledge. However, with the right instructional design, we can go higher up the taxonomy by using film as a communication method. For example, asking a student who is a new salesperson in a company to film themselves delivering an elevator pitch and upload it onto an LMS for marking (or grading if you are from the USA). As the marker of the elevator pitch, then film has enabled you to work right up at level 6 of the taxonomy.

Common Misconceptions

Film is Expensive

Like all training, there is a certain amount of cost involved in producing everything. However, film does not need to be Hollywood Blockbuster quality in order to be informative and valuable. Check out this site as an example of how to create low-cost, high quality videos.

Film isn’t Indexable

The argument here is that films can only be watched real-time or fast-forwarded. Finding the bit of information contained in them is difficult. That’s not the case nowadays, with rich meta data and indexing of film chapters and content.

Film isn’t Translatable

Sure it is. Haven’t you ever seen a film with subtitles? Or, maybe you’ve come across films that have badly dubbed voiceovers added to an original production that was in a different language?

Film is Being Replaced by eLearning

Actually, we believe that eLearning works well with film, either as an accompanyment to it, or by embedding film into eLearning modules. Blending film and eLearning is an excellent technique when building flipped classes as well.

Uses of Film in Training Courses

Here are just a few ideas about how film can be used in a course:

  1. Use it as a medium for a Director or Senior Manager to explain what is changing and why it needs to change
  2. Create annimated sequences to explain concepts or ideas
  3. Use “talking heads” alongside a presentation to increase engagement
  4. Bring remote locations to your learners. Film the remote location and let viewers see it in immersive 360 degree videos
  5. Students film themselves performing an activity and upload it for marking
  6. Use film in quizzes and tests to make questions more realistic
  7. Introduce scenarios in a creative and engaging manner
  8. Add humour to a course with video
  9. Use actors to play out customer interactions and build branched learning exercises
  10. Use a presenter to link elements of a course together


Film has been around for a long time and technological advances mean it will stay around for many years to come. Many people like watching films and videos and it feels unintrusive, allowing people to learn when they want to.

If you’d like to see how film can impact training in your organisation, then contact us.