7 ways to inspire engagement and interaction with video in a (sometimes very lonely) remote world

Student learning via zoom

Back to school?

We’ve all heard the statistics and probably know some of them by heart. According to UNESCO, by early April 2020, 1.3 billion learners were staying home as part of country-wide closures in nearly 190 countries.

Now that the summer break is winding down or already over in many countries, schools will be reopening. Many of the US’s largest school systems, for example, have opted to start the academic year online. Though there are many that have nevertheless decided to forge ahead with reopening the physical classroom.

And even if they do, as we have seen in the recent case of the State of Georgia, they may be finding themselves shutting down again quite soon thereafter. Namely, in the Cherokee County School District in the state, more than 900 students and staff have already been ordered to quarantine, shortly after opening up.

So, while some may endeavor in-class learning, for many (if not most) going back to school will mean at least part-time, if not full-time remote learning.

As for the state of the enterprise – the remote situation is very similar.

Whereas pre-Covid remote work was at about 15% of, today it’s at approximately 50%, according to findings from an MIT survey.

We are seeing big brands all over the world making the big move towards long-term remote work. For example, Facebook recently announced that it is extending its work-from-home policy until July 2021, as has Google. Apple, in the same vein, said that workers won’t be returning to the office until early 2021.

And the list goes on.

We’re only human after all

This new normal of remote learning, remote working, and remote being is introducing a big challenge to individuals being forced to stay at home. Bottom line, all this distance can make one lonely.

And the flip side of this is a correlating challenge to organizations of all sizes, shapes, and types. Sure, there is the obvious challenge of ensuring that infrastructure and connectivity are enabling the mostly digital life of employees and learners. But, there is one more challenge for organizations that is related to a need that is so deeply-rooted, so tightly entwined with the very fabric of what it means to be human, that it can sometimes be easily overlooked.

And, whether we’re talking about employees or learners, whether we’re in the business world or at an academic institution – we all need to belong, to engage with other human beings on a significant level, to make a difference, and to feel the impact of a positive and fulfilling interaction.

Educators and enterprises need to step up. Engagement and interaction are no longer a nice to have. They are a critical mandate of the new normal.

In the past, inspiring engagement and encouraging interaction may have been skills that were scoffed at as ‘soft skills’ that don’t drive the bottom line. Today, however, without them, colleagues, executives, employees, and students alike – will tune out and feel estranged.

How to avoid ‘Zoom-fatigue’

“Having giant heads staring at us up close for long periods can be off-putting for a lot of us.” (idea.ted.com)

Those who are leading meetings in the enterprise (regardless of where they are in the organization’s hierarchy) and educators at every level, cannot run their remote meetings and remote teaching just as they would in the office or classroom. Conducting ourselves in a remote world is not about doing the same thing but just in front of the camera.

This can be very clearly seen in a relatively new phenomenon known as ‘Zoom fatigue.’ This phenomenon is so widespread that if you Google ‘Zoom fatigue,’ you will get back an astounding 113 billion results!

For example, the BBC has an article on “The reason Zoom calls drain your energy.” The Harvard Business Review has “How to Combat Zoom Fatigue.” TED has “Zoom fatigue is real.” The list goes on and on.

And, really, who among us doesn’t know that it’s real? From kindergarten all the way up to the C-suite, since March we have all be inundated with video steaming/conferencing – to the point of exhaustion.

This is why both the enterprise and education need to go beyond live streaming video alone if they are to assure ongoing engagement and interaction in the new state of remote everything.

Going beyond the stream

If we are to avoid the stress, fatigue, and alienation that live video (streaming or conferencing) can sometimes bring – we need to be able to offer a complementary experience that is still multi-sensory, dynamic, and very human.

And, of course, it is still video that has the power to bring such experiences.

The types of videos that are engaging for enterprise stakeholders and learners have been covered here before. As a quick recap:

Video for engaging distance learning

  • Flipped or blended classrooms, where instructors can pre-record lectures or demonstrations and examples
  • Offline recorded lectures for access to the learning experience anytime anywhere and on any device
  • Assessments that directly link to the material for a faster, less easily misinterpreted way to give feedback.

Video for engaging the working from home enterprise (both for internal and external audiences)

  • Summarizing key takeaways from the big industry event
  • Video blog series by the CEO about major company updates.
  • Subject matter expert videos for an outbound campaign, discussing how the product or service can address specific needs.
  • New product walk-throughs to provide a virtual hands-on experience.
  • Internal communications such as pre-recording town hall, promoting an HR program (e.g. annual performance review), and sharing different wrap-ups, such as a new analyst report findings or industry survey results.

7 ways to engage and interact

“The number one rule is you cannot replicate the live experience virtually.” (TEDxMelbourne)

Now that we know what types of videos can capture the attention of students and employees, let’s take a look at how we can keep that attention to secure engagement and even inspire interaction.

  1. Embrace the virtual mindset – this is all about recognizing the fact that a physical experience cannot be replicated by a virtual one. Once we accept that we can avoid the many pitfalls of video streaming that leads to ‘Zoom fatigue.’ That is, as noted earlier, don’t just put yourself in front of the camera and do what you’d do if your audience (students, meeting members) were right there with you.

You will need to organize your time and content differently.

  1. Change visual elements frequently – whatever your communication or lesson is about, make sure to change the scenery, on screen text, and other visual elements at regular intervals. If you’re doing a ‘talking head’ – it is even more critical to make sure you just don’t have that head talking straight for too long without changing or introducing new visual elements.
  2. Use visuals to complement words – plan ahead what you want to say and how, and then use on screen text to emphasize key messages to engage more areas of the brain for processing the additional information, which leads to greater memory retention (and engagement, of course!).
  3. Invite special guest speakers – shake things up and bring the unexpected by hosting someone other than the usual suspects. In education it can be a teacher/instructor from a related field, and . . . it can – and should – also include the students themselves (as individuals or groups) who can deliver a presentation on a topic being covered in class.

In the enterprise, a similar approach is applicable, with speakers from other departments and from within the team who can present relevant topics with valuable insights, where accountability for content can be very empowering.

  1. Create ‘water-cooler chat’ videos – that help everyone take a much-needed break from the daily remote grind. You can assign different topics every week (or at whichever interval you wish), and employees/students can suggest topics.

This is an important one, with ‘small talk’ being reported as one of the most longed-for and missed aspects of the in-person office/classroom experience. With such videos you can tap into that need to inspire interaction and engagement.

  1. Minimize presentation length. “The only thing worse than a long presentation in person is a long presentation during a virtual meeting.” (HBR) ‘Nuff said.
  2. Leverage engagement tactics – such as asking students to send feedback via video, and create follow-up videos to share results and insights. Additionally, you can create a contest about how to best solve a particular challenge, and then create a video per suggestion, and whichever gets the most likes/votes can win a prize, for example.

How Wochit (and Kaltura) can help

To help anyone in the enterprise or at the educational institution create the kind of videos that inspire engagement and interaction, Wochit offers our cloud-based video creation platform.

This platform was designed to empower anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a background or knowledge in video editing, to create high-quality, professional-grade videos that are deeply engaging and inspire interaction.

A straightforward UX simplifies editing, smart editing features offer many options for customizations, an extensive pre-licensed library of 200 million images and videos offers limitless creative freedom, and myriad built-in templates accelerate time-to-creation.

And, for the educators among us, Wochit has a special partnership with Kaltura, whose Video Platform enables you to deliver an experience that goes far beyond video streaming and lecture capture, with video assignments and quizzes, recorded demos, professor introductions and feedback, and flipped classrooms.

This way, you can transform at-home distance learning into an invigorating, challenging, and multi-dimensional higher learning experience.

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