I can’t remember the last time that I actually paid attention to an airline safety training video. Everybody has his or her own pre-flight routine, and mine is dictated by my four year old: Are the snacks ready? Is the iPad charged? Have I made a small prayer to the flight gods asking them for help in keeping him from screaming?

I’m certainly not going to be spending those precious moments watching a safety video considering the fact that the chances of getting into a plane crash are only 1 in 11 million. And, my interest will definitely not be piqued by the “instructional designer” who created this:

Why are airline training videos so bad?  And, as instructional designers, what can we learn from them?

A Trainee Needs Motivation To Learn

As I mentioned above, the chance of getting into an accident is really, really small. So, rightly or wrongly, in my mind, there’s a real disconnect between “why” I need to learn about the safety features and the actual learning of the material. As instructional designers, we need to think about this in developing courses, especially in the corporate sector, where oftentimes people just want to do their jobs and don’t see the benefit of the training that they’re being given.

And, if there isn’t any real motivation within the material itself, then motivation needs to be found elsewhere. This external motivation can be in the form of a certificate (the trainee feels good about the score that they received), a gift card (Starbucks?), or the gamification of the process (our competitive nature will keep us engaged).

Reinforce Concepts To Solidify Them

The airline training video is shown once at the beginning of each flight. For those of us who travel just a couple of times a year, there’s really no way for us to remember how to put on those pesky life vests. As an instructional designer working at a company, you might have more control over the timing of your training course. As one example, certain types of courses could be given quarterly to brush up on concepts.  And, to minimize cost without reducing the quality of the course, the first course could be a blended course with both a live and eLearning component and the subsequent courses could be offered through eLearning via your company’s LMS.

Provide Learning in the Right Format

Another problem with the airline training video is that it’s presented in the wrong format. Like most corporate training, the airline is trying to teach a set of skills. And, as I think everyone can agree, being able to actually do something is really the only way to internally own it. A more effective approach, then, would be to create a blended learning experience: first a visualization of the skill, through a video, then an actualization of the skill, through a live exercise, then finally through a recall experience, such as an assessment.

Create Content That’s Fun and Interesting

You’re reading this blog since you find instructional design interesting. The truth of the matter is that I don’t need to spice it up much in order for you to continue reading it. However, if you had no interest in instructional design, my guess is that you would have stopped reading after the first paragraph. And, that lack of interest pervades the world of corporate training. Whether for compliance training, training in new systems, or sales approaches, most of the time, these activities are of little interest to the people who need them.

So, what can someone do? As Qin Zhang, Ph.D says,

Teacher enthusiasm is generally recognized as one of the most essential and desirable qualities and characteristics of effective teachers.

Training videos don’t need to be bland. Assessments can have interesting, even provocative questions. And your Powerpoint can actually have humor in it. So take a note from Richard Simmons, and when you design your course, infect it with enthusiasm!

Airline safety training videos can really help the instructional designer think about what not to do when designing their courses, especially the video component. But, they can also be used as a tool to think about why they aren’t effective, and use this knowledge to improve their instructional design.

Avizr’s flexible, easy-to-use online learning platform helps you create engaging, interactive content for the learners in your courses. And although we can’t promise you Richard Simmons, we’re here to help you take a stand against boring online training courses!


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