Global Vision Blog

Using Audio and Video - show, don't tell

Sep 18, 2020 6:33:00 PM / by Peter Hawkins

As it happens, I'm one of the 10% of the population wired from birth to experience the world differently from most.

Certainly I'm not wired like you if you have a "mind's eye".

I keep it to myself. If I tell people I can't picture my wife of 30 years they look at me in horror. If I tell them I don't know her eye colour or that of my sons I'm dismissed as a bad person.

However I have something they don't rate - I can hear her voice. Perfectly. Everything she says. To me sounds are everything.

I've read that ten percent of us are born that way. I may not be able to call to mind a picture of a member of my family. Somewhere along the way my mind's eye became a mind's ear - and it's incredibly detailed.

  • Can you, like me re-listen to a concert from 20 years ago and single out each instrument?
  • Can you, like me say what key each piece was in? Where the mistakes were?
  • Can you, like me remember not only your partner's voice but the tone they used when they spoke about something minor a fortnight ago?
  • Can you, like me replay themes to the TV shows my parents watched after sending you to bed over 50 years ago? If so does it come with full orchestration?

If not, my question is this - why do you all seem to want to train ME and ONLY ME?

If you want to teach me something, say it! Set it to music (my parents knew that - I still remember them singing "change the Y to I and add ES" to help my primary level spelling fifty years ago. Not just that, I know they both did it - I still hear dad's harmony with mum and I know it was on a holiday as I can hear the particular resonance of our old caravan!  I never misspelled  'babies' again!)

So to all those people out there producing courses with voice-over, thank you! To all those with talking head videos thanks again! To those lecturers who handed me notes and books.... not so much.

But then I am  different from most. The more you say or play the more I'll remember. But now you know how to teach me let's talk about teaching the other 90% of the world... When I teach I do the opposite to what I do when I learn - the more I show; the more they remember.





Voiceover is almost never of value

I'm surprised at how many courses add voiceover thinking it makes their courses better. Even when their learners have to turn off the speakers in the office and end up simply reading it regardless. Even when the same material is presented on screen and people reach the end of the text long before the speaker has stopped reading out the very same thing!


Video is a visual medium

Unlike audio, video has a definite place in training. However, once again I'm often surprised at how it is used. There are companies out there that offer vast "comprehensive" training  solutions comprised almost entirely of video. The implication is that they can use video to teach anything.

If you were teaching a class, would you demonstrate everything?

Video's perfect for demonstrating a task, but what about conveying complex content that's hard to show.? For example, a compliance course might include a video with a dramatised demonstration  of the consequences of not adhering to compliance legislation, but what about the legal fine points in a compliance course for example.

These videos typically rely on narration or on talking heads - they are easier to produce but if you still need convincing that there is value in what amounts to a voiceover albeit with a picture, ask yourself how much detail you recall the day after watching an interview on the news?


Most learners recall what they see, not what they hear. Thinking that way about audio-visual materials is vital to understanding how to use these media.

Topics: Learning Design

Peter Hawkins

Written by Peter Hawkins

Peter is one of Australia’s foremost learning technology and data analytics experts. Originally a maths/science teacher and data analysis researcher, Peter’s work in learning technology dates from the early 1990s when he was asked to assist UNESCO to implement remote learning in Africa. He established the first learning technology system for Monash University during his period as an academic in information technology. Peter’s company, Global Vision, was the first to provide LMS services in Australia and now provides a range of learning technologies to organisations nationally, both government and non-government. Peter is a regular contributor to Australia’s xAPI community and is the founder of Australia’s xAPI Trailblazers Group.