Employees vs actors for elearning content

Posted on Oct 22, 2014

Elearning

Tips on how to decide which is best for your elearning

Do you remember Howard Brown? He’s the former employee of the UK banking chain, Halifax who became famous after starring in the company’s television ads. From customer services representative to primetime singing sensation, Howard’s story is an example of how utilising staff as on-screen talent can sometimes pay off.

Within your elearning module, you may be considering using photographic stills, videos or interactive scenarios, and you will need to decide whether it is better to uses staff or actors.

This short guide offers some help in weighing up which to use:

The case for employees

Workers are the real deal and this authenticity may be central to what you are seeking to achieve within your elearning. Relevance is important in creating successful elearning, so using someone who is actually doing the job can be powerful. Learners may feel more connected with the content if they know a fellow employee is featured in the module and may find it easier to relate to information when it is presented by a peer.

There are differing opinions about whether using employees is a more cost effective option. On the one hand, they are ‘free’, in as much as staff are unlikely to require an extra payment for being photographed or filmed. However, be aware that amateurs may take up extra time for coaching and retakes and this could add to the project budget.

The nature of content is an important consideration. Some tasks which involve specialist training, such as driving a forklift truck, will need to feature an employee for safety reasons. The complexity of the content may also be a factor. Using employees for still photography or simple video scenes may be more viable then using them when there is a lot of dialogue to learn.

The case for actors

You get what you pay for with an actor so if time is an issue for your elearning project then you may be better off using professional talent. The type of content will be a big driver so if there is a long script, complex scenes or emotional dialogue this may be delivered more quickly and successfully in the hands of a good actor. There are some who specialise in elearning and are particularly aware of the demands of the industry. A good actor agency should be able to meet your precise requirements, often allowing you to browse online for the face that fits.

If your elearning needs longevity and is likely to be used for several years to come then actors may be a better choice. Otherwise, there is a possible risk that the ‘star’ employee leaves the business, which may not be a problem in itself but could be an issue if they end up working for a rival. Any sort of ‘falling out’ or misconduct by featured staff could also impact on the shelf life of the elearning.

Alternative option

If you are finding it difficult to decide between using actors or employees it may be worth considering an alternative option – illustrated characters. They allow you total control and versatility with no limitation on what they can do. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity; we’ve literally had illustrated characters jumping out of planes. They can also inject fun into an elearning module which can be hard to achieve with actors or employees.

Conclusion

The golden rule is to be guided by the content and learning objectives. Ask which approach would serve best rather than start with a fixed idea. Take some time to weigh up the pros and cons of each approach and seek expert advice, if necessary. After all, it is a major consideration which could have far-reaching implications for the success of your elearning.

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