Mike Crittenden wrote a post this morning about how he hates learning through videos. I know for myself that I occasionally do prefer videos for learning new things, but not always.

Usually if I need to learn something, it would be some new technology that I have to know for my job. In those cases, I find that if I have absolutely no experience in the subject matter, a good video which provides a decent overview of the major concepts helps me a great deal. Trying to learn the same thing from reading a lengthy blog post, especially when jargon is used, is less effective for me. I find myself getting tired and loosing my place. Now, this could just be because of the writing — dry blocks of text are the worst, but I tend to do better if the posts are shorter and formulated more like a tutorial.

If there is a video, I generally prefer them to be delivered in the style of a lecture or presentation. Slides that I can look at while the presenter is speaking are fine, but motion graphics or a live demo is better, especially if the subject is complex enough to warrant them. But in either case, I need something visual that I can actually watch. Having someone simply talk to the camera really doesn’t work for me, and makes watching the video more of a hassle (although it’s slightly better if I just listen to the audio).

Once I’ve become proficient in the basics, learning through video become less useful to me and a decent blog post or documentation page works better. By that time, my learning needs become less about the basics and more about something specific, like how to do a particular thing or details of a particular item. At that point, speed is more important to me, and I prefer to have something that I can skim and search in my own time, rather than watch videos that tend to take much longer.

So that’s how and when I prefer to learn something from video. I’ll close by saying that this is my preferred approach when I need to learn something for work. If it’s during my downtime, either a video or blog-post is fine, so long as my curiosity is satisfied.