Video Can Bring Emotion and Perspective to Critical Content – Cherie Simmons

This guest post comes to us from Cherie Simmons, Account Executive, Storyboards Project Manager with Artisan E-Learning. She’s also a speaker at the Learning Solutions 2019 Conference & Expo, where she’ll be leading a session on Extraordinary Video with Ordinary Equipment and Award-Winning Results.


A Video Course for Encountering an Active Shooter

When one of our clients requested a course for encountering an active shooter, we took on the important topic with gravitas. Not only was it a tough scenario, but the project parameters added multiple challenges. The course could not depict violence, guns, or blood. Further, we understood that the learner may never apply the information; and if there was an application, it could occur months to years after the learner completed the course. The application would put the learner in a highly-stressed state.

With this active shooter course, our team knew that we were not trying to creating a habit; instead, we needed to create a memory. Additionally, we needed the learner to be in an intense, urgent, and emotional situation, all markers of what moves an experience from short-term to long-term memory.

When you retrieve a memory in your mind, you often see it playing out, much like a movie. We wanted to create that movie-memory but didn’t have a blockbuster budget to do it. Even so, we were able to build an immersive course that put the learner in a first-person situation.

Creating a Movie-Like Experience Without the Blockbuster Budget

Our team focused on what it would take to create that long-term memory, and thought about a current-day response to almost any situation: grab your cell phone and start recording. This response became the foundation for building an immersive course. Using inexpensive equipment, hired actors, and a focus on the first-person experience, the course came to life.

It begins with the learner in the break room at work. While the instinct is to show the active shooter, it’s not how these situations typically unfold. Usually, you hear a noise or hear others yelling about the situation. We wanted to begin the course in the same way. As the learner, you hear a noise, you pick up your phone and begin capturing what unfolds.

Since we wanted the video to be true to life, we intentionally chose to create footage that felt a little shaky, much like typical cell phone footage you see in high-stress situations. The video footage was taken with an iPhone using a specialty app. We used an iPad to view the video as we were filming, another iPad as our scene clapper, simple umbrella lighting, and an auxiliary audio recording device. These inexpensive, but effective pieces of equipment allowed us to stay within our budget while maintaining high-quality realism to create a memorable simulation.

Presenting the Learner with Choices

Throughout the course, the learner makes choices based on his reaction to the situation unfolding. While the experience and emotional response were important, so was building on the learner’s choices as he received more information. We replayed scenes for the learner with additional tips for reacting properly to the situation. We chose not to narrate the course, because, in real life, you wouldn’t have someone saying, “You are in an active shooter situation. Will you run or hide?” We wanted the course to replicate anything the learner might do in a real situation.

Since each Active Shooter situation is unique, we presented the learner with different versions of the scenario but used the same techniques. The learner makes choices, replays scenes, and receives the main instructions repetitively, all in the spirit of moving the information into their long-term memory bank.

There was one concern though: would the learner be able to apply the information at anytime, anywhere? Towards the end of the course, the learner must pause and look at her current environment. Then, she evaluates her immediate surroundings and determines where to run, where to hide, and what she could use to fight. By forcing learners to picture themselves in the situation, we increase the likelihood of building and retaining this “memory.”


If you’re looking for creative video solutions for similar situations, join the Extraordinary Video with Ordinary Equipment and Award-Winning Results session on Wednesday, March 27 from 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM at Learning Solutions Conference & Expo this March in Orlando.  Amy Morrisey and Cherie Simmons will share information and knowledge around how to build a tool kit you can use to produce smartphone video, how to budget for a custom video shoot, and how they applied various video techniques to produce this active shooter e-learning course that earned Artisan E-Learning the Best Immersive/Simulation Solution award at Learning Solutions Demofest in 2018. 


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