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Learning in close-up: The camera effect on virtual training

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Zoom, Teams, or other forms of group video calling have suddenly become an accepted norm for virtual training.

In the past, colleagues would have gathered in person, but now they come together virtually on screen. As an award-winning theatre director and corporate training expert, Ian Jessup has a unique perspective on the role of the camera angle in experiential learning. 

“Moving training to Zoom, Teams and other platforms over the past 9 months has been fascinating. Coming from a training film director background, I have been struck by the effect of the camera on the learner. When I used to make training films, we would talk about zooming in, marking the point at which we need the audience to see the effect of what’s happening, to highlight the learning. But when using tools like Zoom, the learner is already zoomed in, all of the time. I was surprised by how much this focusses the learner, more so than in a face-to-face session. 

On Zoom, everyone is about the same distance from the camera and it is actually quite an intimate distance. When presenting on Zoom, you can see everyone in your audience equally, which, in a normal face-to-face interaction, you can’t. Zoom can turn a presentation to a sea of faces into a conversation in close up. Zoom can be more personal, not less.

We can also use the camera to focus even more, for example by getting other participants to turn their cameras off so they can concentrate on what is happening during a learning practice session. In my experience, this is even more powerful than a face-to-face session, where learners can be distracted by the people watching them. On-screen, they connect much more deeply with the person they are practising their difficult conversation with, or whatever the scenario might be. The observers are also more focussed on the individuals involved and tend to give clearer, more actionable feedback. 

Of course, no learning method works for everybody. Some people need the physical presence of others to boost their energy and connect with learning. Others feel uncomfortable being on screen all of the time. But other individuals may feel liberated by Zoom, able to be more open and honest and participate fully from the safety and comfort of their own home.

Virtual learning has huge potential, but it shouldn’t be an excuse not to get together, or a lazy option just to take previous face-to-face content and deliver it on screen. As experts, we need to fully unlock its’ live and interactive potential and embrace the learning opportunities that the close-up camera angle can bring.”

Ian Jessup pioneered the use of the creative arts and theatre-skills in the corporate training environment. An innovator in the sector, he has delivered creative learning solutions for some of Europe’s leading organisations, improving their employees’ personal impact, developing their strategic communications and building on their leadership styles. He also spent 15 years as an award-winning professional theatre director and scriptwriter. 

Ososim has worked with Ian, as well as other acting-based corporate learning companies, on projects to use actors in our business learning simulations both face-to-face and virtually. Actors add a unique layer of learning, allowing participants to practice scenarios with actors who are, by their nature, behaviour experts. Many participants feedback that this practice-based learning is one of the most powerful aspects of the development session. Actors, like simulations, bring learning to life.

Ososim is a global learning technology company that helps organisations to bridge the gap between theory and practice

Working in over 85 countries with major global companies, as well as government institutions, leading business schools and non-profit organisations, our digital learning experiences enable individuals, teams and companies to perform at their best.

To find out more about our virtual business simulations please contact us on +44 (0)1223 421 034 or email