Can Reality Television Transform E-Learning?

I’m a life-long learner. Currently, I’m a pursuing my graduate diploma for a master’s degree in business administration. I do a mixture of work in online conferences, in physical classrooms, self-paced exercises, and through team project collaboration to achieve the program’s learning outcomes. Like a lot of modern undergraduate and graduate courses, I have a volume of pre-recorded lectures to consume. What if we could make these pre-recorded lectures more meaningful and engaging at the same time? How would learning and course management be transformed?

It's Everybody's Business with Jack & Suzy Welch

A new idea about pre-recorded lectures came to me while watching Microsoft’s new marketing campaign, “It’s Everybody’s Business with Jack & Suzy Welch.” The campaign is an online reality show with real employees from real companies working out with Jack & Suzy Welch.  The goal is to develop “winning” business solutions to real product/services challenges.  It’s entertaining. It’s authentic. It’s modern. Most importantly, it’s interactive!

Interactive Polling with Microsoft Silverlight

Interactive Poll Results with Microsoft SilverlightDuring the on-demand playback, you are presented with questions and polls inline with the on-screen video.  When you answer the on-screen questions, you are presented with immediate feedback on your answer. This approach gives the viewer an opportunity to actively engage in the conversation versus being a passive participant. For the instructor and curriculum designer, this feedback is even more powerful.  Beyond the ability to determine whether learning is happening, faculty can accurately measure student engagement. 

This model provides a far better method to effectively measure audience engagement. Faculty can check learning in real-time and in context to the materials presented. The answer input provides a gauge to indicate how much of the learning playback actually happened and how many times it was consumed. Conversely, with modern pre-recorded lectures, the best measure is whether or not the student downloaded the lecture. Additionally, faculty will not know if the learner actually watched the content in its entirety or dropped off after 10 minutes. That’s a lot of production investment for something that may or may not be consumed. That’s a lot of investment for something that is difficult to measure.

Silverlight Sidebar content Another aspect of this rich interactive application (RIA) media is the the ability to include sidebar content inline with the video playback.  Throughout the presentation, information about the situation-at-hand or the speakers is presented in context in a side pane.  You can imagine using this space to incorporate additional readings or other source materials to help learners further their understanding for the analysis and synthesis they’ll need to produce later.

An entire 8-week program could be delivered this way to augment and enliven learning for students.  This novel approach to making the content a reality TV show works great. In business school, a large degree of the learning is done through case analysis.  By providing these cases in a reality TV show format, the content takes on a more compelling and stickier experience.

At this point, you might be thinking “great idea, but who’s got the money and time to produce these episodes?”

I would argue that the production costs are considerably low. Predominantly, these episodes take place in a single conference room.  There are three cameras and some lights. All action and no scripts. The real work is done in the pre-production and post-production. The pre-production is getting the business case together. The post-production is the editing and the inclusion of secondary footage for context.

The final show and web experience is produced using Microsoft Silverlight to create the rich interactive media . Silverlight gives this web property the ability to incorporate social media, HD video, interactivity, and dynamic content. Visit or to learn more.

You can watch a trailer of Jack & Suzy below or click here to visit the site. Don’t forget to leave your comments and thoughts on how this approach to learning can level-up your student experience or your thoughts of why not.