A popular mantra in the workplace today is “learn by doing.”

This trial-by-fire mantra requires you to react on the fly and adjust in real time to accurately perform the task at hand.

Yet new research by HEC Paris, Harvard, and the University of North Carolina suggests that reflection — not learning by doing — can be a more critical component of learning, helping to articulate the key lessons, which we glean from our experiences.


In the study, people who reflected on the strategies they used to do an arithmetic brain teaser did 18 percent better in the second round than those who didn’t reflect. A Harvard Business Review blog post on the research suggests that the “unconscious learning that happens when you tackle a challenging task can be more effective” if you also make “conscious attempts to learn by thinking.”

Additionally, the researchers wrote in their paper that, “taking time away from training” and using that time to reflect “actually improved individual performance” for the people in their study.

They write that their results show reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, and say that with this knowledge on how we learn, “it may be possible to train and learn ‘smarter,’ not ‘harder.’”


What does all this mean for your web video? Well, it means that giving your viewers time to think can help them better achieve their learning goals.

Some HapYak users are already taking this advice to heart. Like Uveni, who created a clever video that’s really a stealth Myers-Briggs personality test. To help the viewer think and make decisions, Uveni deliberately filmed and edited their video to include natural pauses. Simultaneously they keep the viewer interested with ambient audio and subtle movement on the screen.

Lately we’re seeing many more HapYak users follow this ambient pause method for choose-your-own-adventure video. Because the audio track continues while the viewer is reflecting, she stays completely connected to the experience. If you have existing video that has not been filmed with ambient pauses in mind – no problem – just use a loop back option on an annotation to make a given section of the video repeat.

Interactive Video Loop Back

We’ve found that these techniques are the most effective way to ensure the viewer continues along their viewing journey and becomes more than just a viewer. They become an activated viewer.

You can see the full working paper “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance” here.