Humans are a visual species. We assimilate information rapidly through visual media. Images flashed before us in music videos for as little as a quarter of a second are readily absorbed and understood. In as little as 15 seconds, advertisers, using visual media effectively, can influence behavior and purchasing decisions. Images on news broadcasts, documentaries and films are broadcasted to influence our opinions and convey ideas. Although the power of images to influence human opinions and behavior—and the speed with which visual media can communicate— have been understood for decades, the EH&S field has not leveraged the use of this media to the degree possible to maximize learning.
The limited adaptation of this powerful tool has been largely due to the high cost of producing visual media of an acceptable quality. But two simultaneous technological breakthroughs that occurred about a decade ago changed everything:
the introduction of inexpensive digital camcorders and now cameras capable of capturing high definition video images and storing them on solid media (flash drives) that can be easily transferred to computer hard drives; and
the availability of software programs installed on computer workstations and laptops that can easily manipulate these large video files and produce digital effects.
All of this—a high definition digital camcorder or camera, computer editing workstations and associated software—is readily available today for a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. This is less than the cost of most field monitoring equipment. Powerful, high definition, professional quality video can now be developed inexpensively by anyone, and this is changing the way we communicate ideas and train workers.
Learning objects, "chunks" of learning content that focus on a specific learning objective, are widely used in educational settings where different types of media – images, flash animations, simple simulations, video and audio recordings are available to educators from a database of media. Educators can select the objects that help them fulfill their learning objectives and incorporate them into educational materials or lectures. These learning objects can be reused many times, can be used in different instructional contexts, and by different educators. Learning objects have been referred to as the LEGO building blocks of educational content.