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Create effective instructional videos

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Video has become an important part of many flipped, blended, and online courses. However, to ensure that videos help the students, you need to dig deeper into video design and production. The key to designing effective educational videos is to start with clear teaching intentions and follow research-based design principles. Instructors should follow the four general principles outlined below.

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Work with a storyboard.

A storyboard is an indispensable tool in video design. Start with a storyboard to outline your text and visuals: plan what you will say, outline your visuals, describe how you will apply design principles, and order the material. That saves a lot of time in production. Writing a full script will also provide you with a transcript to aid learners who may have accessibility issues with the video format. Here is a sample storyboard template.

Work from a script.

A script for your instructional video will help you compress and organize your content. Answer a conversation tone and practice reading the script aloud. Edit passages that prevent smooth delivery. Think about the rate of speech, which aims to be around 130 words per minute. See Best Practices for Writing Scripts.

Apply the principles of course design.

Is Video the Best Option? As you plan your course, consider whether a video is the best way for your students to learn the content. Students learn more effectively when they are actively involved in constructing their own meaning from information (Brooks and Brooks, 1993). So before you begin any video production, ask yourself if there are more active ways for your students to engage with the material.

What learning will the video support? Again, review the learning objectives and what you want your students to achieve. What are your goals? Videos can be used to introduce new content, review, or reinforce important content that was previously introduced. Consider using your video to teach facts and concepts of the course, or to teach skills. Make the purpose of the video clear to help students focus on their learning.

How is learning reinforced? Provide opportunities for students to enhance their learning by combining watching the video with activities such as short quizzes, reflection activities, or contributions to a discussion.

Reduce cognitive processing needs.

To understand how people learn with video, let's look at the principle of multimedia learning. This is the claim that people learn more deeply from a combination of words (spoken text or printed text) and pictures (images, diagrams, photos, animations or videos) than from words alone. Multimedia instruction is therefore defined as the presentation of words and images that are intended to promote learning (Mayer, 2009). The cognitive theory of multimedia learning makes three assumptions about how the mind works: There are two separate channels (auditory and visual) for processing information; Channel capacity is very limited and can provide very little information for short periods of time ; and that learning one active process filtering, selecting, organizing and integrating information (see figure below).

Cognitive theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2009)

Multimedia content that does not contribute directly to learning can overload and exceed the processing capacity of the cognitive system, this is called. designated cognitive overload (Schweller, 1988).

To aid learning with video, you should intentionally about your design to reduce external editing and manage the essential editing of the material (Mayer and Moreno, 2003; Mayer, 2008). Cognitive psychologist Richard Mayer suggests several principles to improve multimedia teaching through conscious design.Below is a selection of these principles that can be quickly translated into instructional videos.

Principle of coherence - limitation of third-party content. Learning is better when words, images and sounds that have nothing to do with the essential material are excluded instead of included. Keep your content simple and limit your words and visuals to what is strictly necessary to learn.

Segmentation principle - break up the content of your video. Learning is better when content is presented in segments at a learning pace. Create multiple short videos with a single concept of 6 minutes or less(Guo et al., 2014)rather than a long one.

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Principle of contiguity - coordinating the corresponding content. Learning is better when corresponding words and images are displayed on the screen close to and not far from one another (spatial contiguity) and when corresponding words and images are presented at the same time (temporal contiguity). For example, place printed words near appropriate parts of graphics to reduce the need for visual scanning.

Signaling principle - Provide instructions for processing the material. Learning is better when learners don't have to search for the essential material, but use clues to draw their attention to the critical aspects of the content. Signal verbal content with an outline, headings, highlighting and reference words (e.g. first, second, third on your slides. Signal visual material with arrows, blinking, spotlighting and other annotations.

You can put all twelve principles in Applying the Science of Learning: Evidence-Based Principles for Designing Multimedia Lessons (Mayer, 2008).

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Make videos engaging.

If the videos aren't engaging, students are less likely to watch the entire video and do post-video activities. Here are some research-backed recommendations to increase engagement (Guo et al., 2014).

Make shorter videos. Break videos into sections that are less than 6 minutes. Shorter videos also allow you to insert short activities at key points so students can apply what they see. These shorter videos can also become units that you can move, combine, or use independently.

Be yourself - make it personal. Videos produced with a more personal touch can be more engaging than highly produced professional footage. Speak quickly and in a conversational style with high enthusiasm rather than a formal style. At the beginning of each video, introduce yourself and imagine what the segment will cover. While talking to the camera, keep eye contact as if your students are watching.

Add a head talking video. Videos that include visual representations of the teacher speaking with slides are more engaging than slides alone. The presence of the course leader is interesting for the students. So try to combine visual content like slides, graphics and screencasts with videos of the speaking instructor.

Add drawings and animations. Khan Academy-style tablet drawing tutorials are more engaging than PowerPoint slides. The visual flow of animated text and graphics catches the learner's attention and lasts longer.


Brooks, J.G. & Brooks, M.G. (1993). In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Design principles for multimedia learning (Mayer). (undated). Retrieved on September 15, 2017 from http://www.digitaledidactiek.be/modules/2-ontwerp/uitdieping/mayer/?lang=en .

Guo, P., Kim, J. & Rubin, R. How Video Production Influences Student Engagement: An Empirical Study of MOOC Videos, 2014.

Hazlett, C. (2015 July 22). How MOOC Video Production Affects Student Engagement. Retrieved September 15, 2017 from http://blog.edx.org/how-mooc-video-production-affects

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Application of Learning Science: Evidence-Based Principles for Designing Multimedia Lessons. American psychologist, 63 (8), 760-769.

Mayer, R.E. (2012). Multimedia learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E. & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load During Multimedia Learning. Educational Psychologist, 38 (1), 43-52.

Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load in problem solving: implications for learning. Cognitive Science, 12 (2), 257-285

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