Montag, 18. Dezember 2017

What makes a good instructional video?

Video supports education in many areas and online courses regularly include instructional videos. Video transports the content both audibly and visually, creating a multisensory learning environment that is said to be particularly conducive to learning. The fact that multisensory learning environments can be beneficial to learning (and when it does so) has been investigated a lot of times in laboratory experiments. In practice, however, there is still uncertainty about what really makes a good video.

Advantages and disadvantages 

As technology evolves, it becomes easier and easier to create one's own videos. Convincing results can already be achieved with apps on the smartphone. Facebook has gone one step further and allows to create very simple videos (in fact slide-shows consisting of images and background music) in the shortest time possible. The expectations of video producers are correspondingly high.
 But the use of videos has advantages and disadvantages. Here is an (incomplete) list of pros and cons that one can find on the internet:

Possible advantages of videos:
  • Videos are comparatively stronger in attracting and engaging users to the content.

  • Videos reduce reading stress and free users from the monotony of reading and browsing.

  • Multi-sensory content is easier to understand and the information processing time is shorter.

  • Multi-sensory processing promotes the understanding and retention of information.

  • In a video, it is easier to demonstrate something than in a textual description.

  • Pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding make it possible to learn as flexibly as flipping backwards and forwards in a book.
  • Videos are particularly suitable for consumption on mobile devices.

  • The production of videos is becoming simpler and cheaper. 
Possible disadvantages:
  • Video itself does not guarantee quality and bad videos do more harm than good.

  • Videos encourage the individualisation of the learner, which can make learning more difficult. 
  • Videos are rarely watched until the end. 
  • The production of videos is time-consuming, expensive (equipment, logistics of production) and new questions have to be answered (Which repository should be used? etc.). 
  • Videos pose requirements for the equipment of the learner (sufficient bandwidth, devices for playing etc.). 
  • It's a lot of work to edit and re-edit a video if corrections are needed. 
It seems as if advantages for the user are accompanied by increasing requirements for the production. However, production costs are no longer a particularly hot topic.

Videos in education and training

Different types dominate depending on the provider. The most commonly used video style across all providors such as Coursera,  Udacity etc. is the Talking Head followed by slideshows with and without speakers. Sometimes the use of a type varies considerably depending on the provider (e. g. in the slideshow with speaker). [1]

Reutemann (2016) [1]

What do viewers say?

So far, the focus has been on the provider. But what do users think about videos. Some preliminary insights can be gained from from the university background and the MOOC movement:
  • Videos are more widely used when embedded in a context: Videos are viewed more often when the content conveyed in the video is used to solve a task or for a discussion post in the course. Stand-alone-videos do not perform that well. [2] 
  • Videos should be as short as possible: Whether the optimal video does not take longer than four minutes is a matter of doubt. However, users clearly appreciate it when you get to the point: The longer a video, the higher the viewers' loss rate. If you want to convey a lot of content via video, don't put it in one video. Maybe a sequence "video - activity - video - activity etc." makes more sense. [3] 
  • A video is not viewed linearly, users want to interact with the video: The interaction is especially evident in video tutorials. They are often set up as step-by-step instructions, although not all steps are equally simple and users often re-visit difficult steps. However, videos in the style of a lecture also have parts that are accessed more frequently, e. g. when switching between a presentation slide and the Talking Head. Everything that facilitates this interaction and selective consumption (e. g. a minute-by-minute structure with entry points, especially to key passages in the video) is advantageous for the user. [3] Interactivity also seems to be the key to reducing the drop-out rate. [4] 
  • Mobile is nice, but it's not mandatory: Educational content is still consumed on the PC (or laptop). Smartphone and tablet play a minor role. At first glance, this seems to contradict the dominance of mobile devices, which oneexperiences every day. But people learn at home or in the office, and much less often at busstops and on public transport vehicles. [2] 
  • Videos must offer a noticeable advantage over text: Users usually like to learn with  visualizations. After all, showing a picture is easier than describing it. But the videos are not per se considered better. In particular, they must offer added value over pure text. So if you want to make a video, you should have something to show. [2,5] 
  • People expect more from videos than from pure text, e. g. that videos are entertaining: In videos in which the focus is on a person, users appreciate the fact that the topic is conveyed with humour, for example, a expectation that is not placed on a technical text in this way. [2] It is also important to keep in mind that professional expertise alone does not guarantee videos that are well designed in terms of media and didactics. [5] 


As has already been noted elsewhere (LINK), three points are important: Videos are useful when there is something to see and you should not waste the viewers time but get to the point as soon as possible. Due to the still higher production costs (and viewers' expectations), it is also advisable to plan the use of videos strategically and to embed them in a comprehensive didactic concept.


[1] Reutemann, J. (2016). Differences and Commonalities–A comparative report of video styles and course descriptions on edX, Coursera, Futurelearn and Iversity. Link
M. Khalil, M. Ebner, M. Kopp, A. Lorenz y M. Kalz, Proceedings of the European Stakeholder summit on experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs (EMOOCS 2016), 383-392. Link 
[2] Hibbert, M. C. (2014). What makes an online instructional video compelling?.Educause Review Online. Link
[3] Kim, J., Guo, P. J., Seaton, D. T., Mitros, P., Gajos, K. Z., & Miller, R. C. (2014, March). Understanding in-video dropouts and interaction peaks inonline lecture videos. In Proceedings of the rst ACM conference on Learning@ scale confe-rence (pp. 31-40). ACM. Link 
[4] Geri, N., Winer, A., & Zaks, B. Probing the Effect of Interactivity in Online Video Lectures on the Attention Span of Students: A Learning Analytics Approach. Link 
[5] Hansch, A., McConachie, K., Schmidt, P., Hillers, L., New- man, C., & Schildhauer, T. (2015). The role of video in online learning: ndings from the eld and critical re ections. Top- MOOC Research Project, Alexander von Humboldt, Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft. Link

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