Effective educational videos

Tips to help you produce effective videos 

Video editing on both a mobile phone and a laptop computer.
Video editing on both a mobile phone and a laptop computer.

In this article I would like to share my experience of making effective educational videos, from planning and execution to engaging with your students.

Consider the length of your video 

You are not making a feature length movie, keep it short and sweet.  Think about how long you can retain your attention when you are watching a video online and use that as a benchmark. Generally speaking, your video shouldn’t be more than a few minutes long.  If your materials require more than a couple of minutes, consider making a series of videos instead, so students can pick and choose just the information they need. You cannot instruct your students to watch your lengthy video from start to finish, try as you might, they will just fast forward the parts that don’t interest them.   

Tell a story 

Who doesn’t love a good story?  Try to plan your video so it tells a compelling story.  You can pretty much turn anything into a story, even the driest of information.  The key is to personalise the information, instead of presenting facts and figures, apply the information into real life situations, create a character, create a story, create a fantasy, something that your students can aspire to be. Wrap all the boring facts and figures under something cool and trendy, something your students can relate to. 

Make the purpose of the video clear 

Who is it for, what is the goal?  Make it clear at the start of the video and stick to the topic.  Imagine yourself as the audience, how many seconds would you watch a video before you click away from it if you are not sure about the purpose of it?  5 seconds? 10 seconds? The first few seconds of your videos are the most important, if your video cannot start to engage with your students within the first 10 seconds or so, they will start losing interest fast. 

Show the end results first 

Remember your students can fast forward to the end of the video, so it is pointless to save the end results till the end, it is not a live performance.  This is particularly effective if you are making a procedural video, show the end results / end products first to entice people’s attention. If it is something they are interested in learning, they will stick with it till the bitter end, no matter how boring the rest of the video might be. 

Be mindful of your speaking pace and style  

As mentioned before, your videos should not be longer than a couple of minutes so speak faster! Maybe not too fast though.  When you are giving a lecture, you are speaking live where your audience cannot pause and rewind, so you normally speak slowly and clearly with loads of little pauses, or at least you should.  When speaking in a video, you can speak a little faster than that, just think of it as if you were having a conversation with your friends over coffee, the aim is to retain your students’ attention for as long as possible.  With this in mind, it is perfectly acceptable to use humour, just like you would when speaking with your friends. Got it? Super! Having said that, be mindful about any jokes you might want to make, you must make sure there is nothing offensive or could potentially cause upset.  Also, try to always relate any humour to the content of the videos, telling a random joke might not be the best idea. 

Beware of the cognitive load 

This is a fine balance, you want your videos to be packed full of energy and interesting information, but you don’t want to overload your students with too much information.  Teaching using video is asynchronous, which means you cannot pause and check if everyone is following like in a classroom, so it’s easy to pack too much information in your video.  Remember, you are the experts in your fields, everything seems easy for you, but might not be for your students. Take it easy, take it slowly.  Make many short videos if you have time, aim to only teach 1 small piece of information per video. 

Write down some bullet points 

Plan ahead, make some notes, write a few bullet points and make sure you cover everything, no more, no less. Remember do not real out a script word to word, nothing is worse than having to hear someone reading out an essay.  

In a real-life lecture, you can afford time and space to waffle on for a bit, you can afford to go off topic now and again.  However, in a video, you should always stick to the point. Having a list of points helps you focus on only saying the absolute essential.  

Use visual media wisely 

Don’t just talk, use visual media appropriately.  Make your video as animated as possible. If you are presenting facts and figures, show them on a slide, don’t just read them out.  If you are using slides, don’t overload information on each slide, it is much better to just have a bold and impactful headline per slide.  Keep the slides moving, keep the energy going. 

Alternate your visual media with a talking head if you decide to do this; a talking head can help to engage with you students as you can show your expression and body language.  Showing yourself in the video can make it much more personable.  

Note:  Be very mindful with using any flashing imagery, avoid if possible as it could induce seizures.  If you must use it, please check in with us and we will discuss with you. 

Consider your angle / point of view 

Consider when to zoom in and when to zoom out – Don’t be afraid to zoom in closely to something if you want to emphasize the importance, but remember the relationship between different elements is also very important. 

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