online learning
best practice

5 simple tips for better instructional videos

CrossBraining Staff

When you click on an eLearning video, is the first thing you do to check how long it’s going to take? Most of us have been conditioned to do this by boring, ineffective, and all around bad instructional videos. Here are 5 tips to make better instructional videos for your training.

Use the right level of detail

Animated videos are popular, and for good reason. They let you focus on things without distractions. But that comes with a downside: in the real world, nothing comes in clear, colorful, animated diagrams. Compare these two videos of a car engine.

If you're new to car engines, the one on the left makes a lot more sense. The one on the right is probably overwhelming - you don’t know what to look at. But if you only looked at the one on the left and opened your hood, you’re going to be confused. Nothing looks like that!

When you make instructional videos, be conscious of what level of details is appropriate for your audience. In general, for more advanced learners, use real-world imagery. But for entry-level learners, don’t overwhelm them with complexity just yet.

Make the video short. Now make it shorter.

Your instructional videos should be less than 120 seconds long. Anything over that and your audience is going to start losing information. And that has nothing to do with the “attention span of kids these days”. It has everything to do with how the human brain works.

We best learn things when they are “scaffolded”. Scaffolding is a learning science term that describes how humans build upon existing knowledge. More specifically, we learn by putting small chunks of new information on top of old information. Take multiplication for example. We learn addition before learning multiplication because multiplication (the new chunk) is nothing more than repeated addition (the old chunk).

Keep it simple

I can’t tell you how many training videos I’ve seen that look like they were directed by Michael Bay. Flashy effects, fancy transitions, and exciting sound effects make for great blockbuster action movies, but they are not conducive to learning.

Do you remember the last time you looked on YouTube for how to fix something around your house? And you got a video with a 10 second music intro and a narrator that is trying a little too hard? Do you remember how you just wanted them to “get to the point”? The same thing happens with your training videos.

Your training videos should properly frame the object with a stable camera and have simple transitions.

Record a clear voiceover

Voiceovers are one of the most overlooked parts of instructional videos. Especially in factory and outdoor settings, we hear a lot of voiceovers with noisy, distracting backgrounds.

Recording a clear voiceover does not require professional sound equipment. Really the only thing it requires is a quiet environment. You can even use your phone’s voice recorder. Hold it close to your mouth and to the side (so that you're not blowing air directly into the mic) and talk slowly.

End with a call to action

Every instructional video should end with something the learner can do themselves. This is because even the best instructional videos are passive learning. Having a short, simple project for the learner to do after the video will solidify the information in their brains.