animation

Effective Learning Videos

As I explained in previous posts (here, here, and here), a good course is a lot more than just content. But that’s not to say that high-quality content (such as effective learning videos) is not important. In principle, the course content can be delivered through a great variety of formats such as:

  • Video lessons
  • Audio lessons
  • Texts
  • Images
  • Diagrams
  • Infographics etc.

Because video is the format about which we receive the most questions, and which typically consumes most of a course’s budget, we will focus on it in this post.

Unit Video With A Video as a Main Resource e.g. iversity – Visual Thinking for Business

Unit Video With A Video as a Main Resource e.g. iversity – Visual Thinking for Business

First of all: good online courses are not just lectures on tape! They offer much more for both sides, in terms of possibilities for the instructor as well as in terms of the result for learners. Effective learning videos differ from traditional lectures in many ways. Creating a video is completely different from preparing a lecture. The difference is similar to that of performing a play and filming a movie.

Giving a lecture is a one-time event. It takes place in a specific location (a classroom or a lecture hall) at a specific time each week. Once you have given the lecture, it is over and done with, and you will never see it again.

In contrast, you can produce effective learning videos in random order, over a long period of time, and in multiple locations. You are no longer tied to the lecture hall or a blackboard. You can curate multiple instructors. And if you take a field trip, you can bring all of your learners along with you.

There is also a difference in scale. When delivering a lecture to 400 students, a lecturer is inclined to address the entire room all at once. When delivering a video lecture, you are creating a one-on-one relationship with the learner. You are teaching several thousand people, but one at a time. The instructor is everyone’s private tutor.

Finally, you can edit a video in post-production. Once you give a lecture, you can’t change it any more. But when you make a video, you can edit out small mistakes, awkward silences, and stitch different pieces together. Also, you can add animations and visual metaphors to facilitate comprehension and retention.

Six Different Types of Effective Learning Videos

There are a few different types of capturing video material for video lectures:

  • Story-based Instruction
  • Documentary Style
  • Studio Production
  • Improvised / Low-budget
  • Tablet Capture
  • Animation

The best and most compelling online courses combine different video production techniques. Methodological diversity brings about refreshing variation. Keep in mind that not every style works for everyone. Even the most engaging classroom lecturer can come off as wooden and staged when faced with only a camera. On the other hand, it’s not always within budget to create visually appealing animations. Remember: in online learning, budget doesn’t equal effectiveness. It is important to play to your strengths and to keep your audience in mind!

Let’s look at the different options in a bit more detail:

Story-based Instruction

Creating a story around the course content places the learner in a fictional context. Working through the learning material becomes not just a cognitive challenge, but an emotional experience. This approach is particularly well-suited to building the intrinsic motivation necessary to engage with a course when learners are very busy and have no immediate extrinsic motivation to complete it (e.g. an exam).

Story-based Instruction

Story-based Instruction e.g. Agile Management on iversity

Story-based Instruction e.g. Agile Management on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ High emotional engagement sparks learners’ curiosity

+ The narrative underlines the importance and relevance of the topic at hand

– Writing a full script for a compelling story is a lot of work

– Working with different actors is a complex and expensive undertaking

Difficult to shoot additional material later

 

Documentary Style

In some situations, it can be very powerful to film on-site – either inside or outside – much like is being done in documentary filmmaking. The setting of a scene sets a certain kind of tone.

Outside

Effective Learning Videos: Outside e.g. "Social Innovation" on iversity

Outside e.g. “Social Innovation” on iversity

Inside

Effective Learning Videos: Inside e.g. "Predictive Analytics" on iversity

Inside e.g. “Predictive Analytics” on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ It can be very authentic to explain something right there “where the magic happens”

+ Visiting multiple experts in different locations offers learners multiple perspectives on an issue – something that simply could not be done easily in an on-site seminar

– Expensive (travel, permits etc.)

– Requires sophisticated cameras, lighting, and an experienced crew

– Difficult to shoot additional material later

 

Studio Production

Studio production gives you a lot more control over your shots. Furthermore, you work in a professional environment, so your video generally looks a lot more polished. This mode works particularly well if you work with one instructor who is an excellent public speaker, and knows how to draw learners in through intonation, body language, and gestures.

Studio with green-screen and post-production

Effective Learning Videos: Studio with green-screen and post-production e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity 

Studio with green-screen and post-production e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity

Writing on plexiglass

Effective Learning Videos: Writing on Plexiglass e.g. Prof. Frank Slomka on Youtube

Writing on plexiglass e.g. Prof. Frank Slomka on Youtube

Drawing on real paper

Effective Learning Videos: Drawing on real paper e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity 

Drawing on real paper e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ Premium look and feel

+ Many possibilities to modify the footage in post-production

+ Controlled environment with professional staff

– Potentially sterile 

– Relatively expensive

– Difficult to shoot additional material later

 

Improvised / Low-budget

This is in many ways the very opposite of the other approaches, which require detailed planning and often significant resources. In a sense, this is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach to the production of effective learning videos. The fact that it is cheap, however, does not mean that it cannot be effective. This mode of instruction is particularly suitable if you need to produce content ad-hoc or on a shoestring budget.

Text annotation on wallpaper

Effective Learning Videos: Text annotation on wallpaper e.g. literary analysis on Youtube

Text annotation on wallpaper e.g. literary analysis on Youtube

Socratic Dialogue in front of flipboard

Effective Learning Videos: Socratic Dialogue in front of flipboard e.g. SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday 

Socratic Dialogue in front of flipboard e.g. SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday

Selfie-video

Effective Learning Videos: Selfie-video e.g. Corporate Digital Learning on iversity 

Selfie-video e.g. “Corporate Digital Learning” on iversity

Skype-interview

Effective Learning Videos: Skype-interview e.g. “Social Innovation” on iversity

Skype-interview e.g. “Social Innovation” on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ Fast and easy to produce

+ Low production cost

+ Easy to shoot additional material later

+ Highly authentic

– Potentially issues with quality (lighting, sound etc.)

 

Tablet-Capture

A popular way of presenting material in order to create effective learning videos is by using a tablet capture device. All you need is a computer, a tablet, a head-mounted microphone, a mouse and a keyboard. A tablet can be used not only for writing on a blank page, but also for annotation, drawing or sketching on a powerpoint slide, a picture or even a video. This way of presenting is particularly suitable if the material needs to be explained in great detail.

Tablet capture colour on black

Effective Learning Videos: Tablet capture colour on black e.g. Khan Academy

Tablet capture colour on black e.g. Khan Academy

Tablet capture black on fake paper

Effective Learning Videos: Tablet capture black on fake paper e.g. Jörn Loviscach’s Maths videos on Youtube 

Tablet capture black on fake paper e.g. Jörn Loviscach’s Maths videos on Youtube

Tablet capture with superimposed fake hand

Effective Learning Videos: Tablet capture with superimposed fake hand e.g. "How to Build a Start-Up" on Udacity

Tablet capture with superimposed fake hand e.g. “How to Build a Start-Up” on Udacity

Pro & Cons

+ Easy, fast, and excellent for conveying complex concepts (e.g. maths)

+ Has a ‘one-on-one’ feel where the instructor becomes the learner’s personal tutor

+ Because the speaker is not visible, these videos can be heavily and easily edited, so you can start and stop multiple times

+ Relatively easy to shoot additional material later

– Direct engagement of learners only via voice

– Many people’s handwriting is difficult to read

 

Animations

Animation is probably the most challenging video format from a production perspective. Two things are a must: exceptional creativity as well as artistic and technical skills. On the plus side, however, everything is possible in animation! High quality animated video can therefore help to really condense a lecture by combining the audio and visual tracks to maximum effect, e.g. in a trailer.

Pre-drawn cut-outs

Effective Learning Videos: Pre-drawn cut-outs e.g. simpleshow 

Pre-drawn cut-outs e.g. simpleshow

Timelapse comic illustration

Effective Learning Videos: Timelapse comic illustration e.g. RSA Animate 

Timelapse comic illustration e.g. RSA Animate

Digital animation

Effective Learning Videos: Digital animation e.g. Sofatutor 

Digital animation e.g. Sofatutor

Kinetic text

Effective Learning Videos: Kinetic text e.g. IDEO for Hackfwd

Kinetic text e.g. IDEO for Hackfwd

Pro & Cons

+ If done well, animated videos can be very engaging, dense and compelling

+ Helps to break down complex concepts using a combination of text and visuals

+ Because the speaker is not visible, these videos can be heavily and easily edited

– Very time-consuming and expensive

– Requires a lot of technical and artistic skills

To sum up: there are numerous different approaches to creating effective learning videos, all of which can be successful depending on the context. When choosing an approach, course designers have to balance a number of different factors: experience of the instructor, budget, timeline, target audience… Also, as explained at the beginning of this post, a healthy mix of different styles will often go a long way.

 

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