Fourteen Evidence-Based Tips to Make Effective Instructional Videos

Posted on May 20, 2021

Person teaching on computer screen

Video is the most popular way to train learners. Back in the 1990s, it took much work to create a good instructional video. Today, it’s easy to make a video from your smartphone or through PowerPoint’s recording function. Video is so easy to create that trainers turn on the recorder and start talking. We have bad PowerPoint because it was easy to create a slideshow. Now, we are suffering from a glut of bad instructional videos.

How can you make an excellent instructional video? Follow these fourteen research-tested tips:

  1. Videos should have both narration and images.


  1. Don’t add more material in terms of narration and images than is necessary to convey your message.


  1. Indicate the key material either through emphasis by the narrator or by visual effects.


  1. Do not add captions that repeat the narration because reading and listening at the same time can hinder mental processing. The exception, of course, is closed captioning for the hearing disabled.


  1. Make sure that captions are close to the corresponding part of the graphic. Use arrows or other connectors if necessary to make the association clear.


  1. Make sure to synchronize the visuals with the narration.


  1. Break complex topics into segments that build progressively. Allow the learner to control how fast the segments are presented.


  1. Start with an introduction that previews the key concepts.


  1. Don’t have too much text on the screen. Speak the words and present just the essential words along with corresponding images.


  1. Have the narrator speak conversationally in the first and second person. The narrator should sound like they are having a friendly conversation with the learner over lunch or a coffee break.


  1. The narrator should have a pleasant voice and speaks positively.


  1. Don’t display a still photo of the narrator’s face throughout the video. If you need to show a still image of the narrator, do so at the beginning and end of the video.


  1. The narrator should use dynamic gestures and maintain eye contact. All demonstrations should be filmed from the first-person perspective.


  1. Pause the video and have the learner do a knowledge check to test their understanding of the material at that point. Whether the learner’s answer is right or wrong, make sure to explain the correct answer before continuing with the video.

These tips are easy to implement and will significantly increase learner engagement and instructional impact. To learn more about the research behind these tips, consult Dr. Richard Mayer’s article, “Evidence-Based Principles for How to Design Effective Instructional Videos,” in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

Dr. Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Louisville and the University of Maryland. He also works as a Federal training and development professional for the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General Office. He started his government career in Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy and moved on to the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet in the 1990s. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers. You can reach him on LinkedIn.

Read Dr. Brantley’s other articles:

Community Learning Coaches: A Proposal to Help Education in Rural Population Areas

Three No-Cost Training Solutions for Local Government Training Offices

A Modern Learning Platform for State and Local Government Employees

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