A Guide to Using Training Videos in eLearning

6 min read | Nov 15, 2020
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Training videos are often the standard form of content in eLearning, but they are not all created equal. There is a massive difference between a four hour snooze fest that a student has simply to get through before being able to start work, and an effective and foundation-building video series that is not only enjoyable to watch, but instructional as well.

Why Use Videos in Your eLearning Curriculum?

Training videos offer a large variety of benefits to a learner, and they are a flexible enough medium that they can be adapted to suit the needs of whatever business or organization that needs them.

Video is the Most Engaging Form Of Content Available

There are many benefits to using training videos in your eLearning curriculum, but the biggest one involves activating the senses of your learner. Consider that a person being trained in-person has all five of their senses being activated in some form or another. They feel the temperature of the air, maybe they taste the leftover free coffee and smell the freshly sharpened pencils, they hear and see the other students and the instructor. All of this activity in the brain makes it easier to remember; the brain is more active and more likely to save the information it is getting, making learning more efficient.

However in an eLearning setting, the number of possible senses gets reduced. If a student is reading a handbook they’re only using their eyes; if they’re listening to an interview with an expert it’s only their ears. Video works well in eLearning because it activates both of those senses simultaneously, making it much more engaging and easier for the student to recall the information.

Video Helps Students Who Might Have Learning Disabilities

One of the disadvantages to learning virtually is that, for students who struggle with reading retention and comprehension, the heavy emphasis typically placed on text can negatively impact their experience. This holds true not just in traditional learning environments like schools, but anywhere where learning needs to take place, like on-the-job training.

Video is also inherently more exciting and easier to focus on for students who struggle with concentration. This benefit of training videos particularly comes to the fore when the subject being taught is complicated or if it has many moving parts.

Video Shows Proof of Professionalism and Investment in the Student

In the world of eLearning, having a high-quality video teaching session or even just a lesson overview in video form shows not only technological competence, but also a higher degree of professionalism.

Making a good video takes time, energy and often money; and showing your student that you are committed to their learning success by giving them access to a top-notch video is a great way to boost confidence in their teacher. Obviously your LMS needs to be compatible with video as well, if this is going to work.

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How To Make an Effective eLearning Training Video

eLearning videos can come in all shapes, subjects and sizes, but a few things always remain consistent: A training or teaching video should have a single, clear subject and purpose.

Stick To One Concept to Maximize Effectiveness in eLearning Videos

A sprawling 98 minute long video covering every possible facet related to the subject being taught is not a great way to use video in eLearning. Video is most effective and engaging for the student when it keeps a clear focus on one topic.

Now this can be difficult when the subject being taught is something very complicated like automobile maintenance or physics, but this is where eLearning can shine most. Breaking a complicated subject down into smaller pieces and creating a video and lesson plan for each is a much more effective way of presenting the material than cramming it all into a single presentation and hoping the student doesn’t get bored halfway through.

Smaller, bite-sized bits of new information are easiest for learners to process. And just as it’s a good idea to keep each video focused on a single topic, you should also stick to a consistent style of video when creating eLearning content.

Types of training videos elearning

How to Determine Which Style of eLearning Video To Make

There are a number of different paths to take when designing an eLearning video. We’ll review the most common ones and their benefits so you can decide which is best for the type of teaching you’ll be doing.

Screencasts: Best for teaching software, coding, and other computer-focused skills.

A screencast is a constant video of the instructor’s computer screen, and is typically accompanied by audio of the instructor explaining what they’re doing. Screencasts are extremely useful when what you’re teaching is a piece of software, a coding exercise, or something else that is heavily reliant on the computer.

Presenter Video: Easy to set up and ideal if you have a charismatic teacher.

A presenter video is focused entirely on the individual who is teaching the material, the so called star of the video. If you have a very charismatic and entertaining teacher who performs well on camera, this kind of instructional video may be ideal. Look into Ted Talks for excellent examples; they are all presenter videos.

Role Play or Simulation: Requires more investment, but can greatly increase participation, attention, and student recall.

Getting the student involved in the learning process by making the eLearning video collaborative instead of passive is a terrific way to increase student engagement, and role play focused videos excel at this. If it helps, you can think of these types of videos as a sort of “Dora the Explorer” or “Blue’s Clues” style video, where the viewer is asked questions. If your students are adults and not children, though, perhaps don’t rely on a kleptomaniac fox.

The main reason simulation videos work well is that they engage the viewer’s mind, which helps create an OUI loop (link to that article) and improves retention. The disadvantage is, creating this type of video can require hiring actors or getting employees/staff to play the parts, which can cause issues of quality (think of those car commercials where the salesperson does it herself).

Animation: Animations in eLearning are ideal for showing very complex topics, particularly when the subject being taught is either theoretical or impractical to film.

Creating an animation is not a cheap endeavor, but what it requires in expense it more than makes up for in utility. An animation of a star system or the inside of an atom, for example, is the only practical way to demonstrate objects so vast and miniscule. Similarly, animations can be helpful to teach about events that happen extraordinarily quickly (like how airbags deploy during a car crash) or over long durations (like the life cycle of a tree or the process of erosion).

Examples of the Different Types of eLearning Video Styles

If you’re still not sure which style to use for your own videos, check out these examples or checkout a more in depth article about effective training videos.

Crash Course: Philosophy: Produced by PBS, this video uses Animation to teach philosophical truths.

The Great War: A week-by-week breakdown of WWI. This is a terrific example of a Presenter Video.

Minute Physics: Quantum Computing and Shor’s Algorithm: This video uses an interesting hybrid of a presenter and an animation (with the presenter “animating” as he speaks while drawing on the board.)

How To Program in C#: Terrific beginner tutorial that showcases Screen Capture technology and a presenter.

Writing a Script & Creating a Storyboard for your eLearning Training Video

Once you’ve settled on the type of video training you want to create for your eLearning curriculum, it’s time to get writing. Writing a script for your training video is important because it helps streamline the flow of the lesson and it makes sure you don’t accidentally leave out a vital tidbit. It’s easy to go back and add a sentence to a document, but adding a clip to video takes time, potentially a reshoot, and more editing. Don’t take the risk: use a script.

If you’re not sure where to start, remember that you want to focus on a single subject and play to the strengths of the video format you’ve chosen. From there, you can read about script writing here.

Recording & Editing Your eLearning Training Video

The great joy of 2020 (and perhaps the only one) is the wide variety of available technologies that allow the creation of high quality videos for eLearning. Most cell phones have cameras and mics that are good enough to film on. Apple even made a commercial advertising its new iPhone by shooting it… on the iPhone.

Likely where you’ll want to spend your focus isn’t on the recording hardware, but on editing software. Fortunately PC Magazine has a fairly comprehensive list of all the software you could need for this sort of thing. If you don’t want to look at the whole list, we recommend using iPhoto (on a Mac) or the Photos app if you’re on Windows, and if you’re willing to spend a little money get Adobe Premiere.

However, if you don’t have any experience making video and you’d rather outsource it, there are tons of great websites like Fiverr, Freelancer and Upwork where you can hire creative-types to do the work on your behalf.

How to Implement Your Training Video in eLearning

Now that you’ve got your video made, how do you use it so it gets the biggest impact? There are a few schools of thought on this. Some content creators and teachers use video at the start of a lesson to help increase initial attention and excitement, and then have readings, audio files and graphics after. Others save the video for the end, so that it can drive home the lesson and it’s freshest in the mind of the learner before the day ends (or the quiz starts). Either option is a good one, but make sure that the Learning Management Software you’re using works well with video so you can get the most benefit out of this excellent content distribution medium.

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