Friday, September 27, 2013

Best Practices for Instructional Videos

Most of these tips are based on the research on multimedia learning conducted by Dr. Richard E Mayer. 

Keep it short. People's attention spans are only about 5 minutes long. Really. A 50-minute class session is definitely not ideal. A nice thing about online videos is that students can watch them in small pieces, giving their brains a chance to refresh in between them. You can still share the same content as you would in a 50-minute lecture; just break it down into smaller chunks. A maximum of 10 minutes per video is recommended. Short videos are also much easier and faster for your computer to produce.

Speak from an outline. If you just start speaking without a plan, you are more likely to meander and misspeak and then will have to edit more later, or have not as good of a product. You don't want to sound like you're reading because people learn better from a conversational voice, so an outline may be better than a script you'd read word-for-word. People are less tolerant of confusing or meandering online tutorials than they would be if you are presenting face-to-face, so it's important to be very clear.

People learn better from words and graphics/images together than they do from words alone.
Include visuals as much as possible, but don't provide a graphic with on-screen text and read it out loud (this is called the redundancy principle). 

Here are a few interesting small findings of Mayer's relating to this: 
  • It is less "wrong" to read on-screen text out loud when no graphic is present. 
  • People learn better from audio narration than on-screen text.
  • Graphics and narration should be presented at the same time, rather than explaining first and then showing (this is called temporal contiguity).

Text should go as close as possible to where it is needed. For instance, callouts on the image pointing to what it is referring to are better than putting the text at the bottom of the image. This is called the spatial contiguity principle.

Keep it simple. Not all graphics are effective; if you can't find a relevant graphic, do not put in something decorative. People will try to make sense of it, distracting them from learning.

Also, background music and unnecessary color hinders learning.

Provide small self-checks in or near the tutorials. Use it or lose it! Programs like Camtasia and Captivate allow you to add quizzes and interactivity to your content. These can help students reinforce the main points of your tutorials. Make sure they are using the content somewhere in your class, or they may quit watching. 

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