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Five Tips for Creating Effective Learning Videos

The use of video-based learning content has been growing in popularity across all industries, changing the way people learn. As a result, the expectations for this type of content have risen and video creators are finding it more difficult than ever to ensure that their content is effective and engaging. Effective learning videos in particular can be daunting to plan and create.

As a former instructional designer, I’m very intrigued by this notion and I’m happy to share with you…

Five Tips for Creating Effective Learning Videos.

These recommendations are partially based on a study* conducted by TechSmith.

1. Setting the right expectation:

The #1 reason why professionals stop watching a video is simple: They are not getting the right information. Therefore, it’s crucial that we, as content creators, provide as much additional information about the content as we can in the video description, the thumbnail, or the teaser. Is the video a simple overview or does it contain step-by-step instructions? Is it part of a series? What topics are specificially included? The more information you can provide to the viewer before they even hit the play button, the more likely it is that they will select the video that will best help them reach their learning goal quickly. Bonus points: Consider adding a table of contents to allow the viewer to jump to the spots they’re most interested in within in the video.


2. Use annotations and text overlays

An important video element that our study* identified is the use of annotations and text overlays to communicate additional information, relevancy, and context to the viewer. These can take on many different forms and roles, as shown in the image below:

various annotation examples

  • Lower thirds that provide information about a person or item shown in the video
  • Facts and details that support your message or are considered key take-aways
  • Pop-ups with tips and tricks for improved success
  • Arrows, highlights, and frames that draw the viewers attention to a specific area of your content

Adding such elements to your video will not only improve the learning success of the viewer, but also increases the perceived value and quality of your content. The screen recording and video production software Camtasia offers a variety of pre-built annotations such as shapes, text, and lower thirds that can easily be added to any content. Watch this video to learn how.

3. Show the speaker in the video

While keeping in mind that this may not work for all videos, many of the great videos we analyzed* showed the speaker to various degrees. This adds character and authenticity to your content, it allows you to create a personal bond with your viewers and also amplifies you as a recongizable brand.**

In some cases, the speaker was only visible during the introduction while other videos chose to show the speakers throughout the entire video.

examples of speaker video

There is no formula to the amount of speaker you need, so always consider your audience and what is appropriate for them. Keep in mind that a shown speaker can also distract from the learning content, which is why I (personally) favor the following approach:

Focus on the content and use the speaker as a “special effect”, meaning that I use the speaker to build trust and drive engagement, but I don’t rely on him or her to drive the content. I start many of my videos with a personal introduction showing myself via the webcam. Once I transition to the learning content, I disable my camera so the viewer can concentrate on the objective. I will bring back the camera video during chapter breaks and generally at the end to summarize the lesson and to provide my viewers with a personal farewell.

Include a speaker at strategic points of the video
**I still get recognized to this day as the guy who made Jing Videos back in 2009.

4. Animations

Animations, movements, and visual changes: These elements work great to capture the viewer’s attention and to keep them engaged, but let’s face it: Screen recordings and PowerPoint slides tend to be boring and there is rarely motion that grabs the viewer’s attention. So in order to have our content be more effective and engaging, we need to add these elements and there are many ways to do so. There is no need to go crazy or hire an animator; often times even the smallest movements will greatly improve your content.

  • Use zoom and pan effects to bring sections of your content into focus. The movemenst of the zoom will provide an engaging visual change.
  • Annotations and other elements in your video don’t have to simply appear and disappear-they can fly in, move about, or fade out.
  • Speaker video is a great animated visual that helps to offset any dull content.
showcase of animation vs no animation

Which version do you find more engaging?

5. Use Hyperlinks to provide additional information

What happens after viewers have finished watching your video? Where do they go from there? As a content creator, you have an opportunity to guide the learner towards the next objective, which is a huge opportunity to improve the overall learning experience and to strengthen your message. This is where hyperlinks come into play, either in the video itself or as part of the video description. If you can provide the viewer with relevant links and directions, consider doing it.

Here are some examples of what helpful information you may want to include:

  • Recommend a video to watch next, especially if its part of a series.
  • Reference articles that provide deeper information on the discussed topic.
  • Link to downloadable assets such as project files, examples, or documents.
  • Show information about the author or the product.

Examples of Video Hyperlinks

Those are five of my tips for creating engaging and effective content.

If you’re looking to get started with easy video creation across your institution, learn more about TechSmith Relay here.

What advice do you have for creating more engaging videos? I look forward to reading them in the comments.


*In 2016, TechSmith conducted our bi-annual, large scale study on the behaviors and expectations of video viewers that also involved the analysis of over 500 videos. The results gave us a better understanding for the design of effective videos which is being used for the improvement of our software solutions.

Let’s give credit where credit is due:

  • Our UX researchers Stephanie Warnhoff and Casey Wright designed, conducted, and analyzed most of the study. There would be no data without them.
  • Our Video & Learning Ambassador Matt Pierce, was responsible for adapting the results from a content creators point of view. I supported Matt Pierce in this process and elaborated on many of the findings.