5 Types of Instructional Videos and When to Use Them

videos on laptop illustration in SUI format

Whether you need to demonstrate a technical process for an online class or teach your grandma how to use her email, a video is often a great way to get the job done. The key: Choosing and making the right type of video for the task.

To help you, I’ll walk through five of the most common types of instructional videos and when to use them.


What is it: Microvideos are short instructional videos that focus on teaching a single, narrow topic. They’re usually less than a minute long and appeal to today’s media consumers, who have notoriously short attention spans.

When to use it: Anytime you need to teach a simple concept in a few steps. You might make a one-off microvideo that teaches a new software feature. Or for more complex concepts, create a series of microvideos that splits a topic into logical chunks, with a microvideo for each. As instructors shy away from long-form video, this offers them the same outcomes with better engagement from their audience. This strategy also allows for more control over the pace of learning and makes the learning content easier to consume. For more examples of how to use microvideos, check out our post 8 Surprising Ways to Use Microlearning Activities in Your Online Training Course.

Example: This microvideo is short and to the point. It teaches one task and doesn’t include any unnecessary explanation.

Tutorial Video

What is it: A tutorial video is the go-to instructional method for teaching a process or walking through the steps needed to complete a task. Usually between 2-10 minutes long these videos leverage multiple instructional methods, such as direct instruction, follow-along type guidance and even quizzing and interactive elements. Sometimes referred to as “how-to” videos, the best ones are carefully planned and have high production quality. Interested in learning how to make your own? Check out our tutorial on how to make a tutorial.

When to use it: Tutorials videos can teach just about anything. No hard-and-fast rules exist for deciding when to use them, however, there are a few key factors that can help make the decision.

First, is the topic or process best taught through video? Does it need to be communicated visually, or could a written tutorial accomplish the same goal. If you can’t confidently say yes to video, then a quick written tutorial might be a more affordable option.

Second, are there content expectations that require video as the instructional method? For example, our users expect video tutorials that cover the new features we release with our software. This incentivizes us to use video and plays an important role in our decision making process.

Finally, do you have the time, budget and know-how (it’s simple with Camtasia) to create and maintain the tutorials?

Example: In this example, the instructor introduces the software, then walks the user through the steps of recording, editing and sharing their video. It’s a straightforward tutorial video that exemplifies the direct instruction often seen in these types of videos.

Training Video

What is it: Training videos are designed to improve employees’ workplace skills. They commonly cover interpersonal topics, such as compliance and harassment training, or job related topics, such as hardware and software training. Similar to tutorials, training videos leverage multiple instructional techniques, such as direct instructions, follow-along type guidance, quizzing, and interactive elements. However, unlike tutorials, training videos often use footage of real people to help bolster the connection between the trainer and trainee. Interested in learning more about training videos and how to make your own? Check out our tutorial on how to make a training video.

When to use it: Training videos can teach just about any process. Training videos are often used in situations that lend themselves to live video, where the interpersonal connection will improve the content retention.

Example: This is a fun training video from Air New Zealand that focuses on teaching people how to be safe in their airplanes. It plays heavily to the nostalgia of the Lord of the Rings movies in an effort to connect with the audience.


What is it: A video composed primarily of screen recordings designed to teach someone to perform a task or share knowledge. Screencasts tend to be quick, informal, and are usually intended for a smaller audience than tutorial videos. This format lends itself to just-in-time teaching, where an instructor can quickly create a screencast to answer a question or clear up a problematic concept. Often, screencasts are considered “disposable” videos, meaning they can be made quickly, with lower production value, for a specific purpose, and their lifespan is short.

When to use it: Screencasts are great for quick, informal instruction. When the audience is small and the stakes are low, a quick screencast is a great way to visually communicate an idea or solve a question/problem.

Example: This is a quick example of a screencast that demonstrates changing the user interface theme of Snagit from light to dark. The video is short, off-the-cuff and to the point.

Presentation & Lecture Capture

What is it: A recording of a lecture or presentation to make it available for an audience to consume or review after the fact. This might be as simple as recording just the audio for a presentation, or as advanced as recording PowerPoint point slides, a webcam and a separate microphone all at once. Lecture and presentation capture tend to be longer than a tutorial video and span the length of the class or presentation. This makes them more time intensive to consume and requires a higher level of investment from the audience. To brush up on your presentation or lecture captures skills, check out our blog post The Complete Guide to Lecture Capture.

When to use it: To make a presentation or lesson available for later review or to make it available to an audience who couldn’t attend the live event.

Example: This TED talk given by Sir Ken Robinson is a prime example of a knowledge share that that was intended for a larger audience than could be present during the presentation.


With the five types of instructional videos in hand, it’s time to get out there and start creating some video! If you don’t know where to start, head over to the new TechSmith Academy. This totally free program walks you through the entire video production process and provides tons of tips and tricks along the way. Happy editing!

Doug Brunner

Doug Brunner is an Instructional Designer at TechSmith. Fun Facts: • He's run a 52.4 mile race • Traveled to 11 different countries • Played drums in a Celtic band • Sings in his local community choir

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