5 Types of Instructional Videos You Can Make Right Now (No Experience Necessary!)

Video has become the most popular way for people to learn new skills and gain knowledge. In fact, our recent study on video viewing habits found that a whopping 83% of people prefer watching a video to access informational or instructional content vs. text or audio. And, of those who responded, 52% reported watching instructional or informational videos between two to 10 times per week.

If you’re still sharing knowledge by sending out walls of text via email or old school user documentation, you’re behind the times at best. At worst, you may be driving away customers or confusing your colleagues!

So, creating useful informational and training videos is essential to your business, both internally and externally. But knowing what kind of video to make or even how to start can be daunting, especially if you’re new to making videos.

Never fear. Creating engaging, entertaining, and effective videos is easier than you might think. 

Here are five videos you can make today — no pro skills (or pro equipment) required!

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What is an instructional video?
  • Five types of instructional videos that get the job done quickly and easily
  • Why you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to make highly effective videos
  • How making videos can be easier than sending an email

What is an instructional video?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but just so we’re all working from the same definition, an instructional video is any video that shows someone how to do something. That can be anything from showing a process (either in the physical world or in a software application) to teaching more soft skills, such as leadership training, customer service training, etc. 

How long should an instructional video be?

Instructional videos can be nearly any length, but generally, the shorter your video, the better. Our research showed that most people prefer videos between five and 19 minutes long. 

Make your video as long as it should be to get the job done properly, but as short as possible. I call this “right-sizing” your video.

What equipment do I need to start making instructional videos?

Fancy cameras, expensive microphones, complicated lighting setups — all of these can help you make extremely professional and highly polished videos.

But you don’t need them. You can make incredibly effective and professional-quality videos with minimal equipment. 

As a baseline, you need:

  • A computer 
  • A camera (even a webcam will do)
  • A microphone (your computer mic will do in a pinch)

That’s it!

In fact, it’s more important to figure out what software you need. 

For quick screencasts (we’ll talk more about those later) or videos that will need minimal editing, I check out TechSmith Snagit. If your video needs a few more bells and whistles, you’ll probably want to try TechSmith Camtasia. 

But here’s a pro tip: For the best results, I highly recommend choosing both. 

You can download free trials of Camtasia and Snagit right now. And, when you’re ready to buy, there’s even a special bundle price!

5 types of instructional videos you can make right now

Microvideo

So, let’s be clear about something: The term “microvideo” is really just a fancy way to say “short video.” 

Microvideos are very short, highly focused instructional videos that typically teach a single, narrow topic. They’re usually less than a minute long. They can be highly polished and professional or very informal, depending on your needs.

When to use a microvideo

Use microvideos any time you need to teach a simple concept in a few steps. You might make a one-off video that teaches a new software feature. Or for more complex concepts, create a series of microvideos that splits a topic into logical chunks. 

As instructors shy away from long-form video, microvideos offer 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.

While microvideos are most often used to teach a skill, they can be used to share knowledge or information or teach soft skills.

Tutorial Video

A tutorial video (often called a “how-to” video) is the go-to instructional method for teaching a process or walking through the steps needed to complete a task. 

Usually between two and 10 minutes long, tutorial videos often leverage multiple instructional methods, such as direct instruction, follow-along type guidance, and even quizzing and interactive elements. 

For external audiences, it’s best for these to be as polished and professional as possible. But, tutorial videos are incredibly useful inside your organization as well. For internal training, they can be as formal or informal as necessary.

Imagine a library of tutorial videos your HR department can use to offer basic training on how to use various systems for employee onboarding. Those would likely need to be a little more polished. However, I can make quick tutorial videos right at my desk to show a colleague how to find a particular report in Google Analytics. That doesn’t need to be formal or fancy at all, but is just as useful.

When to use it: Tutorials videos can teach just about anything. No hard-and-fast rules exist for deciding when to use them. Basically, any time you need to teach a process or share valuable information on how to improve a skill, a tutorial video will be useful. 

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

Like tutorial videos, training videos improve someone’s skills. However, while tutorial videos typically cover more hard skills or processes, training videos commonly cover interpersonal topics, such as compliance and harassment training, or job-related topics. There is definitely some overlap between training videos and tutorial videos, and sometimes they’re even used interchangeably. 

Training videos often use footage of real people to help bolster the connection between the trainer and trainee, but that is not a requirement. 

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.

Presentation and lecture capture

Honestly, this is one of my favorite ways to create instructional videos — and it’s useful for more than you might think.

Primarily, recording a lecture or presentation makes it available for an audience to consume content when they have time. It allows them to consume as much or as little as they can at any given time and, like all of the videos in this piece, they can go back and review it as needed.

This might be as simple as recording just the slides and audio for a presentation, or as advanced as recording the slides, a camera (or cameras) and professional audio. 

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.

PRO TIP: Use a presentation video to “flip” (or even replace) a meeting. 

One of my favorite things we do here at TechSmith is share out vital information needed for a meeting via video. That way everyone comes to the meeting armed with the information they need to actually discuss a topic and make decisions rather than having to sit through and process it in real time. 

Or, for purely informational meetings, we often just make a quick presentation recording with whatever data or information we needed to meet about and share it with the team. Now, people can watch the video when they have time, go back and review as needed, and watch it at their own pace. They can still come back with any questions or concerns, it just doesn’t require everyone to be in the same room (or Zoom meeting) at the same time.

In my job as blog lead here at TechSmith, I often have to share data on SEO performance, etc. Rather than call everyone into a meeting every time I want to share something, I pull my data, fire up Snagit, and make a quick and dirty video sharing what I think is important. Now, rather than getting people together for 30 minutes or an hour, they get what they need in a fraction of the time.

Screencast

While a screencast might not technically be a separate type of instructional video, it’s an effective way to create any of the videos listed in this article. 

A screencast is a screen recording designed to share knowledge or teach someone to perform a task. Screencasts tend to be quick, informal, and are usually intended for a smaller audience than tutorial videos. 

Screencasts allow an instructor to quickly grab information on their screen 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.

But they don’t have to be! An effective software tutorial screencast may be useful for months or even years.

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.

You can start making videos today

With these 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 TechSmith Academy. And don’t forget to download your free trials of Snagit and Camtasia to find out how easy it can be to create incredibly effective instructional videos. 

Ryan Knott

TechSmith Marketing Content Specialist and manager of the TechSmith Blog. More than 25 years of communications and marketing experience. Geek. Science and sci-fi enthusiast. Guitar player. On a mission to pet all the dogs. He/him. A few things about me: 1) Mildly (or not-so-mildly) obsessed with the movie Alien, 2) two rescue pibbles (Biggie and Reo), and 3) friend of ducks everywhere. Ask me about my seven+ years as a roller derby coach.

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