Effective Instructional Videos

Instructional Videos come in all shapes and sizes, but there are some statistics you should pay attention to to maximize student learning. The quick overview is that you should keep your video short (under 6 minutes), friendly, and connect it directly to an assessment. Here’s a link to an article from The American Society for Cell Biology that offers some more good insight on the topic:


On Pointe with Instructional Video

front and side view of woman at ballet barre in second position

Image: Hettie Stern ‘17, performs a ballet move for Jennifer Bader’s “Fundamentals of Ballet” online resource.

Imagine taking your first ballet class and being expected to learn both the French terminology and the specific associated dance moves.  Your textbook provides the vocabulary and some still images, and your instructor can show you what the moves look like, but once you’re back in your dorm room, how can you review what the proper positioning and technique is for any specific move?  Enter Jennifer Bader, Senior Lecturer in Dance at Carleton, Dann Hurlbert, Carleton’s Media and Design Specialist, and Doug Bratland, Web Content Specialist with College Communications.

Jennifer envisioned an online “Fundamentals of Ballet” resource that combines ballet terminology with concise video clips for each move. Her collaborative project resulted in 210 separate fundamentals videos featuring the talented Hettie Stern, a dancer and recent Carleton graduate, who performed dozens and dozens of specific ballet moves on camera.  PEPS and AT student workers Joseph Brommel, Sonja Borgmann, Kira Butz, Zane Grinde, and Adam Throne spent countless hours reviewing, syncing, and editing multi-cam footage and entering the French terminology for each move. Each of these short videos will now be compiled made accessible online to students through the work of Doug Bratland and the Web Services Group.

Providing students video content is nothing new.  Instructional videos around the world “are used by students for tutorial help, they improve initial learning, reduce dropout rates, and they improve course grades.” At the same time, it’s evident that students often skip over large portions of long instructional lectures. That means to engage students effectively, faculty members need to thoughtfully and concisely deliver their essential content while ensuring that students see it as relevant and easily consumable. This is why Jennifer Bader’s project will become a powerful tool.  Each video is only 10-20 seconds long, and each includes only the relevant information. During the upcoming school year, students will now be able to easily search for, watch, and review specific dance moves as they practice.

Jennifer’s project isn’t the only video resource Academic Technology helped develop over the last year. We also collaborated with faculty to create videos with content ranging from “Visualizing Slavery, Migration, and Liberation in Bahrain” to the “Buddhist View of Self” to “Tariffs” to “Objects and Air Resistance” to “Close Readings of Ancient Texts,” and many more. The size, scope, and potential of Jennifer’s project make it noteworthy, though, and we’re certain it will soon become a powerful reference tool for Carleton’s dance students.


Instructional Video: Keep it . .. Moving

Countdown on the old movie screen. Number 5 superimposed over words "keep it moving"

Consider this: the length of time between edits in video/film has decreased dramatically in the last 100 years. In the 1930’s, the average shot lasted 10-12 seconds. In 1990 it was closer to 6 seconds. Today, it’s 2.5-3 seconds per shot. Modern audiences have been trained to take in information much quicker—and are bored quicker when the visuals don’t change.

This gives us some idea of how to keep our students engaged when creating instructional videos. We need to keeping the visuals moving (moving the mouse, changing slides, or “cutting” from one visual to another), we’ve lost our students.

As you prepare your next instructional video, work hard to vary your visuals frequently. Additionally, try to keep the overall duration of instructional videos between 2-3 minutes. 2-3 concise, engaging, and well designed videos that are only 2-3 minutes long can be much more effective than one long, plodding video. As always, allow for some kind of assessment, too.

Despite this, there is still value in capturing video of classroom lectures; students can review material, playback at increased speed, utilize captioning, etc. . . . but to engage your students keep those videos short and keep the visuals moving.

For additional reading on how video has changed in the last 100 years, checkout Wired.com’s Cinema is Evolving article. Then consider how that might impact the way you teach with your own instructional videos.