7 tips to create great e-learning videos

When you’re in the eLearning space, you don’t have the benefit of judging interest by looking at your class, making engagement especially important.

A teacher in a classroom can visually discern who is paying attention and who is starting to flake. With an eLearning course, the learner’s engagement is almost entirely dependent on the course itself because there is no in-person presenter. If the learner loses interest, getting them back is much more difficult because there’s no teacher there to swoop in and save them. To keep learners engaged, the course must be gripping from the start.

Adding video is one of the most surefire ways to hook your audience and can also make retention and recall easier for viewers. This means your viewers are more likely to be hooked and remember the information they’re receiving. It’s a win-win.

But it’s not as simple as just adding videos to your eLearning courses. The videos need to be created in a way that hooks viewers while also delivering the right information. To make this process easier, there are key tips that can ensure that your videos hit the mark.

1. Set a Clear Objective

You won’t know where to take your video if you haven’t set a learning goal. A clear objective for your course and video will keep you on track and make sure you’re being concise with the messaging.

Your objectives should be high-level and functional, not granular. For example, in an eLearning video about web design, your objective could be, “ensure viewers walk away equipped to create sites using WordPress.” Save the granular goals, such as, “Teach users how to alter headers using CSS,” for the nitty-gritty course planning.

Objectives should be made clear at the beginning of your course, giving users an idea about what it is they’ll learn. Use clear, straightforward language because the objectives will be used to promote the course, and the wrong language could mislead users into taking a course that isn’t the right fit for them.

Learning objectives will help you and the learner understand what matters most in the course. Distill your video down to its most basic themes and the objectives will be easy to lay out. For an even deeper understanding of learning objectives, Duke has an in-depth guide.

2. Know Your Audience

Before you create your course video, you must take the time to understand where your audience’s knowledge gaps are and what approach best serves them.

To determine who your audience is, think about the subject of your lesson. Research that topic, and see what kinds of people frequent forums, social media pages, and other sites covering that subject. Are they older? Younger? Tech-savvy? Conduct internal surveys or look at the social media profiles of people who follow pages related to the topic you’re teaching to gather more info on your typical learner.

Use the audience data you’ve gathered to inform how you present the information. The audience and subject you’re presenting should play a big role in how the information is conveyed within your video.

For example, if you’re covering conflict-resolution tips for children, you’ll want to use childlike characters within the video. A video that does a scientific deep dive on how engines work, on the other hand, should use mature imagery, like photos or animated diagrams.

You know your subject matter through and through. Understanding your audience helps you determine how you can deliver your lesson in a way that resonates with them and makes them an expert.

3. Make the Benefits of the Video Clear

A key way to pique learners’ interest in your video is to explain why the knowledge you’re sharing is useful. Much like your learning objectives, stating the benefit of the video upfront will give viewers something to look forward to and make it clear what they’ll gain from the experience.

A great spot to announce these benefits is at the start of your video or course; this will give your viewers the promise of a benefit and motivate them to complete the video. Tell your viewer not only what it is they’re going to learn but also how this knowledge will help them do a task better or improve their life in a certain way.

4. Captivate Viewers with a Scenario

Storytelling in eLearning can inspire audiences and help them get invested in the course. Instead of listing monotonous facts, share information through a scenario to hook your students and show how the knowledge is applied in a real-world setting.

Consider using a classic storytelling arc, based on the Freytag pyramid. Begin with an exciting incident, transition into a conflict, and end with a resolution. This model of storytelling is traditionally used in books, movies, and television, and it works by immediately hooking the viewer with something exciting or interesting.

For example, let’s say you’re making an eLearning video on de-escalating situations in the workplace. Your video could include a scenario that shows how two people get into an argument and how the situation could be resolved with communication techniques.

Videos have the benefit of taking advantage of both visuals and audio, making them a great medium for storytelling. Use this to your benefit, and grip your viewers with an educational story or scenario that fits the lesson.

5. Add Interactivity

Don’t just talk at your audience with an eLearning video with narration—give them a chance to interact with the course content as well. This interactivity encourages engagement by actively involving the audience.

One way to add interactivity is by adding mini-tests or quizzes after a video plays to ensure that the knowledge is sticking. You can also break up videos with scenarios that allow the learner to select the appropriate response to a situation. This lets them ground the information in a real-world scenario while also giving them a chance to participate.

Videos can already be interesting ways to deliver education. Take things a step further and encourage your audiences to have fun by adding interactivity.

6. Keep it Concise

Studies have shown that engagement dips drastically after six minutes of video. With this in mind, try to keep your videos at or below six minutes. Two-three minutes are often best.

If you have a lengthy topic to cover, try to find areas where a break wouldn’t interrupt the flow too drastically. These breaks are a great spot to include a quiz or interactive segment as well.

Check whether the hosting platform for your courses offers a save function. If so, turn it on so users are able to step away from the session and resume it later. At the very least, be sure that your course video player allows students to hit pause. Interruptions happen, and learners need mental breaks, so an option to stop the course improves the overall experience.

Even the biggest lessons can be broken into concise, digestible pieces. Keep your viewers hooked by keeping it short and to the point.

7. Make Your Videos Accessible

In the United States, roughly 19% of the population has some form of disability, and your audience could easily consist of people who need assistance with accessing your material. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to make sure your eLearning videos are accessible.

To ensure that your videos are accessible, add closed captions to videos for people who are hearing impaired. These captions should be a separate text file that can be read aloud for people who are visually impaired.

It’s also a good idea to create a text version of your video that details everything said, because captions aren’t always capable of capturing the full effect of the piece.

Also make sure your video is hosted on a player that supports accessibility. Many major players, including YouTube and Facebook, have accessibility features but aren’t necessarily compliant with government’s accessibility standards. For a detailed list of compliant players, as well as further details on accessibility, read our guide on making accessible videos.

Keep your Learners Engaged with Video

While eLearning doesn’t allow you to see learners in-person, you can still craft course videos in a way that keeps your audience hooked and excited to learn. The 7 tips above will have you on your way to creating engaging videos for your eLearning courses. Start with these basic guidelines, and then experiment to see what works with your brand and your audience.