5 Tips for Making Instructional Videos More Effective

Videos aren't just a tremendously popular entertainment medium—they're also a primary format for learning. A survey conducted by 2and2/Google, “The Values of YouTube,” found that, of 1,006 consumers aged 18-54, more than 7-in-10 consumers of video said they turn to YouTube to solve a problem in their job, studies, or hobbies. With this built-in audience ripe to learn, how can you best create your instructional videos to be most effective?

Know Whether to Dub or Subtitle

Both the material and the country can affect the method of localization you choose. Generally speaking, the more dense and technical the material, the more suited it is to dubbing. If viewers are working with hard to follow content, you don’t want to tax them further with the distraction of listening in one language and reading in another. That’s cognitive overload.

Additionally, some countries are more inclined toward either dubbing or subtitling. Germany, Scandinavia, France, Japan, Spain, and Latin America are considered more traditional dubbing markets, while the Middle East, China, and South Korea are more accustomed to subtitling. Animated content tends to be dubbed rather than subtitled. Generally speaking, with the rise of global streaming platforms, dubbing is increasingly favored for localization in almost all markets. 

Make it Seamless

Whatever method you choose, the localization should not be noticeable. Take a lesson from Hollywood – would you take seriously a feature film with body language and movement out of sync with the words? The same applies to instructional material. Whatever you are teaching—whether it be how to dissect a calculus equation or how to build a better hamburger — the dubbed speaking must start and stop with the actor on screen, match the flow of visuals, and be equal to the quality of the original content. Choose a voice actor that seems appropriate for the material; don’t be afraid of holding multiple castings to get this right.

How Long Should it Be?

It seems an odd question, right? The material is as long as it needs to be. But research shows diminishing returns on programs where the length doesn’t suit the content. Attention spans are becoming increasingly short. So if you want viewers to remember important points of your video lesson, it’s best to break it into chapters. When each of the key points has its own section — complete with imagery, headings, possibly setting and modality — it’s more fixed in the memory. For example, brief overviews are worth about 1-3 minutes; a “big picture” look at a topic warrants 2-5, a deep dive into a complex subject could be 5-15, and a full learning module or documentary typically runs more than 15 minutes, according to Obsidian Learning.

Guidelines for Design

Likewise, there are guidelines for the format and flow of instructional videos. As you begin to lead viewers through instruction, offer organization and contextual cues to let them know where they are in the training. Are they at the beginning of the lesson, the middle, or toward the end? Progressive dots on a spectrum or completion of a wheel could be a visual heading for each segment. If the content involves sequential learning that builds upon itself, enable functional interactivity to give learners control (pause, go back, etc.) over the speed of roll out — and to learn at their own pace. 

Be Prepared, Be Polished

Unless you’re a vlogger whose very brand might be haphazard and scattershot, you’ll want to look polished. That means no headset, no reading from prompter, and making certain to look right into the camera lens (you want to project a direct and authoritative presence, not a hesitant one that lacks expertise). For a series, consider switching up the filming from one static spot so it doesn’t get boring.

Next time you find yourself watching a video intended to teach something, pay attention to how well it hits its mark. Does the methodology match the material? Did you come away with a clear understanding of the content? If you’re uncertain how a certain subject should be presented, ask your localization partner. CMI has experience working within these requirements daily. If you’re interested in learning more about all the services we offer, get in touch today!   

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