Four ways to make e-learning videos more powerful
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Four ways to make e-learning videos more powerful

If you’re looking to engage people — especially younger people — in training, video is looking more and more like a must-have, not a nice-to-have.

One recent study, for example, found that when college students want to learn more about a topic or brush up on their existing knowledge, their medium of choice is video.

In the study, which involved 1,600 students from around the world, 79% said they regularly use online video for learning. Specifically, they use video to:

  • Improve their understanding — especially when the original learning was delivered via print or a live instructor, and even more so when the original lesson wasn’t clear. The students felt that absorbing the information in a different format helped them get it.
  • Learn how to perform a skill or task. Video is ideal for tutorials, they said, because learners can see each step in action.
  • Learn by example. Video affords the opportunity to see how a complex idea or concept can be applied to a real-world situation.


Much has been made of the intense relationship between younger generations and their screens. This study shows, however, that there’s more going on here than simple preference. These learners clearly understand what video is good at, and they’re using it strategically.

Their insights, in turn, offer guidance for trainers about how they can best deploy video. Specifically, it will resonate most with learners when it’s used to (1) create different learning pathways to deliver information, (2) teach specific behaviors and skills and (3) relate concepts to real-world challenges through the use of examples.

Some caveats, too

That said, the study did reveal two caveats in particular when it comes to using video:

  • Length. Many said they wouldn’t watch a video that lasted more than 10 minutes. And many said they often multitasked while watching. So content must be both short and compelling.
  • Early abandonment. Viewers often bailed quickly if the video didn’t seem to be worth their time. While that risk exists with any form of learning, it may be more acute because learners have been exposed to lots of bad video. Also, unlike print materials, it’s virtually impossible to “skim” video content to evaluate it. So judgments are made almost immediately.


Escaping the Time Trap

Lessons for trainers

These findings suggest four ways to make video training more powerful:

  1. Make the most of video’s “how-to” potential: For example, walk viewers through a solution step by step, using real-world examples.
  2. Keep it short. Ten minutes is max; shorter is even better.
  3. Establish relevance and quality quickly. You can’t afford to lose the viewer’s attention, even for an instant. If the speaker seems boring or the content is off base, learners are gone.
  4. Provide anytime-anywhere access. Students said that 24/7 availability and remote access were huge pluses for online video. They liked feeling that they were in control of their own learning.

Leonard, E. (2015). Great expectations: Students and video in higher education. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

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