Successfully Incorporating Visuals into Online Training: Part Two - Video

Sarah Flesher

In the first part of this series, I looked at how to effectively incorporate graphics into your eLearning. Now, let's turn our attention to video.

Video: Every Picture Tells a Story

And every moving picture tells an even more effective story.

Video is an important and extremely useful tool for trainers. If it's appropriate and within budget, video should be included in eLearning whenever possible. Video engages learners and promotes knowledge retention. In her article, "Why Video in Training Can Be So Powerful", Gauri Reyes cites the Picture Superiority Effect which says that, after 3 days, learners remember 10% of the information seen in word format, but tend to remember 65% of the information presented in both picture and word formats.

Three advantages of using video in training are:

  • Video makes things easier to understand. It's one thing to describe how to operate a forklift in text or in text and pictures, but using video to show how it's done takes the learner to the job site and puts him or her in the driver's seat.
  • Video can be used to break work processes and procedures down step-by-step and allow the learner to see the steps in action as many times as needed. They can stop in the middle of a step to take time to absorb what they are learning and, with eLearning, they can take the learning with them and review at the point-of-need.
  • Video can be easily broken down for use as microlearning segments. These nuggets of information provide just-in-time training and reinforcement of specific learning points as needed.

Types of Video

In my experience, and in researching this article, I have come across the following types of training videos:


The tutorial is a step-by-step instructional video that teaches the learner how to do a certain task, such as changing the oil in a car, or explains a concept such as cross-pollination. The lesson can be delivered as one long video or broken down by each step to facilitate microlearning. A script is a must for this type of video., as is good lighting and clear audio (this applies to all of the video types listed here). Practice the demonstration of the task while writing the script and before shooting to make sure that you are covering all of the steps.

Talking Head

This type of video is typically an interview. The subject matter expert is filmed answering questions from an off-camera interviewer, or the questions appear as a slide. The subject is framed in a head-and-shoulders shot. This gets boring very quickly. If you are using this type of video, try to insert complementary footage (B-roll) of what is being said. If you are directing the SME, make sure that they speak to the camera only. You don't want them moving their heads around to address you, the camera operator and anyone else in the room - that results in what I like to call the "talking bobble head".


Years ago, this type of video was called a "screen-cap" or screen capture. And that's what it was - a still shot of a computer screen with accompanying text. Time and technology have improved on this idea and now screencasts are digital video recordings of what's on your computer screen plus the audio you add. Screencasts are great for tutorials on using software, virtual tours, animated lessons and how-to videos. For a well-done video explanation of screencasts, check out this video: What Are Screencasts?


Think back to your days in school, sitting in a lecture hall, listening to your professor. That, in a nutshell, is what a lecture video is. But there is a difference - you are in control. You can enhance the learning experience by using two cameras to record the lecture. This gives you some variety in how the material is presented and in what the learner sees. You can incorporate screen captures, images and PowerPoint slides. This type of video works well in delivering classroom-style presentations that cannot be adapted to eLearning formats.


I like good animation, but that's me. Is an animated video a better or more effective way to deliver training? The jury is still out on that. Animation can be as simple as having text fly in and out of the screen (think PowerPoint), to 2D cartoons (as in South Park) or as complex as movies using 3D wire-frame models (Disney animation). The great thing about animation is that you are not limited to a "real world" environment - as in a NASA animation. You are only limited by your available talent and budget.

I'm sure that many of you can add more types of video to this list. My intention here is to provide some information on, and links to, the more commonly used types of videos in eLearning. Now, here are some tips if you intend on making your own videos.

  1. Hire a professional. Unless you have a lot of experience in video production and have access to high-quality video equipment and an edit suite, consider hiring a professional. We've all seen the "Uncle Ed" wedding or holiday video and no one wants to watch 15 minutes of shaky cam footage with fluctuating audio.
  2. Use high quality exterior microphones. Don't rely on the built-in mic on your camera or computer for broadcast quality audio. If you do, you'll be disappointed. Visuals are only one half of a video and, especially in training, the audio is the more important half.
  3. Use professional actors. They are trained to memorize scripts and say what you want them to say. And they do it convincingly!
  4. Keep it simple. You don't need flash (unless you are doing munitions training). Use plain language and use illustrations that make your point.
  5. Use text, but not too much of it. Text on the screen can be very useful in reinforcing learning points, but keep it brief. Use short bullet points - no paragraphs! Your audience wants to watch a movie, not read the book.
  6. Remember your purpose and write and shoot for your audience. For some aspiring videographers, there's a danger of wanting to be the next Coppola. Your training video on the new packaging process should be about that and only that. Keep graphics and language appropriate to the audience and focused on the topic.


There's an old saying about making a film that goes, "Time, cost, quality - pick two". I don't buy into that. I think that if you keep the scope of your video in mind at all times, you can create a great video that is on budget and is completed on schedule. It's not always easy, but it can be done if you keep the things we discussed in mind.

In this two-part series, I've talked about the effective use of graphics and video in eLearning. There are a number of schools of thought on what to use, when to use it and how it should be used. But the one thing they have in common is that the graphics and videos should be appropriate to the audience and relevant to the topic.

If you have the time and the talent, you can learn to create your own graphics and videos. If not, there are professionals that can do it for you. As eLearning designers, your job is to get the best you can afford to ensure that you deliver what your client has asked for.

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Sarah Flesher

Sarah is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems and is currently completing a PhD in Educational Technology. Her research focuses on implementing competency-based learning systems in all types of organizations. When she doesn't have her nose in a book you can find her at the gym, on the ice, on the ski hill, drinking wine or in a coffee shop … with her nose in a book.