July 21st, 2013 Business

trianing-videoDelivering courses online affords organizations the ability to deliver their content in a variety of ways, including video.  However, just like anything, there is a correct way to deliver online training videos, and then there is the wrong way.   Gone are the days when you could just record a live presentation and post the fuzzy tape online for others to view (well, maybe those days aren’t gone… but they should be!)

Video isn’t always the best choice for learning, but it does provide some advantages.  First, it allows for variation in instructional delivery – which helps with learning retention.  Video is also a great way to demonstrate case studies and reinforce information explained in text.  If you have training that is procedural in nature, then videos are a great way to present a string of procedures in a comprehensive way that can be referenced again and again.

To make sure that your videos in your online training are effective, there are some easy steps to take. Don’t worry, you do not have to be a video editing magician to make effective videos.  In fact, all you really need to do is:

  • Present video in short spurts (no longer than 5min per section)
  • Keep the content current – users can tell when videos contain old visuals
  • Ensure it downloads quickly
  • Remove “talking heads” – no one wants to be lectured

There are certainly more best-practice strategies for inserting videos into training, but most of which expand upon these four points.  As with any content delivery strategy, don’t depend on just one.  Try to use video, text, images, games, quizzes, discussion, and assignments to drive home the key points.



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About Justin Ferriman

Justin started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. He is currently founder & CEO of GapScout. Justin's Homepage | GapScout | Twitter

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16 responses

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“Remove ‘talking heads’ – no one wants to be lectured”

I respectfully disagree. People watch thousands of TED Talks (i.e., videotaped lectures) every day. Lectures can be highly effective when they’re done right.

Avatar Ben

Hi Ben,
Thanks for the note. Talking-Heads have their time and place. If the other items are addressed (i.e. max 5min), then a talking-head is a bit more bearable 🙂

I tend to agree with Ben – short videos, with variety and an enthusiastic presenter win hands-down over the overly-common narrated Powerpoint, however professionally made. My students prefer teaching videos which include video of the presenter, rather than just a disembodied voice.

Video can indeed enhance the training experience; however, a good training video or any good video really boils down to telling a good, compelling story that pulls the viewer into the subject whether it is a “how to”, awareness, or promotional video. As a media training professional, I take a small exception to you statement “Don’t worry, you do not have to be a video editing magician to make effective videos.” Editing is the grammar of video story telling much in the same way that verbal grammar is used in writing effective training material.
I have at times struggled with talking head videos, but I have found short talking head videos to be effective in training if the talking head is bringing context to subject matter not lecturing.

Avatar Ken Dafft

Ken, I agree that telling a compelling story is the strength of any good video – training or otherwise. Editing is crucial to ensuring the message is received effectively and appropriately.

I would add that whenever you produce videos for online, be sure to include closed captioning or provide a transcript for those who maybe hearing impaired.

Avatar Jean Wisuri

Very good point Jean… Closed Captioning is certainly a must from a compliance standpoint.

Think JITJE—Just In Time & Just Enough.

Avatar Jeff Hino

O Justin. This is a well intentioned article, but it misses the mark on numerous points.
“there is a correct way to deliver online training videos, and then there is the wrong way. ”
Incorrect. There are many correct ways to use video for instruction, and many ways to misuse video for instruction.

5 minute short spurts.
Incorrect. The is nothing magical about length. As others have pointed out TED talks tend to run well over 5 minutes. There are literally millions of viewers of online university lecture videos, and thousands of pastors published their sermon videos every week. All of these long form videos are very effective for instruction.

Ensure it downloads quickly
Incorrect . The majority of today’s online video is not downloaded. It is streamed. Most of us upload online video in HD formats, generally at or above 720p.

Remove talking heads. No one wants to be lectured.
Are you sure? See point 1. What you could have said, and I hope you meant was something like “most viewers appreciate instructional video where the production goes beyond simply locking a single camera down on someone sitting in a chair. As you grow your skills as an instructional videographer, try to learn as much as you can about cut always, b roll, supplemental material, camera angles, multiple cameras and principles of continuity and flow. Your viewers will thank you.”


Avatar Doug

Hi Doug-
Thank you for the comment.

1. You say: “Incorrect. The is nothing magical about length”

Reports suggest the opposite – here’s just a few from a simple Google search:

Could go on but not really necessary. Short is better. ELearning for a corporate audience is different. Very little chance in anyone sitting through an hour of video.

2. Regarding the downloading – I could have been more clear (I meant streaming). YouTube is a good example of how you do not want videos to load.

3. You Say: “Are you sure? see point 1”

See point 1.

By and large, I agree with Ferriman’s points in this piece. Some of the commenters here appear to be overlooking, wilfully perhaps, that his piece is about video FOR TRAINING, not for video for reference, entertainment, propaganda, distraction, braggadocio, light relief, filler, etc. How anyone can cite the slick, stylish, but generally vacuous TED talks as exemplars of effective training material is beyond me. I shouldn’t imagine even the most ardent of TED groupies would in their more sober moments actually claim that these clever-dick soundbites provide for effective learning and retention, highly entertaining and much cited though a few of them have been. Concerning video in actual training, whether included within elearning modules or buttressing it as part of a blended package or incorporated in the classroom, most of what I’ve viewed, assessed, sampled, used on occasion, is pretty poor and often seemingly done as a cheap and lazy way producing training material (yes, setting out a series of “stills” often demands more ID care and development effort). That’s not to say video clips can’t be effective as part of the learner’s package of training media, if planned well and edited properly.

Regarding the talking head, sticking the device on poorly designed training video doesn’t make it any better and arguably adds insult to injury for the poor learner. Georgia Tech’s much trumpeted and then monumentally failed MOOC (ironically, meant to be about online education) demonstrated the t.h. video lecture at its worst, as though nothing had been learned from years of critique: that was one of several reasons inherent to the content why the course collapsed in disarray, though they did a good job diverting the focus to the registration inadequacies. That had been the sin of a t.h. mimicking onscreen bullet points, therefore compounding an underlying problem, but even sticking a t.h. on good underlying training can hinder not help: the material shouldn’t require the t.h. device to “make it engaging” for the learner. It should be engaging in its own right. The canvas is blank for the ID’s purposes, to make of what se will. There should be sound reasons either to incorporate video or to omit it and either to include the t.h. with any video or to dispense with it.

I agree with Ferriman that video is a good way of reinforcing material (though, of course, the inference has to be “already covered by other means”). It’s obviously ideal for case studies and enacted sceanrios. But I disagree about procedural training. Procedures are by definition a series of steps and as such surely the effective way of imparting them is through a matching series of steps in the training material, without the irrelevant extraneous filler that necessarily comes with video. On the other hand, for demonstrating techniques where continuous motion of placement is important (the correct way of approaching your pet cheetah from behind, a golf swing, pitting an olive), video may be better than discrete steps. Even then, an experienced ID will weigh up the relative merits of stills.

Avatar Bruce E.

I intend to use videos throughout my courses including using them in quizes and answers. What is the best practice for this? In particular I would be intersted to know who to host with eg VImeo Pro or Amazon S3 etc. I would also like to know what is the best practice to ensure that the videos are secure. And lastly, instructions on how best to embed them into my posts.


Avatar Paul

For video protection & embedding, I am a big fan (and user) of VimeoPro. VimeoPro will give you various embed options as well so you can place it into pages/posts.

Could you suggest a suitable video player plug-in for the same ? my intension is to make videos accessible to paid members only and videos should not be downloadable. youtube video embedding is not an option as i would like my videos protected for paid members only as i intend to sell courses on membership basis only.

Justin, great article. Have been involved in training since the early 80’s. The explosion in technologies have changed the game dramatically. Concur with your notions about length. A couple of minutes several different times can be a highly effective method. It’s how I learned to tile a bathroom. Conversely, there are some topics that lend themselves well to longer periods, but those depend on the delivery. The Great Courses are examples. Halfway through ‘The Barbarian Tribes of the Steppes’. Clearly those lectures don’t fit the shorter-is-better mold, but that’s because of the topic.

In general, I couldn’t agree with you more. Affording businesses and modern young professionals with the option of leveraging short clips is a win-win strategy for both the company and the individual. But there’s no one-size fits all strategy. Well done!

Avatar Thomas

Great blog!
Here’s something for discussion. When instructing in a video, we see people describing a task along with adverbs such as “simply” or “easily”. This does not add value to the instruction, in my opinion. It’s distracting, and even annoying. My preference is to minimize cursor movement, and to speak only with the words that are necessary. Thank you.

Avatar Alec

As mentioned, video can be a great addition to any training. I’ve been in the training field for over 15 years and experienced the many changes in technology that added the “cool” factor. What I found in my experiences in training independent sales people was that video can and is an effective tool not only for knowledge input but as an additive tool. For instance, if a learner is given a number of steps to a procedure and asked to use these steps in a hands on lab you may use video to assess their overall understanding of a technique or process by having them view a real life example of a technique. Periodically pause the video and have a discussion about what is being done, why it is being done and potential challenges that you can help overcome. Also, I didn’t see an emphasis in this piece on the objectives. What do you want the learner to be able to do when they are done viewing video and how will you assess this understanding?
Also, shorter is better but as mentioned, some topics are technical and need a little more time. This is why the objective is so important. Give them only what they need to meet the objective and supplement in another way. Another idea is to put video into chapters. This may be a bit old fashion but it allows the learner to focus on what they need or what interest them most. Thanks for reading this. M

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