5 Rules for Crafting Engaging and Effective Videos for your Online Course

Picture of Richard Bitgood

Richard Bitgood

Have you ever wanted to create your own teaching videos? Do you ask yourself what makes a good teaching video? We like to think of good instructional videos as “sticky.” A sticky video is one that goes in a learner’s eyes and ears and sticks to their brain. This is in contrast to a “slippery” video that goes in one ear and slides out the other.

Here are 5 rules to help you craft sticky videos, which you can also use to evaluate if a video you are curating will be engaging and effective for your online course.

Rule #1: Short and Sweet.

When it comes to video the shorter the better. As a video gets too long, students lose track of the thought, or their minds wander and it can lose its stickiness. Use the following as teaching guideline:

Elementary school: (<2 minutes)

Middle School: (1-3 minutes)

High School: (2-5 minutes)

College: (3-8 minutes)

Be careful that it’s not too short. For help on that, see rule number 2:

Rule #2: Finish your Thought.

Question: How do you know when a video is too short?

Answer: If you find yourself saying… “and we will finish this example in the next video.”

Cliffhangers are for binge-worthy TV shows, not for instruction. Make sure your video finishes the example or explanation or you run the risk of losing your audience halfway through a concept.

Rule #3: Don’t Erase the Screen.

Many videos online follow the slideshow model – where something is on the screen, and then it’s gone, replaced by more information. By the end of the video, there may have seen 20 or more screens of information that have come and gone. Imagine having all of those screens printed off and lying on a table; that’s a lot of content for anyone to remember!

We have discovered it is better to use the whiteboard model ie. have one screen that slowly fills up with content. By the end of the video, having everything visible that was discussed is powerful, because the brain can see the flow of thought and the progression of the idea. It is also a great way to emulate a classroom experience in an online environment. This makes note taking easier for students.

Rule #4: The 7 Second Rule.

What is so important about 7 seconds? According to a 2015 Microsoft Study, people watching videos have the attention span of a goldfish: about 8 seconds. This is where the 7 second rule comes in. Ensure that you use motion to draw the eye’s attention to the content on the screen that you are discussing and invoke movement every 7 seconds to keep engagement. A sticky video has your learners seeing what they are hearing and looking at the area of the screen that contains the content you are talking about. If we do this with highlighting or having new content appear, then you can be sure that their focus is in the right place.

Rule #5: Make it Active vs. Passive.

As an online teacher, you don’t want your students to slouch and stare. You want them to sit up, focus and engage. This means you need to make your video an active experience. The easiest way to do this is to have your students participate. As the teacher you can encourage this by requiring taking notes, or answering questions at key points in the video. Say something like, “Pause the video now, and try the next part on your own!”

Hopefully you are inspired to create and find stickier videos for your learners! Take it from us, we have developed more than 4000 math, science, and humanities videos and have worked with over 100,000 students to provide engaging and helpful complete curriculum for their online schooling. 

Have questions? Want to chat about video instruction? Something we missed? Schedule an appointment to talk with our Client Success Manager, Toni Lyons. 

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