Top 5 Tips for Producing Microlearning Videos

tips for producing Micro learning Videos


Today’s guest post is written by Tom Spiglanin. He was one of the first in my network to identify, and embrace, the trend of micro videos for learning…or microlearning. He’s a regular speaker and advocate for the production of shorter learning content. I’m very pleased he agreed to share his tips on producing microlearning.

Guest Post by @TomSpiglanin

Video is widely used for educational content and it can be highly effective. It’s also becoming increasingly easy to produce, with well over a billion smartphones in the world with both video and editing capability. And video is also inherently mobile – YouTube reports that fully half of all its views are mobile, and the format transitions almost seamlessly to desktop computers, tablets, and dedicated media players – all without special software or plug-ins.

Short form video for learning (becoming known as microlearning video), is increasingly popular. While the duration of microlearning videos alone makes them more easily consumed by our learners, that alone is not enough to retain our viewers’ interest. This is particularly true when a number of short videos together make up a larger program of instruction.

But there’s hope! I’ve assembled here five tips to get started producing microlearning videos. These tips have nothing to do with cinematography or how to use our video cameras, so each of them applies as much to narrated animation as they do full motion video. And while following these tips may not bring out the Spielberg in each of us, they will certainly make using our videos more enjoyable for our viewers.

  1. Focus on one objective per microlearning video.

Not that long ago I used YouTube to learn how to replace the drive belt in my washing machine. It was only a few minutes long and focused exclusively on the shortest path to repair, including identifying the correct replacement belt and demonstrations of what to watch for while making the repair.

Indeed, the most effective short videos often address one and only one objective, just as my drive belt repair video did. Remember that our target audience members are largely just-in-time or time-crunched individuals. By putting our objective up front, even in the title, we can more easily stay focused on that to the exclusion of irrelevant details. It may seem easy, but many have a difficult time doing just this and fall to the temptation of explaining everything they feel needs explaining. We need to make a note to create another video or two for those important details that are not pertinent to the objective at hand, just as the washer belt replacement video referenced other videos for removing the front panel or troubleshooting odd noises.

  1. Show, don’t tell

Those new to the video medium often forget that video targets not one sense but two senses at once. When scripting, we need to spend time describing what’s being seen, not just heard in the narration or soundtrack. This is easily seen in the traditional screenplay format, which is designed to approximate one script page per minute of video by restricting dialogue to a narrow column down the middle of the page. In contrast, the description of what’s being seen runs the full width of the page. Why? Because visuals convey much more information than words in the same amount of time.

In the washer repair video, the sound track generally told me what I needed to do, but what I was watching was showing me how I needed to do it. We need to take that time to describe the action being seen on-screen, even when using sophisticated animation to convey our lessons.

  1. Use scripts

Even the most talented video producers take the time to write scripts. This keeps our focus on our objective, but also gives us insight into how well we’re pacing our video. Will it be three informative minutes or ten drawn-out ones?

While we’re at it, we also need to edit our dialogue ruthlessly. We can’t waste afford to waste words that may not be heard anyway, just as we can’t afford rambling, monotonous dialogue that bores our viewers. Our dialogue needs to supplement and enhance our video, and that only happens well though the script-writing process.

  1. Avoid details and distracting content

We need to keep in mind that we’re making short videos, not writing detailed training manuals. If some details are important – as often they are – we need to put them in a reference document and not in our videos.

In the washing machine drive belt video, the parts breakdown and assembly schematics were referenced, but not described in the video. When I needed those additional details, which I did for accurate identification of the part number for the drive belt for my particular washer, I looked them up and studied them offline. I would not want them read to me, nor would that be a good use of my time as a video developer.

  1. Don’t repeat

In instructor-led training, good practice often follows the rule, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” That doesn’t work in short video, nor is there the need. Viewers can, and will, back up to watch again and again as needed if our videos are focused and meets their needs.

I watched the washer belt replacement video several times to make sure I understood what was involved in my repair before I ordered the replacement belt. When it arrived, I watched the video again using my mobile phone next to the washer as I started the repair. I paused frequently or backed up to make sure I was doing things correctly. In essence, I used the video in a performance support mode – learning just-in-time at the precise place of need – and we must keep the inherently mobile and easily replayed nature of short form video when crafting learning solutions. We often can’t control when, where, or how viewers will use our videos.

So those are my top five tips for short video. For an example, and a few additional tips, check out my YouTube video in this very topic. Or check out my tips on the screenplay format.

Thanks for reading!