The Instructional Video Playbook

What does it take to create a truly compelling instructional video?

Video is one of the most effective ways to improve the learning experience— when it’s done well. How do you make a video that will engage and educate?

The Instructional Video Playbook has the information you need to create a dynamic learning video— the research as well as the best practices behind great educational content.


Keep reading...

Internal Marketing  08 Offer Introduction  Video Playbook v2

In This Guide

Hello there, I’m so glad that you’ve taken this step to learn more about the many pieces that go into creating a truly compelling learning video. The Instructional Video Playbook is a collection of research, best practices, and models for creating successful learning videos. It has been designed to provide a usable framework for creating effective media content, as well as for modeling the NextThought Studio design thinking process for video. We hope that you find this helpful! If you’d like to discuss creating excellent learning videos further, we’d love to schedule a time to chat.



Best regards,
Max Bevan

The Science Behind Successful Video


There is little doubt about the effectiveness of video as a tool for improving learning and information retention. As researchers noted in a report by Kaltura, a provider of a video technology platform, entitled The State of Video in Education 2015, educators overwhelmingly believe video improves the learning experience.

ntsquote1This is likely due, in no small part, to the fact that video has become a pervasive source of information consumption and entertainment for adults in the U.S. According to eMarketer, the average adult in our country spends more than 5.5 hours daily watching video content. Among the adult population, millennials are the most active video viewers of any age group—more than 92% of all U.S. millennial Internet users watch digital video.


It’s best to think about learning video in the context of cognitive science—how humans process information. The research in cognitive theories for learning through multimedia shows we watch learning videos through two parallel channels: 1) a visual/pictorial channel; and 2) an auditory/verbal processing channel (Mayer and Moreno, 2003). 

Our goal in designing effective video is to get the most out of both the visual and the auditory channels. We want to prioritize and balance each of them in a way that optimizes the reception and processing of the information presented. Our challenge is that each of the channels has limited memory capacity, so it’s important to employ the following practices:

NTS numbers-01Signaling: Signaling can be done through the use of on-screen text or graphics to reinforce specific information. This directs the learner’s attention and highlights specific information s/he needs to process.

NTS numbers-02Segmenting: Segmenting refers to how we “chunk” information into appropriate sizes so viewers have more control over how to process it. We can achieve this effectively by managing the length of videos, or by placing clear pauses or break points with a clip.

NTS numbers-03Weeding: Weeding refers to removing any unnecessary information from our videos. In our learning videos, we want everything —music, images, spoken words, graphics, and animation—to contribute as explicitly as possible to our learning goal. This allows learners to maximize their memory capacity for both visual and auditory channels, and to achieve the maximum amount of processing for effective recall.

NTS numbers-04Matching Modality: It’s important to combine and harmonize both the visual and audio channels, placing each type of information into the channel for which it’s best suited. An example of this might be showing an animation of a process on screen while narrating it. This uses both visual and audio channels to explain a process, and it gives the learner complementary streams of information to highlight features that can be processed in working memory. If we show an animation and merely reinforce it with on-screen text, we limit information to the visual channel and risk information overload and loss of cognitive efficiency.

3 Questions to Test Your Video's Effectiveness

The Science Behind Successful Video

User familiarity with video as a medium certainly reduces any resistance to form and allows learning designers to take advantage of product experience standards that have already been established via other markets.

Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, video creation has become both easy and flexible for almost everyone. This is reflected in the latest YouTube statistics, which show more than 300 hours of video being uploaded to the service every hour.

So, what do you need to do to make engaging, educational video?
Here are some key strategies for creating successful learning videos.

NTS numbers-01Limit videos to five minutes or less. This will encourage viewers to be engaged, avoid distractions, and complete the video.

NTS numbers-02Use a conversational tone and model enthusiasm for the content being presented. This helps establish a connection with viewers and will lead to increased engagement.

NTS numbers-03Break videos into recognizable segments that correspond to the theme or topic. This allows viewers to focus on specific, shorter content chunks and remain engaged with the video.

NTS numbers-04Incorporate interactive or responsive features in your videos. This will promote reflection and give the viewer a greater sense of participation and ownership.

NTS numbers-05Employ the proper balance of visual and audio reinforcement throughout. Avoid sensory or cognitive overload, which can occur when you signal an animation with on-screen textual cues or augment an audio presentation with additional audio indicators.

New Call-to-action


The Types of Videos You Should Have in Your Arsenal

There are many types of video—it can range from branding to recruitment, interactive to event capture, and everything in between. However, if you’re focused on learning videos, there are just three types of videos on which you should focus: informational, instructional/modeling, and promotional.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the three types of video you should have in your arsenal.

1. Informational

The proper presentation of information is key for achieving viewer attention and recall in educational video. Ideally, an information video will contextualize the concept being presented so the viewer is adequately prepared to process the information. Next, the video should present its core concept and offer the viewer a framework for personalizing the information.

The final steps for a successful video involve elaborating the information with meaningful examples and then providing a clear opportunity for information recall. This format provides positive reinforcement of the content being presented and delivers an optimized presentation of information along with a demonstration of mastery. Information videos should be no longer than five minutes, and the appropriate blend of visual and audio channels must be employed to achieve optimal cognitive load and information retention.

2. Instructional/Modeling

video-screenshot-is-your-video-effectiveVideo is an ideal medium for modeling skills and processes, and for helping viewers develop and demonstrate mastery. A modeling video will begin by contextualizing the skill or process being presented so the viewer is adequately prepared to process the information.

Next, the video should show the skill or process in clear and easy-to-understand detail. This step is followed by offering the viewer a framework for personalizing the skill or process, and then elaborating with meaningful examples.

The final step involves practice and a clear opportunity for information recall. Practice in a modeling video can range from open-ended questions with time for the viewer to reflect, to step-by-step skill or process recreation. Information videos should be no longer than five minutes, and the appropriate blend of visual and audio channels must be employed to achieve optimal cognitive load and information retention.

3. Promotional 

Video is an essential tool for promoting an organization, service, or product in today’s media-based society. A successful promotional video will make a clear statement about the company or organization’s brand, and should answer three important questions:


A promotional video should reinforce its message with a clear narrative and with examples, and it should provide viewers a workable framework for information recall. Finally, the promotional video should conclude with a call to action that prompts viewers to take the next step toward engaging with the company or organization.

How to Create Engaging Videos

How to Make Your Videos More Engaging

Creating a learning video might not sound that challenging, but creating a learning video that engages your audience? That’s another matter altogether. How do you make a learning video that will capture the attention of the viewers and serve its primary purpose—educating them about a topic?

NTSEngaging Videos Icons-01

Elicit Emotion

Every video should have emotional engagement. If your audience doesn’t have some kind of emotional reaction to a video, it’s unlikely that they’ll pay attention or remember anything after the video’s finished.

How do you generate emotion in your video? Storytelling is one effective method, as is sound design. When you combine an interesting story with excellent music, you’re bound to elicit some kind of an emotional response from your audience.

icon - training video lesson - blackCreate a Concise Message

Before you even start to shoot your learning video, sit down and figure out what you’re trying to accomplish. Who’s your audience? What’s your goal? What key points do you want to make? What influences you?

Understanding your intentions from the start will not only help you create a concise learning video, but it will save you time (and money) in the long run.

icon - experience happy smooth fireworks - blackUse Lots of Visuals 

Yes, the talking head video has its time and place, but don’t depend solely upon one person speaking directly to the camera. Remember, a video without visuals isn’t much of a video at all! Whether you incorporate animations, photos, or text emphasis, utilize a variety of tools to make your primary points.

Using different types of visuals will engage your audience’s attention and help you make the topic relatable. It will also infuse your video with a sense of passion and energy, making it more interesting to your audience.


Our Process for Successful Videos

ntsquote2The NextThought Studios Team specializes in creating learning video that adheres to research-based practices for optimizing information acquisition and recall. We believe each video is a unique learning environment that requires the right balance of narrative, visual, and audio inputs to achieve specific learning goals.

We begin the process by mapping project learning goals using a custom, visual learning language. We then integrate the overall project vision with the right content strategies and technologies to ensure learning success. The NextThought Studios Team blends decades of professional development and curriculum design expertise with a deep commitment to instructional innovation.



Ok, you’ve just taken in a lot of information about creating effective and successful learning videos.

What’s next?


A good place to begin would be a consultation with one of our video experts. They can help you hone in on your goals, the type of video that would be most effective for you, and more.

We hope that this playbook has offered you value and that you’re inspired take the next steps to making learning video part of your program.  

Get a Custom Quote

This Guide Brought to You Buy NextThought Studios' Experts

Jae Reynolds
Head of Learning Design & Education

With a Ph.D. in Educational Studies, Educational Leadership and Higher Education, Jae is more than qualified to be Next Thought’s Head of Learning Design & Education.

Jae started her career in education as a public school teacher, instructional coach, and elementary principal. During her tenure as a principal, she implemented numerous successful programs that served as a catalyst for student success and promoted family and community engagement.  

She also spent two years working at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln conducting research and co-teaching classes in the Educational Administration Department. At NextThought, Jae is proud to lead a talented team in creating innovative and successful learning environments that foster high levels of engagement.

Jae continues to be a strong advocate for schools and stays active in researching and promoting school, family, and community partnerships in urban, Title 1 Elementary Schools. It’s her belief that education is the pathway that leads to understanding. It awakens who we are; it enables us to realize our greatest dreams and empowers us to change the world.

In her free time, Jae enjoys spending time with her family, exercising, learning new things, and watching and attending sporting events.

Janelle Bevan
Head of NextThought Studios
Janelle has produced and project managed thousands of high quality video content ranging from corporate commercials to educational documentaries.
She is a Telly and Addy Award winner and won a Student Emmy for her documentary featuring a collaboration from three executive producers of AMC’s The Walking Dead. She produced the 2015 Broadcast Education Association awards show in Las Vegas; designed and edited instructional videos for the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and served as the graduate assistant to the Creative Media department head at the University of Oklahoma while completing her Master’s in Video Producing and Media Management.
Janelle currently serves as Head of Video Production at NextThought, where she manages a team of over 12 creative producers, animators, editors, and cinematographers. Leading the team to take on projects of any size, she has guided them to an output of 1,000 videos a year.
Producing by day and teaching by night, Janelle spends her evenings as an adjunct professor at The University of Oklahoma, teaching her very own video producing course. Janelle is driven to inspire the next generation of Creatives and equip them with the tools needed to be successful producers.