Initial Publication Date: September 19, 2014

Principles for Good Educational Design

What makes a good educational video?

Before You Begin

Don't jump headlong into a video project; take time at the beginning for a little planning and save yourself time overall. Things to think about:

Set realistic expectations

Viewers are more forgiving of live speakers than of video. To create a short lecture that will be out there in perpetuity requires more perfection than making a classroom presentation.

Think about time

Be sure you have sufficient time to prepare and produce your video. Based on feedback from our developer community, the smallest amount of time required is 30 minutes of work for every 1 minute of final production video. Depending on the quality of video and the effort put into animations, multimedia, and interaction, there is no limit on the maximum time you can put in for a single minute of video. Decide ahead of time how much time you have, and be prepared to produce a video whose quality matches that time. Remember: Editing is endless. You can always revisit and improve your videos, especially as you use them and get student input.

Target your audience

How is your video going to be used? Answer these questions first to ensure your product meets your goals.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Is it stand alone or part of a series?
  • Will people view it multiple times or just once?

Telling your story

What story are you telling? What topic are you teaching? How will you tell it most effectively? Consider:

Connect to your learning objectives

  • What is the takeaway? What are your learning objectives?
  • How will you relate this content to social and global issues? (Make it matter!)
  • Can you address common questions?

Make your story cohesive, well organized, and accurate

  • If I had more time I would have written a shorter script. The more succinct you want to be, the more planning and effort you have to put in ahead.
  • Use a storyboard to organize and layout all the components of your video: images, video, and audio. (See the Storyboarding pagefor more details.)
  • Be sure the science is as accurate as possible. You will be critiqued by others.
  • Organization and presentation order matter to your audience. Review your script/storyline to ensure your ideas progress in the most effective way.

Make your story engaging

  • The audience likes to experience a personal story, personal connections.
  • The audience likes to experience exotic, hard-to-get-to places.
  • Answer questions usually asked by others about your work or material.
  • Take us to research labs.
  • Take us to field areas and talk to us about the details.
  • Relate your content to global issues, locations, and events.
  • Use humor
  • Consider the perceived credibility of the on-air presenter, and find ways to maximize this credibility.
  • Show. Don't tell.

Make your story accessible

  • Avoid jargon: define and label new words with on-screen text.
  • Avoid cognitive overload: Keep it short and focus modular videos on individual topics.
  • Consider accessibility issues (captioning and color choices -- for more information, visit our Accessibility web page).

Maximize the learning impacts from your video

We recommend that all educational video developers start by reading the following book:

Choosing the components you want in your video:
Consider first the types of video multimedia you want to include and how you plan to incorporate them. The technology you choose will impact the way you tell your story. Good to have these decisions made before finalizing your script and video design.

  • Will you be using static images? Video footage? Animations? Hand-drawn graphics? Real-time drawing (tablet)?
  • How will you be using audio/sound clips? Some possibilities: cues, toenhance attention, background music.
  • Will you be including any live or rehearsed footage? (with scientists, peers, community members, or students)
  • How will you handle multiple learning styles and maximize your variety? Plan to use a combination of images and screen capture and live video footage (like of demos or natural processes) to mix things up for students.
  • What hardware and software do you plan to use? For more details on technology-related issues (hardware and software) including sound and video quality, review our Technology web page.
  • How will you be using copyrighted works? For more information and suggestions, visit our Copyrights web page).

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Additional Resources

Original content for this page was contributed by: Mike Brudzinski, Steve Burian, Geoffrey Cook, Cian Dawson, Kathryn Hoppe, Jenda Johnson, Melissa Lobegeier, Nancy Mahlen, Gigi Richard, Sarah Sherman, Ander Sundell, and Katryn Wiese during the Spring 2014 virtual workshop on Designing and Using Video in Undergraduate Geoscience Education. Our growing community of contributors continues to add to these resources. Please consider joining in.