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This week, we have a *special issue* as an intro to an event later today! We’re chatting about how to create an effective instructional video. By no means is this comprehensive, but we hope it provides a good starting point & answers a few questions we’ve been getting 😊

This issue will recap some articles that we’ve talked about before, as well as some new ones. Specifically, we’re covering:

  • When should we use text, video, or both?
  • Does length of the video matter?

There’s also a section at the end of this issue linking the other topics & articles discussed in Underscore 💯

One, the other, or both?

When we use text, video, or both can be a difficult call. Luckily, there’s some great research out there! Text and video both have advantages and disadvantages. Text is easy to scan, find features can be used to quickly locate concepts of interest, and learners can spend as much time as they’d like with it. Video tends to be associated with higher engagement and learner satisfaction, as well as having the added benefit of an auditory component. When we put text and video head-to-head, we see that they’re, generally, fairly comparable regarding learning outcomes (Tarchi, Zaccoletti, & Mason, 2021). Research that evaluates the type of learning shows a bit more clarity, such that theoretical knowledge performs equally well with video and text, but video learning is better for practical skills/technical training (Donkor, 2010) - think, Making It. Overall, research tends to show that utilizing a medium with visual + auditory tends to lead to better retention and comprehension (Kozma, 1991).

However, there is a biiiiit of a caveat to this - which lies with the “both” area. Essentially, too much leads to cognitive overload. When presenting information through video, we don’t want to add too much input. For instance, music and complex backgrounds should be avoided, or at least kept to a minimum (Brame, 2017). The other thing to consider here is whether to include subtitles/captions. Now, I want to be very clear - subtitles/captions should always be made available. This is absolutely necessary and crucial for accessibility. This video from National Geographic is a must see for understanding why lip reading doesn’t cut it! However, there is an abundance of research that illustrates using captions/subtitles when they’re not necessary creates cognitive overload and actually decreases learning (Wang, Antonenko, & Dawson, 2020; Mayer, 2021; Tarchi et al., 2021). Due to this overload/redundancy effect, it’s best to create the option for subtitles/captions, but remind learners it’s best to keep them off unless needed.

Key Takeaway: While text and video are both useful, keep it to one or the other! If the instruction is in practical/technical training or involves body movement, video is likely best.

Does length matter?

So, let’s say we have a lesson and have decided to use video - great! How do I set up the videos? A 3 hour session, two 1.5 hour sessions, etc.? Cue in segmenting! If you’re familiar with blocked vs. massed practice, segmenting is quite similar and they go hand-in-hand. The gist of the “size talk” is that smaller is generally better, which you might have picked up on from the incredible popularity of Tik Tok. The idea with segmenting is that we want to break up information into “progressively presented parts” (Mayer, 2021). Research has shown that when learners are presented with 20 minutes of information, they perform better when it is several videos of 3 minutes each rather than a whole 20 minute video (Moreno, 2007). Further, studies show that learners perform better on assessments when videos are segmented (Mayer & Chandler, 2001). Overall, the research on segmenting seems to point toward around 3 to 5 minutes being the sweet spot for length!

What do we do when we stop the video? Well, learners can simply click a button that says something like “Continue to Next Video,” or you can take advantage of the break and drop in a quick knowledge check! The stopping points from segmenting are a great opportunity for knowledge checks or discussions. Research shows that inserting questions throughout videos helps to improve memory and self-assessment, which is important for overall learning re: metacognition (Brame, 2017). Discussions are also excellent tools, as embedded reflection activities, particularly critical reflections, help to facilitate deep learning (Liu, Yin, Cui, Xu, & Zhang, 2022). When implementing discussions, be sure to utilize a structured format, as employees that engage in structured discussions regarding video learning show improved memory over those that engage in spontaneous discussion (Okano, Kaczmarzyk, & Gabrieli, 2018).

Key Takeaway: When presenting learning materials via video, segment the video into 3 to 5 minute parts! During these stopping periods, ask learners to engage in knowledge checks and/or structured discussions to improve learning.

Event: Underscore

Click here to register to receive the recording on Monday!

In Underscore, we chatted about the following topics (in addition to the ones above):

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week, reader Kelly R. has given us a real gift! She shared her absolutely precious kitty, Princess Winifred - “I'm pleased to share my favorite photo of Winnie (Princess Winifred). She's a Siberian kitten who seems to have an interest in blue cheese.”

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Katie Erhardt, Ph.D.

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