Ways to make instructional videos more effective

Author: Hurst Digital |

Ways to make instructional videos more effective

May 1, 2020
Kira Carbonneau (left) has a conversation with a student.

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

Most animated instructional videos in veterinary education are ineffective, according to research published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.

“From educational theory and research, we know that there are certain ways to design animations,” said co-researcher Kira Carbonneau, an assistant professor of educational psychology at Washington State University.

More often than not, those ways are not being followed. It begs the question: If instructional videos don’t instruct, then what’s the point? The WSU research team has found plenty of missed opportunities for better student learning.

To find out, the team extensively examined instructional animation videos and if they helped people do their job in veterinary education. It began as part of a master’s thesis by Julie Noyes, who has since graduated and is no longer at WSU.

The potential efficacy of video

From child to adult, many people enjoy video, including animated video. You’ve probably seen data that looks similar to this:

  • Including video on a website landing page can increase conversions by 80 percent.
  • A third of all online activity is spent watching video.
  • YouTube users watch more than three billion hours of video per month.
  • After watching a video, 64 percent of users are more likely to buy a product online
  • Memory is improved by 92 percent from animated video over talking head type video.

Regardless of the exact current data, you get the point: Video is expected and video is used.

But the research team is asking the question: What if the animated videos aren’t very good or contain bad, false, or incomplete information?

Carbonneau said that success is measured against something called Multimedia Design Principles.

The WSU team used the following 11 principles:

  1. Redundancy Principle – Students learn better from narration accompanied by graphics rather than narration that repeats verbatim printed text on the screen.
  2. Coherence Principle – Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included.
  3. Modality Principle – Students learn better from graphics accompanied by narration than from graphics accompanied by printed text.
  4. Spatial Contiguity Principle – Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are placed near each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
  5. Temporal Principle – Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented at the same time on the screen rather than in succession.
  6. Signaling Principle – Students learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.
  7. Segmenting Principle – Students learn better when a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
  8. Interactivity Principle – Students learn better when there is reciprocal activity between a learner and a multimedia learning system, in which the [re]action of the learner is dependent upon the [re]-action of the system and vice versa.
  9. Pre-training Principle – Students learn better from a multimedia message when they receive pre-training in the names and characteristics of key components.
  10. Worked-out example Principle – Students learn better when worked-out examples are given in initial skill learning.
  11. Feedback Principle – Students learn better with principle-based, explanatory feedback.


Carbonneau said the research team studied whether veterinary education animations followed these principles.

She said the results were mixed. Many followed some of the principles, but the majority of them only followed four of the 11.

“The result is that viewers don’t get what is known to be truly quality educational animations,” she said. “Because of this, viewers don’t get the most effective learning opportunity.”

Noyes said decisions to include specific animations in instruction should be based on whether the resources include elements that have been shown to increase learning rather than subjective perceptions of effectiveness and enjoyment.

“There’s a lot of room for growth,” Carbonneau said.