Bringing your ideas to life with the right educational video format
Finding a video format you can be consistent with will create recognition for your brand and give your videos a template to follow. Here are some pre-production strategies to help plan out your videos and create a unique style for your learning content.
Align with student or learner needs
As an educator, entertainer, or someone providing real-world job skills and advice, you’ll want to keep your audience’s needs top of mind. Here are a few key ideas to consider when planning your channel’s content:
- Usefulness: The purpose of educational videos is to be helpful and precisely communicate concepts. If your content is incorrect or irrelevant, it may not go far. Remember, it needs to be accurate too.
- Timing: Audiences have an appetite for great videos year round; however, for more academically focused content, demand often peaks around schedules for Advanced Placement tests, college prep, or bar exams. Try using Google Trends as a resource and consider when milestones in your own experience or training occurred.
- Packaging: Creating a series or a show with scheduled releases can help create a viewing habit for your audience and keep them coming back. Use your expertise to design a learning path of content or a curriculum that meets specific needs or learning goals around a topic and put it together in a playlist. You can use titles and video descriptions to number videos that go together sequentially so that it’s easy for students to follow along. You can include videos from other channels here too.
- Branding: It can be beneficial to brand your series with a consistent look, feel, title, description, personality, and schedule. For example, thumbnails that have a similar visual design can make it easy for viewers to see that a set of videos goes together.
When thinking about the video content you want to develop ask:
See it in action
Content to help viewers study for standardized examsCrashCourse successfully meets the needs of students by structuring their programming around Advanced Placement exam topics and standards.
Videos that follow a curriculumExamFear Education creates curriculum based videos for different grades. A majority of its views come from playlists, demonstrating the appeal of programming based on learning paths.
Useful skills being taught for everyday lifeHow to Adult provides an extensive library of straightforward life skills. Each video covers one specific topic from laundry to taxes to how to combat stress at work.
Videos that show how to learn a skillsetCoding Entrepreneurs teaches non-technical viewers how to code. The audience can follow along with the host to learn new coding skills and pose questions to the instructor (and each other) in the comments.
Build credibility with research and resources
“The editing of educational content is easier, but the research time is so much longer. You trade off edit time for research time.” - Tom Scott
Producing educational content often requires research up front. Misinformation can spread quickly and weaken your authority. Here are five tips to keep in mind so that your channel is as accurate as possible:
- Collaborate with teachers and experts: There are several online platforms that can help you connect with other educators like: Staffrm, STEM Educators Community on Google+, and Reddit communities for educators. A lot of teachers on Twitter use the hashtag #conversations.
- Show your sources: Citing third-party sources in the video and in the description field can help support factual claims and add an additional layer of credibility.
- Consult multiple sources:Try to stick to reputable publications, peer-reviewed journals, primary sources, and even students or teachers conducting research.
- Fact and grammar check: It’s important to ensure that there are no grammatical or factual mistakes in your videos and metadata. If you do make a mistake, it’s good to call it out.
- Highlight your credentials: If you have advanced degrees, certifications, or other credibility-enhancing distinctions, consider referencing them.
See it in action
Doing your homeworkVSauce spends over 50% of its time researching and collecting facts, then includes links to his sources. This not only adds credibility but provides the audience with information they can use.
Collaborating with expertsUnacademy, a channel that focuses on exam preparation for the Civil services in India, features top performers on the entrance exam as guests on the channel.
Experiment to find what works
Learning videos are unique because your goal is to ensure that your audience comprehends a specific topic or walks away with new knowledge. Sometimes you'll need to explore different video styles and tactics before you know exactly what resonates with your audience (and so that they get the maximum benefit from your expertise). Here are some ideas you can experiment with to find the perfect format for you, your teaching or training goals, and your audience:
- Do your homework: One way to get started is to research what formats are popular and which ones resonate with you. There are some creative examples below.
- Be intentional: Design videos with the intention of creating content that viewers want to watch. If you don’t believe in it, your audience likely won’t either.
- Test different video lengths: Check the Audience retention report to see how long viewers watch your videos for and adjust accordingly. Use playlists to guide viewers through multiple lessons or concepts.
- Keep it snappy: Try using visual aides like illustrations, animated graphics, sound effects, and upbeat music to keep it moving. It’s helpful to keep intros and outros as short as possible to avoid audience drop off.
- ‘Mix the medicine in with the candy’: Educational videos don’t need to be a lecture. Channel your inner vlogger or comedian and make videos that are as much fun as they are informative.
- Script everything: Writing a script keeps your videos on track and helps you stick to the facts. It can help to rehearse, and when you shoot, try improvising when discussing concepts you know are correct.
- Infuse interactivity: Try building in quizzes or a Q&A section where viewers can respond in the comments. Adding a few seconds of silence after a quiz question can give your audience time to answer. You can also broadcast your tests live and have a conversation with your audience about the answers.
- Bring in guests: This can be a great way to add credibility and fresh perspectives.
- Go live: Use YouTube Live to broadcast and let students know when to tune in and watch along. Be sure to leave time for audience questions!
Video format ideas
Literary edutainmentThug Notes by Wisecrack is a video format based on a character who gives summaries of classical texts in ‘gangster style’.
Animated educationMinuteEarth uses simple animations to bring concepts to life. They also collaborate with animators all over the globe to help create their videos.
Hand-drawn animationVi Hart creates simple hand-drawn illustrations to add a visual dimension to her explanations.
ListiclesSciShow uses the popularity of listicles to create educational listicles and a show around them. Their most popular videos of 2016 were all lists.
Infusing gaming with educationWonder Quest Season 1, a Minecraft video series incorporating learning, hit more than 60M views. Their audience eagerly awaited the launch of Season 2.
Music and songsThe Periodic Table Song is AsapSCIENCE ’s most shared video to date and has spawned multiple cover versions.
Educational rap videosHistory teacher, Mr. Yancey, composes rap songs on history to help students sing along and remember the facts during exams.
What’s in my bag?Manda the CMA makes the most of popular formats such as “What’s in my bag” and FAQ to keep the content fun, interactive, and informative.
Infusing comedy and funIn her “Blonde Dictionary” series, Masha from The Coding Blonde explains computer terminology with mini sketches and unexpected comparisons.
Keeping it relatableIn one of The Financial Diet’s most popular videos, Chelsea goes through a list of advice drawn directly from her personal experience as a young professional, making it easy for people to learn and relate.
CollaborationsChelsea from The Financial Diet interviewed Hank Green to discuss business, success, and his relationship with money. Bringing in guests can be a great way to add credibility and fresh perspectives to your channel.
Hook your viewers straight from the start
Videos that keep viewers’ attention from the very beginning can benefit from higher placement in YouTube search results and suggested content. High audience retention also means that viewers like what they see and your titles and thumbnails met their expectations.
Within the first few seconds, a viewer should know what to expect in your video, or be enticed to find out. You can monitor YouTube Analytics to understand when your audience stops paying attention and use this info to inform future video design. Here are a few ideas for how to kickstart your videos for maximum appeal:
- Cold opens: Creating a unique opening hook that grabs viewer attention right away has been shown to reduce audience abandonment rates.
- Ask a question: Posing a question up front can help pique audience interest and encourage viewers to watch the full video to get the answer.
- Keep branding to a minimum: It can be beneficial to avoid lengthy intros with music and jump into the content as quickly as possible. Viewers have already seen the video’s title and thumbnail, so don’t delay in giving them what they came for.
- Outline and summarize: Telling your audience what your video is about up front can help audiences decide whether or not they should watch, and helps them navigate to sections that are most useful.