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This guide will summarize everything you need to know about microlearning and how to start creating your own microlearning videos. We’ll explain why microlearning is beneficial, how to approach scripting and storyboarding, and lay out a path for you to get started.
Let’s dive in:
Microlearning breaks material down into short, easily digestible components (typically around 30 seconds to a few minutes in length) that tackle a single learning objective.
You’re arguing with your parents over politics, and you pick up your phone to Google the specifics of a recent bill.
You’re on a flight to Rome. Before you land, you use an iPhone app to learn how to say “more pasta” and “double espresso, please,” in Italian.
You don’t know how to tie your bowtie before a formal wedding, so you fire up a quick YouTube tutorial on your laptop.
What do these three things have in common? They’re all examples of microlearning.
“Microlearning allows for learners to receive the information they need, when they need it, in the relevant context,” says Lauren Freeman, M.A.
Watch the first video in Lauren’s microlearning video series below, and read her full Master’s report on microlearning here.
Most of the time, microlearning experiences in our daily lives — say, watching a tutorial on how to cut a pineapple or Googling a stat to resolve a dinner table argument — go unnoticed. But as we incorporate microlearning into our regular routines, we inevitably expect it to be available to us during more formal pursuits of knowledge as well.
In particular, microlearning has powerful applications in today’s workforce, where employees “are expected to constantly acquire new information to stay current,” according to Freeman. Traditional learning experiences — think textbooks, long lectures, and even PowerPoint presentations or PDFs — are often prohibitively time-consuming and static given the fast pace of the modern workplace.
Increasingly, companies are adopting microlearning as a core component of their L&D strategies. In a recent survey by the Association for Talent Development, 38% of companies reported currently using microlearning, while 41% plan to implement the strategy within the next 12 months. Of those organizations delivering microlearning, 63% have completely replaced formal learning with microlearning.
Microlearning offers numerous benefits, in that it is:
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While microlearning can take a variety of other forms (text, games, podcasts, PowerPoints, etc.), research suggests that short microlearning videos are the most effective and engaging medium.
The human brain is wired to respond to video. We know much of the information transmitted to the brain is visual and that visual aids have been found to improve learning. It will also come as no surprise that employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text, and that video conveys more powerful messages than written communication.
Why? Video is uniquely well-suited to storytelling — and humans love stories. “A narrative works off of both data and emotions, which is significantly more effective in engaging a listener than data alone,” writes Cody C. Delistraty in The Atlantic. Delistraty cites Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker, whose research shows that people remember data incorporated into narratives up to 22 times more than when the data is given on its own.
Video can engage employees on a visceral level by replicating a face-to-face connection. Learners are much more likely to connect with a narrative and visual depiction of a person guiding them through a process than they are to a block of static text (or a static image) explaining the material. Video also gives today’s learners the sense of control they crave over material — they can watch it anywhere, anytime and can pause, slow down, speed up, or rewind as many times as they see fit.
Research suggests that videos are uniquely suited to maximize retention of material when compared to other media.
“Multimedia presentations (such as narrated animation) are more likely to lead to meaningful learning than single-medium presentations” (like static visuals in a PowerPoint or an audio recording like a podcast), say researchers Richard E. Mayer and Roxana Moreno in the Educational Psychology Review.
This is based in part on dual coding theory, which holds that humans store audio and visual information in two separate areas of the brain. Watching a video engages both channels of the brain, which work together to reinforce the material. “The cognitive process of integrating is most likely to occur when the learner has corresponding pictoral and verbal representations in working memory at the same time,” according to Mayer and Moreno.
In order to store information in our long-term memory, our working memory must first process that information. But our working memory’s capacity (cognitive load) is limited, and if we overload it, we’ll retain less from the activity at hand. Microlearning videos help address this problem in two ways: a) they’re short, so they provide our brains a break to process information and refresh working memory capacity, and b) by engaging both visual and auditory channels at once, they spread the burden for processing the information across these two channels, providing more room for processing and retention.
Before you make a microlearning video
Microlearning videos are a rapidly growing component of many organization’s eLearning strategies. According to a survey by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), 72% of organizations plan to create microlearning videos in the near future, if they aren’t already.
Ready to get started?
The first step of any successful microlearning video (or video in general) is pre-production — a.k.a., planning. It may be tempting to skip this step in favor of going straight to the execution stage. Don’t!
First, explicitly identify the main training goals for your learning program. Then, think about how this microlearning video (or series of videos) will align to those goals.
Consider questions like:
Before diving into creating a microlearning video — whether you’re planning to make one short video or hundreds — consider:
Your goals, budget, and scope will help determine what kind of video it makes most sense to create. Will your video be live-action, animated, or a combination of both? If you have hired outside consultants or have a production team on staff, this is a decision you can make collaboratively.
Drag-and-drop animation is a great option for organizations of all sizes looking to create videos — especially if those videos need to be created quickly and cost-effectively. Animated video offers all the benefits of live-action, with far fewer resource requirements (e.g., no actors or studios or sets). Even organizations with larger budgets often choose animated video because it’s easier to update training modules while ensuring stylistic consistency across a video series.
Regardless of what type of video you choose, now is the time to sort out logistical concerns. What software program(s) do you plan to use? Do you need to rent or buy equipment or studio space? Do you need to hire or train additional people to produce the videos?
Putting together a creative brief for your video is a good way to kick off the production process. Here’s a video brief template from Act-On Software that might be helpful as a starting point. Be sure to include goals, topics, and takeaways as well as who is responsible for each component of the process.
Then, develop an outline. Think about questions like:
Remember, microlearning videos are “micro” for a reason. Each video you create should address one main learning objective. Trying to take on too much in such a short period of time is antithetical to the main benefits of microlearning, such as reducing cognitive load, maximizing engagement, and improving retention. Give yourself permission to create an expansive first draft, then be ruthless about making cuts. Remember that you can always produce multiple videos if you need to communicate multiple learning objectives.
Scripting for Microlearning.
Once you’ve completed the pre-production work for your microlearning video — including identifying goals, scope, and format, as well as creating a basic outline — it’s time to start scripting.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when writing your script:
Especially with a very short video, everything in your script should tie back to your main objective. It can be tempting to include fun tangential details, but be ruthless — the effectiveness of your video depends on it. Remember, you can always create more videos later or include embedded links to additional content.
Creating a narrative and developing characters will help you connect with your audience and frame your video in the most effective way possible. The way you tell this story will vary depending on the style and objective of your video.
For example, an explainer video might feature a straightforward narrator introducing a problem and describing the steps to take to solve this problem. A video focused on more abstract themes might instead use fictional characters to connect with the audience and elucidate the main takeaways.
Either way, keep in mind traditional story structure. Your video should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and each section should relate back to your objective.
Remember: you’re writing a script, not a term paper. Keep your sentences short and sweet, avoid unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, and use the active tense. Your script should look and sound like a conversation.
You should be cutting most of what you might include in a written format and summarizing key points. Keep it high-level and focused on the key points. Read it out loud to avoid producing something that sounds stiff or overly formal.
Think of your script as a support system for the visuals in your video (we’ll discuss how to storyboard these visuals in a future post). The language you choose should complement rather than compete with these images.
There’s no need for preambles in microlearning videos — employees or other viewers will know exactly what they’re about to watch from the way it’s presented in your training program or on their search engine. Getting to the point immediately will engage viewers and give you a few extra seconds to explore your topic.
Similarly, there’s no need to waste time recapping your main takeaways at the end of the video — the beauty of a microlearning video is that viewers can rewind a specific section and/or rewatch the whole video if and when they need to.
To get started, refer to the outline you already have and fill in the blanks to demonstrate the problem, incorporate your persona, illustrate how to solve the problem, and call your viewer to action. Combining the problem and persona and getting the story “on its feet” is where the magic happens.
(Original scripting tips by Gary Lipkowitz, Vyond CEO)
Video is a visual medium, so consider what the script will look like while you’re writing it.
“As you progress, you’ll begin to get a better sense of how your video will come together. You may find yourself adjusting some dialog or narration to better match your planned visuals or timing. This give-and-take is a part of the creative process. When things start really going well, you’ll find yourself deliberately creating rich media moments, in which non-verbal movement or effects can “carry the tune,” instead of simply wallpapering your words (Lipkowitz).”
If you’ve done a good job, viewers won’t want the story to end. Give them a way to stay involved while they’re still motivated.
What do you want them to do next? Watch the next video? Read more about the topic? Put their skills into action right away? Encapsulate this into one (and only one) call to action at the end of the video. Once your script feels complete. It’s time to move into storyboarding.
Ready to create animated microlearning videos?
Microlearning has powerful applications in today’s fast-paced workforce, providing employees with a flexible and accessible way to learn new information at their own pace.
Videos are particularly effective channels for microlearning. Video engages a viewer on multiple levels and in doing so can increase knowledge retention.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and create microlearning videos for your company, start by crafting a plan. There are a few best practices that apply to every animated video, whether you’re hiring an outside studio or using a tool like Vyond.
One of the best parts about animation is all the bells and whistles you can add in, at little to no additional cost. In Vyond, you can introduce new characters, props, and settings with a click of the mouse. You can add audio narration or background music or visual on-screen text.
But remember that learners can only process a certain amount of information at a given time. Richard Mayer’s Coherence Principle holds that “people learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.”
Vyond pro, Keith Anderson, who previously managed eLearning at Orchard Supply Hardware (check out some of the company’s animated microlearning videos here) and is now the director of learning at Penn National Gaming says, “the human brain filters out 90% of what you’re watching. Only put things on the screen that are relevant.” For example, Anderson makes sure that his videos have a consistent template (primarily whiteboard-based, with some colorful add-ins from Vyond’s Business Friendly animation style, and that his slides always move in the same direction to minimize distractions.
For more on effective visual instruction, watch this video by Michael Zielinskie, National Learning Specialist at Advanced Behavioral Health. And read more here.
(GoAnimate is now Vyond)
Again, less is more! It can be tempting to try to emphasize your main points with on-screen text in addition to graphics and spoken narration. However, Mayer’s Redundancy Principle says that combining graphics, narration, and on-screen text is actually less effective than just including graphics and audio narration.
“The flow of language is important, too,” says Anderson. “Humans typically process up to 150 words per minute, so we try to limit our videos to that amount of narration.”
“Every video we make starts exactly the same way,” says Anderson. “Having the same introduction signals the viewer that it’s time to enter ‘learning mode.’ It’s like the opening sequence to a TV show.”
According to Mayer, signaling — i.e., providing viewers with cues as to how the information in your video is organized — can lead to a more meaningful learning experience. In addition to consistent intros, signals like headings, vocal emphasis on keywords, and nonverbal character actions can help encourage learners to direct their attention to the most important parts of your video, and better follow the logic of the lesson.
High-quality audio and clear vocals will make a big difference in your final product. If you’re on a tight budget or just getting started, Vyond provides free text-to-speech capabilities in 58 languages and counting. However, a friendly, human voice will more effectively engage viewers.
There are plenty of services that make it easy to hire a professional voice artist to record your voice-over. VoiceBunny, Voice Archive, and Voice123 are a few options. Or, if you have access to a USB mic with a pop filter, record someone from your team using an audio program like Audacity or GarageBand.
Read about finding the right voice-over talent for your video from voice-over artist, Laura Schreiber.
Whether you plan to hire a professional or record on your own, do so towards the end of your project to avoid having to re-record when you inevitably make changes to your script. We recommend using Vyond’s text-to-speech feature as a placeholder until you’re ready to record. Then make final timing adjustments to your video once the voice-over is in place.
Don’t forget about music and sound effects either. Just like in the movies, sound can add mood and atmosphere to your animated microlearning videos. Vyond offers royalty-free music and sound effect to accompany any narrative. You can also purchase and upload specialized music and effects into Vyond to create an even richer viewing experience.
One of the best parts about creating animated videos is the low barrier to entry. Sure, you’ll hone your style and perfect your execution as you gain more experience, but even a newbie can create effective animated microlearning videos in Vyond. Try it out with our 14-day free trial. For guidance, once you’ve started, attend one of our weekly webinars. If you’re already using Vyond, and looking to take things to the next level, watch one of our more advanced on-demand webinars.
Once you have a plan in place, the next step is to actually create your video. Many organizations turn to animation to create multiple or one-off videos. Animation is a rich, engaging, and cost-effective medium that offers all the benefits of traditional video — with far fewer resource requirements.
Animated video isn’t just for kids either, says Karen Kostrinsky, eLearning Developer at mortgage lender Ellie Mae. “Some people think animated videos are childish. They can be, but they don’t have to be.” Kostrinsky, who uses Vyond to create her animated videos, does sometimes use “fun” themes — think superheroes, zombies, and country-western — for internal meetings, but more often she tends to create realistic characters in office settings. “My people look like people… I like that they look current. It’s still fun, but professional.”
Watch an excerpt from one of Karen’s animated microlearning videos:
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