Online Video Learning Best Practices for 2021

online video learning, video learning

More than 500 million hours of video are watched on YouTube each day. Since streaming video became a viable media outlet, the number of users and the amount of content available online has been increasing exponentially. Thousands of companies are adding online video learning to their corporate training strategies because it provides an engaging way for learners to interact with your content. The benefits of video have elevated it above a trend to a necessity in student learning.

Video has the unique ability to combine visual and audio cues in a way that makes it easier for viewers of all ages to commit key information to memory. The challenges that come with different learning styles and shortening attention spans can also be managed by well-made videos. However, for a video to be its most effective, its design must take into account the cognitive theories of learning and build upon them.

Cognitive Theories of Learning

Starting with the teacher-student philosophies of the ancient world, devising a way to communicate information to make it stick has been at the heart of education. Cognitive learning theories start with the same question: “How do people learn?” and attempts to answer it by examining the way we process information.

When we are presented with a piece of content, our minds must ultimately decide what to do with it, and that starts with whether or not to commit it to our Working Memory. Working Memory can be thought of as short-term storage, a place for us to hold information until the next decision point comes–whether to commit the information to long-term memory or forget it (Chai, 2018).

The key to unlocking long-term memory starts with effectively engaging short-term memory. Presenting content a little bit at a time (chunking) and targeted repetition (rehearsal) make it easier for a learner to absorb the information they are being presented with (Obsidian Learning, 2015). Once the content has made it past the Working Memory gatekeeper, it has a greater chance of being committed to long-term memory.

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Long-term memory serves us best when we understand how information is to be used and can relate it to concepts we already understand. The Schema Theory suggests that information grouped into meaningful categories sticks in our brains better and longer (Obsidian Learning, 2015). These theories form the foundation of the 5 pillars of video learning: Dual coding, Learner emotion, Cognitive Load Theory, Multimedia Cognitive Theory, and Accessibility.

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Dual Coding

The use of verbal and non-verbal cues to learn is what Dual Coding is all about. Dual Coding suggests that being able to read or listen to words is just one part of the puzzle, what really promotes learning and long-term retention is the presence of a visual cue. Because video taps into our audio and visual senses simultaneously, it creates the perfect environment for learning. When developing your employee training videos, use the Dual Coding principle to marry your narration with appropriate imagery for better learning outcomes

Learner Emotion

A learner may hear your message and begin to connect the dots with supporting visuals but emotion is the next ingredient to add to your instructional design best practices. You can harness the power of emotion in your videos by showing learners how the information will impact their lives, putting the most critical information first, and, of course, establishing relevance. Learners need to be able to connect with your video and understanding how the content affects them is an important step.

online video learning, video learning
online video learning, video learning

Cognitive Load Theory

Because Working Memory is the amount of brain space an individual has to keep things “top of mind” learning and development professionals have to be careful not to overload it. If your distance learning or eLearning videos are too full of facts and figures before learners get to what you really need them to know, your training program will not be effective. You can reduce that possibility by removing extraneous information and encouraging learning transfer through good instructional design.

Multimedia Cognitive Theory

Cognitive Load Theory can be extended to multimedia learning when we look at video’s special properties to create best practices. Because humans learn better when words and pictures are combined, you should always combine them in a meaningful way(Obsidian Learning, 2015). By combining Cognitive Load Theory and video production best practices you can create a checklist that will support sound online video learning:

  • Remove all the nonessential information you can to keep your videos short and to the point. 
  •  Use appropriate cues to highlight important content. Cues, in many instances, could be as simple as using color, size, or movement to add emphasis for a viewer.
  • Limit the amount of text on the screen and let your narrator and animation tell the story for you. It can be difficult for a viewer to read, listen and follow the animation all at the same time.
  • Group and chunk your content in a way that keeps like concepts together. That will help your learner create useful associations.
  • Make your content more relatable with a real human voice and conversational dialogue or narration.


When we say accessibility, we mean the ability to connect to your content from anywhere. Mobile learning has gone from a trendy option to a must-have solution for many companies and savvy learning managers everywhere are working to incorporate it into their programs. To effectively leverage video so it can always be at your target audience’s fingertips, start by adapting to the medium. 

Make sure your content can be intuitively downloaded and played on mobile devices, tablets, and computers. Next, make sure the video is short. Explainer videos, sometimes called whiteboard or doodle videos, are ideal for mobile learning. Last, but not least, keep the user and the context in which they’ll access your video in mind. For example, a video meant to be accessed before a live training would be structure differently than a video created specifically for distance learning.

online video learning, video learning

Getting Better Results from Online Video Learning

Training video production always presents a lot for learning and development departments to consider, but the effort is always worth the reward. If you’re ready to strengthen your employee training programs with eLearning videos, we’re ready to help. Contact Ninja Tropic today for a free consult.

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