Skillsoft Blog

Videos You Won't Forget ... By Design

August 19, 2020 | by Norm Ford

Instructional videos are fundamentally different than videos you watch for entertainment because of their most basic purpose. From their very inception, instructional videos are intended to take on weighty matters such as work procedures, productivity tools, codes of conduct, compliance issues, business policy, safety measures, social norms, and an endless number of equally substantive topics.

The primary goal of an instructional video is to teach something new that a learner can retain for a long time. A simple goal, but a tough mandate for video producers, script writers, actors, and directors.

Video developers agree, when it all comes together and works well, it’s like magic. However, instructional videos are not the result of slight-of-hand or an illusion. Making magic comes from embracing the art, science of video production.

Successful instructional videos are powerful, because they are authentic. Producing a video, you won’t soon forget requires a secret sauce made of best practices, hard science, process engineering, and an agile team that shares an appreciation for all of these essential ingredients.

Self-directed training is just about the only opportunity knowledge workers have today for keeping up with the pace of change. Time constraints compel learners to consume bite-sized chunks of content on mobile platforms. The current need for social distancing has simply accelerated the self-directed learning trend. Mobile devices are the teaching method of choice for learning, any time, any place, and in short bursts. It is no accident the growth rate of instructional videos is practically exponential.

Skillsoft’s approach to this challenge begins with a comprehensive video development process. We leverage the skills of cross-functional teams who are committed to quality at every step. Our tea examine requirements from the learner’s perspective. This vantage point keeps the focus on engineering a repeatable process that is flexible. Innovative professionals steer our end-to-end process which is a meaningful differentiator.

Industry-leading best practices are the bedrock upon which the Skillsoft video development process was designed. These practices informed our thinking and helped reduce some of the ambiguity from a largely creative process:

  • Tell a story: Instructional videos aren’t simply recorded versions of lectures or classroom sessions. Authentic, real-life scenarios with credible actors are necessary parts for telling a story that resonates with the viewer.
  • Create an emotional response: We understand from neuroscience that emotions trigger different brain responses often resulting in longer-term retention. A video that triggers an emotional response is more likely to be retained than one that doesn’t.
  • Make it meaningful and relevant: Learners need to connect with what is being taught. They need to feel that the information is important and useful to them at point in time that they are engaged in the learning.
  • Design for visual appeal: Try watching a video without listening to the sound. Is it visually attractive? Do you have a pretty good feel for the content just from a visual perspective? A ‘yes’ response to both questions is a good indicator of visual appeal.
  • Deliver simple messages: Time is limited for instructional videos. The sweet spot might be as short as 5-7 minutes. Messages need to be clear, concise, and simple. Learning often takes place in between other tasks like commuting or preparing meals. Message simplicity works.

Skillsoft adheres to these industry best practices because they are proven effective. We also contribute to thought leadership by investing in basic research with the help of our university and business partners. We value scientific research as the means for improving our understanding of how people learn.

Our recent neuroscience study with MIT and Accenture was quite revealing. We learned that interest in the topic of an instructional video is a more impactful factor than relevance for retaining more information for a longer period of time. This finding was based on measuring brain activity through FMRIs (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) while participants in the study watched instructional videos.

If interest drives retention, then what drives interest? Our research further indicates interest in a video is increased when:

  1. Information is presenting in a new and inventive ways such as storytelling.
  2. An outline introduces the video showing clear organization of concepts.
  3. Frequent pauses test for understanding and comprehension.
  4. Videos have stronger than average visual appeal.

This research validates some of the industry best practice described above along with some new insights.

Some of our most unforgettable videos are often a bit edgy and address sensitive topics that elicit an emotional response … by design. Topics are selected because of their relevance and known customer preferences. Scripts are well crafted. Experienced actors and directors cast with care. All of these critical success factors have been engineered into our sustainable process for producing instructional videos that achieve their goals.

Instructional videos are unique with respect to the demand for accuracy, authenticity, and compliance with government regulations. You might say that Skillsoft is hyper vigilant in this regard. Each of our videos undergoes a robust legal review. Some teams have legal staff working in key production roles on site during a shoot to address legal concerns. Scrutinizing our work so thoroughly is celebrated.

The market for instructional videos is highly competitive. Businesses, government agencies, and other organizations have immediate and growing needs for education and training. They want to empower employees and stakeholders to learn in the best way for them and still meet current needs.

Skillsoft watches trends and identifies new requirements for training materials. We strive to catch the next wave in the rapidly growing self-directed education and training landscape. Our quality control procedures and commitment to compliance are our way of assuring customers that we promise to provide solutions that are fresh and original.

We were thrilled that the video industry thinks highly of our work. Skillsoft was honored to receive three prestigious awards at the 41st annual Telly Awards earlier this year. Since 1979, the Telly Awards have grown and changed with the industry and now recognizes video and television excellence regardless of screen size or production budget. A council of expert judges awarded Skillsoft with these Telly Awards which is quite an achievement during our first year of consideration.

  1. Silver Award in the category of Non-Broadcast General-Training for the video called “Responding to a Conflict Situation”
  2. Bronze Award in the category Non-Broadcast General-Safety called “Defensive Driving Techniques”
  3. Bronze Award in the category Non-Broadcast General-Social Impact called “Workplace Harassment Prevention”

Watch one or our award-winning videos below and look for some of the success factors identified in this blog.


Norm Ford is the VP of Compliance at Skillsoft