The answer is video

One way instruction manuals have evolved with the digital landscape of today is through video. Funny story: I opened Hans van der Meij’s “Eight Guidelines for the Design of Instructional Videos for Software Training,” to read for this class assignment. The 24-page document staring back at me did not look extremely enticing. I thought of the brilliant idea to have the PDF read the article aloud to me on my laptop. I was not even sure if PDFs could be read aloud by the computer. With a quick Google search, my eyes gravitated towards a YouTube video thumbnail. There, I watched a short tutorial of how to activate the Read Out Loud tool on Acrobat Reader. And there you have it, an everyday example of how frequently we actually interact with video tutorials.

To first broach this discussion, Van der Meij and I ask, why is video starting to take over traditional written manuals? It is simple: individuals find it easier, in many cases, to watch someone else preform a task and then replicate the demonstrator. 21st century people are increasingly becoming more visual learners. While video tutorials will not completely replace written instruction manuals, they do aid accessibility, usability, and retention greatly.

In Van der Meij’s article, these ideas are discussed, organized like an instruction manual itself. This is a wonderful source for creating instructional videos because the authors researched how humans interact with visual and verbal messages to construct this credible and extensive guide. Overall, the article asks how video can be used to teach and learn, also known as the connection of “educational psychology and instructional design” (Van der Meij, 2013, p. 207). Van der Meij then proceeds to break down, as the title states, the eight major guidelines for creating instructional videos:

  1. Provide easy access (titling)
  2. Use animation with narration
  3. Enable functional interactivity
  4. Preview the task
  5. Provide procedural rather than conceptual information
  6. Make tasks clear and simple
  7. Keep videos short
  8. Strengthen demonstration with practices (2013, p. 207)

Each of these steps are self-explanatory, but the article provides in-depth descriptions, analysis, and application of each guideline as well. More importantly, two terms that were defined and applied stood out to me. The multimedia principle states that visuals and written copy combined produce better instructional content than solely words (Van der Meij, 2013, p. 210). Related to this principle is the modality principle, claiming that spoken instructions (typical of videos) are more effective in teaching than written instructions (Van der Meij, 2013, p. 211). Principles such as these build Van der Meij’s central case that “students achieved a 90% success rate during training with the video instructions as opposed to a 63% success rate for the paper-based tutorial.” (Van der Meij, 2013, p. 224).

These principles and statistics can be applied in many other disciplines outside of instructional manuals.  Multimedia content is a necessity in advertising, business, communications, entertainment, and beyond. To conclude with one more personal experience, reading “Eight Guidelines” reminded me of video tutorials I took myself. Lynda.com is an excellent resource for learning everything there is to know about Adobe Creative Suite. The various tutorials are titled clearly, are narrated by an experienced designer, are split into manageable lengths, and preview each skill with procedural steps and cues. Lynda.com is a clear model of Van der Meij’s eight guidelines in action. These videos have not only taught me the ins and outs of Illustrator and InDesign, but in a way that I remembered and felt confident in doing independently after following along. This is just one of the hundreds of applicable instances where instructional videos aid learning in a way traditional instruction cannot.

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