Cognitive and Technical Considerations

When creating content for instruction, several cognitive and technical best practices can improve your message.

On this page:

Cognitive Considerations

Use some of the following techniques to incorporate Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, 2005) into your videos.


The use of on-screen text or symbols to highlight important information.

  • Segmenting
    Allows learners to engage with small pieces of new information and gives them control over the flow of new information.
  • Weeding
    The elimination of interesting but extraneous information that does not contribute to the learning goal.

Student Engagement

  • Video length
    Research done by Guo, Kim and Rubin (2014) about engagement and video length show that the median engagement time is at most 6 minutes, regardless of total video length.
  • Using prompts
    People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.

Technical Considerations

Prior to recording your video, review these technical considerations to help you design a high-quality video.

Recording format

  • Ideal instructional video should be recorded and delivered in the highest resolution possible, preferably 1920x1080 pixels or 1440x1080 pixels.


  • Captioning should be part of all instructional video content. YouTube has a free automatic captioning tool, but the results must be reviewed and edited for errors.

Content and scripting

  • Modality matching
    It is relevant to match modality to promote student engagement. When telling a story, it can be very effective to show the storyteller’s face or an animation of the story. When solving a problem, step-by-step walk-throughs with narration are particularly helpful (Guo et al., 2014).
  • Narrative speed and clarity
    Videos with fast-speaking instructors often convey more energy and enthusiasm, which might contribute to higher engagement. Avoid filler words and other pauses. Unlike live lectures, students can pause video (Guo, Kim and Rubin, 2014).

Image quality

  • Subject lighting
    Subjects should be lit so they are fully visible and have some sort of contrast from the background. Pay special attention to any glare that could occur from the subject wearing glasses.
  • Subject frame composition
    Subject frame composition is how you arrange the subject in the shot. There should be appropriate head and arm space and, if graphics will be added, the subject should be framed to accommodate them.
  • Background and setting
    Setting and background should be appropriate for the content. When shooting a video, be mindful of what is happening in the background. 

Narrative recording

  • On- or off-camera narration should be clearly audible. There should be little to no background noise, echo and drop out. Ideally, audio is captured using a directional or lavaliere microphone.


  • Personalization principle
    People learn better when words are in a conversational style rather than a formal style (Mayer, 2008).
  • Voice principle
    People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly, human voice rather than a machine voice.

Audio levels

  • Audio levels should be consistent and even throughout the video with no significant high or low incidents.

Background and setting

  • Consideration should be given to what is in view behind the speaker. The background should not be distracting but should be appropriate for the subject, content and formality of the video.

Integrate these techniques into your video production. Doing so will increase your students’ success.