How to Create Interesting Educational Videos With Film Theory

From the 1920s and on, as soon as films and projectors became affordable and operable for the general public, film has been used for educational purposes. After 100 years of teaching with video, the question of what makes an instructional video effective and enjoyable remains largely unanswered.

Deep inside most instructional designers working with video you may find an unaddressable passion for directing films 🙂

Educational videos are films; we want them to have the texture and the colors of great movies, the plot and the aesthetic essence of films, the excitement and the intensity of films.

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A film theory perspective on educational videos may be a first step towards developing guidelines for effective video creation. Wijnker, Bakker, van Gog, and Drijvers (2019) tried to provide a framework for connecting teacher aims with film types. We present their study critically here hoping it will help you in your course creation!

The film theory

In the field of film studies, videos are analyzed systematically by looking closely at what characterizes them. The two main factors that are taken into account in such video analyses are:

Based on these two factors, films can be organized in different categories. A Romantic comedy, for example, is easily recognized by the use of soft tone colors, emotional music, and many close‐ups. A Documentary is identified by the use of many audio explanations, a rather slow flow of scenes, and a low amount of video effects. On the other hand, a Crime story is characterized by hard tones, dramatic music, and a quick scene flow.

By using this film categorization, teachers may create more effective goal-oriented educational video products. Let’s look at some educational film types. McClusky (1947) defines 11 of them. Each type predisposes the viewer about the educational content that is to be learned.

Teachers’ Aims

Apart from McClusky’s categorization, teachers have a pattern of motives in using educational videos. According to literature, a video aims to one of the following four goals:

Each of these aims (doing, engaging, saying, seeing) can be achieved through a variety of video types.

Combining the two theories

How can each of the above aims be achieved? Which film types are expected to contribute to those aims?

To answer this question Wijnker, Bakker, van Gog, and Drijvers (2019) studied seven science teachers and a total of 233 students. As a first step towards creating guidelines for the teachers, the researchers developed a model of possible connections between teacher aims and film types.


So, when it is time to choosing film type firstly ask yourself:

– Why do I use video in my lesson?
– What is the function of the video in my lesson?
– What should the video bring about in my students?
– Why do I want this to be brought about in my students?

Excellent learning videos are not created by chance. To enhance learning performance, you need to use specific directing strategies.

Choosing an instructional type and matching it to your aim is essential, as this will impact your lesson plan and the whole editing of your video. For a more complete effective video creation, don’t forget to read our article about instructional video styles and visit our free course about Video-based learning.

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Course Designer & Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.