Cellphone Watching

Fifty million people in the United States use their phones to watch videos.

Mobile devices are less of a novelty these days and more of a necessity, and not just for calling or texting. The convenience of being able to access information anywhere at anytime increases the appeal. If people are using mobile devices to access information, then they’re being used for teaching and learning.

BI Intelligence released a report a year ago that indicated mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) are used for 15% of the hours of online video watching, and the percentage is increasing. It’s becoming necessary to provide content to students in a mobile-friendly method, and it’s important to note that engaging with information on a smartphone or tablet is different from engaging with information on a computer; a video that works well on a computer might not work well on a mobile device.

This guide will outline some basic tips for creating videos for mobile viewing in order to maximize learning outcomes.

Keep It Short

  • Make videos that are shorter than 7 minutes – even better if they were shorter than 4 minutes. Watching anything on a mobile device increases eyestrain, which either causes viewers to look away from the screen for a few moments or stop watching altogether.  Either way, these pauses are detrimental to retention.
  • Break concepts into chunks that would fit into a short video. Instead of packing an entire 50-minute class into one video, break the video up into distinct topics, concepts, or problems.

Keep It Simple

  • Alternate between showing the instructor and showing the supporting graphics. Force the viewer to focus on one thing by presenting one thing at a time. Making videos that show the instructor and supporting graphics (PowerPoint, websites, etc) simultaneously can work well on a computer, but there isn’t enough space on a smartphone screen; the viewer is forced to choose between looking at the supporting graphics or at the instructor, neither of which is very big on the screen.
  • Minimize the amount of text on the screen. Showing materials that correspond to the content is a great idea, but you want the learners to listen to your message. If you show a slide or graphic that causes the viewer to start reading, the brain has a tendency to switch to “reading mode” instead of “listening mode,” so you could end up losing the attention of your audience.

Make It Big

  • Use close-up camera shots to your advantage. The more space in a camera shot that isn’t filled with meaningful content is more space that can cause a distraction for the viewer. A classic head-and-shoulders shot will take up a lot of screen space, focusing attention on the instructor and her content.
  • Make text big and bold. Make the text as big as you want, but the smallest the text should be is 16pt and 35-40 characters per line. Just as with common guidelines for creating supporting materials, graphics should focus on the main ideas or themes in a bullet style and not the complete content of the instruction.
35-40 characters per line vs 40-50 characters per line  (from Typecast.com)

35-40 characters per line vs 40-50 characters per line
(from Typecast.com)

Engage The Audience

  • Provide additional information to the audience in the “Info” or “About” section surrounding the video. This information can be supporting documents or articles, links to online bookstores, or contact information of content experts.
  • Promote binge-watching of videos related to your topic. You can produce those videos, too, or you can curate similar videos from other online venues (YouTube, Vimeo, Kaltura, etc). Create a playlist of videos so viewers can seamlessly move from one video to the next with minimal operation.
  • Provide a call-to-action that asks something specific of the viewer. This can be a directive to take a quiz, to answer a specific question, to post a video response, or to start a dialogue with other viewers about the content.

How are you making engaging videos for mobile devices? Leave a comment below!

ICS is helping people create videos with recording studios located in The Pyle Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. A cost-effective self-service studio option allows content-creators to work at their own pace, creating audio-only, video-only, or hybrid recordings for a mobile environment. A larger studio is available to accommodate several presenters, or to incorporate other engaging video elements (i.e. “green screen”).

If you’d like more information about creating professional videos, check out other tips or get in touch with our video creation team.