The making of the ‘More Than Blended Learning’ explainer videos

As described by Barry Sampson

First take a look at one of the explainers

What were you trying to achieve with these explainers?

We were preparing to launch More Than Blended Learning and we wanted something that would explain some of the key ideas. There was already plenty of detailed materials – such as the More Than Blended book – but we wanted something lighter than that, which would help the casual visitor get a handle on what it was all about.

There are lots of ways we could have done this, but we had some specific requirements that made explainers feel like the natural choice. We knew that we wanted something that was short, so that visitors to the website could quickly get an introduction to each topic.

We also knew that we wanted them to be in a format that allowed us to use them in many different circumstances. They’ve been included in online courses and used in workshops and at conferences, as well as acting as promotional materials.

Video as a format is pretty platform neutral too, so we knew they would work anywhere. I’ve seen them projected onto a screen in a conference hall and watched on a four-inch smartphone and I was happy with the result in both cases.

Although explainers can take many forms, we knew that we wanted to engage people with ideas by linking the information to a story. We could have done that with live action video but the output would have been longer and the production time and cost would have been much higher.

How did you set about designing these explainers?

Like most >BL projects this was a team effort. Clive already had the idea for using stories about several characters and he worked on the original scripts which were then reviewed by the rest of us. I then worked on the visual style of the explainers and produced a couple of very short clips to get feedback from the team.

Who worked with you on this project?

Clive wrote the scripts and voiceovers were provided by Rosko and Anna at Rosko Lewis.

What tools did you use?

The photographic images were all manipulated in Adobe Photoshop and vector graphics in Adobe Illustrator. The explainer was then assembled in Powtoon.

How happy are you with the end result?

This is always a tricky question. I’m constantly looking to improve what I do and the way I do it, so I’m never satisfied with anything for long. I am happy that what we produced achieved what we set out to do.

With hindsight there’s one thing I would change. I chose Powtoon as I thought it would be the quickest way to get results, but the trade-off was only having access to a limited range of animations. If I was doing this again I would use Adobe After Effects.

Stills from the explainers

Applying the six characteristics


Concept

The idea is that each explainer offers a simple overview of one of the key concepts that form the >BL approach. The intention is that someone can use it to help their own understanding, or share it with others to introduce the ideas to them.


Structure

Each explainer is deliberately short and contains just one big idea. Although we could have gathered them all together in one video, keeping them separate reduces the cognitive load for learners. It also makes them easier to share and use within different contexts.


Media

The videos are narrated, with the visuals illustrating and reinforcing the spoken message. We decided to use stylised photos that gave the videos a fun feeling without resorting to using cartoon characters – not that there’s anything wrong with cartoons, but they are very common in explainer videos and we wanted something that stood out.


The words

The narration was written in plain English with a friendly, conversational style. We chose two voice over artists who were very clear and engaging, but had a more informal style than we might typically have used. The feedback we’ve had suggests that it works.


Storytelling

All of the explainers have a story of sorts. In most of them we meet one main character and their learning experience helps to explain the idea in practical terms. The one exception is the video on communication modes in which instead of following one character we have the story of human communication in under two minutes!


Challenges

The primary purpose of the videos is to explain the big ideas behind the >BL approach. As with all new ideas there is an implicit challenge along the lines of ‘now you know this, what will you do with it?’.

As I have mentioned, the videos themselves have been used in many different contexts – on YouTube where they stand alone, on our website where they have some surrounding content, in conferences where they are used to illustrate ideas and in workshops where they are linked to specific activities. In each situation we can create a different challenge.

What now?

Check out the explainer script


Barry Sampson

Barry Sampson is a Director and Co-Founder of Skills Journey