With so much interest in easy access learning through online platforms and a vast potential audience eager for more, a video course makes a lot of sense. And hopefully many dollars too.

That said, the competition is fierce. You want to capture and keep your audience throughout your project. So, you need to give yourself the best possible chance. While basic tenets of a single educational video will hold with a series, some new aspects arise as well.

The basics

Effective teaching is always learner-centered. So, your focus must always be on your audience’s wants and needs. They’ll always have an educational goal. Plus, they’ll always want to understand the information, and most likely want to retain what they learn. Otherwise, they’d just watch viral videos.

You’ll shape your educational video series based on what you decide your learners are looking for and what they already know. Clarify for yourself what they’ll be able to do after watching that they couldn’t before watching. Naturally, this will vary widely. This could be anything from passing a test to becoming a more effective salesperson. Even talking intelligently about plate tectonics is a possibiity! Also, think about how your learners can apply the information. Give them a “yes you should do this at home” assignment. Homework really does bring information home.

What’s different with a series?

Tthe amount and/or complexity of information makes a series. I once gave a twenty-minute lesson on orchids — my allowed time — which meant I couldn’t go deeply into the topic. Given that orchids are one of the oldest and most widespread plant species on earth, I could have easily expanded it. You’re not constrained like this. However, you do need to decide what your project’s scope will be and how many videos it will require.

Word counts and time constraints, though, make us more effective rather than less. They force us to be focused and on task. And audiences hate disorganized, pointless stuff, so have a plan that addresses learners’ needs and stick to that plan. The one I used for my orchid lesson works well for any topic. So here it is.

1. Give the point of your lesson

This is why people read and/or view. They always want to know what they’ll get in exchange for their time. They need an idea of why we’re telling them something. For example, I made the point that orchids aren’t the delicate and fragile things we might assume. I mentioned that we can successfully get them to keep those blooms for months.

2. Provide essential background information

This “fleshing out” of your topic, helps people see the bigger picture and continues the process of what’s in it for them. So, when I told my audience that orchid species have been around for millions of years and occur on every continent except Antarctica, it showed their toughness.

3. Bring it home through applying the information

I went into how to keep orchids blooming (I’ve got some going past three months right now). Thus, my audience would feel more able to do this themselves.

If you want to know: bright, diffuse light and follow the watering instructions. If it says water every 20 to 30 days, do that! Applications will vary and you may even pose questions for your audience to think about. Can we get orchids to rebloom? Are some orchids more finicky than others?

These questions can generate interest in the next lesson. Or, they just keep viewers thinking about your course — which is what you want!

Applying your lesson plan to a series

You can use another organizational plan or teaching strategy, of course. However, with a series, you’ll also have to build upon what’s already come first. Then, you move toward what will come in future videos. A home starts with a foundation, so what’s the foundation of your instruction? This will depend on your audience’s level of knowledge as well as their goals.

Give information in easily managed chunks – few people can handle mass amounts of data at one time. Do a lesson on each subtopic as if it’s a single video, so you don’t skip the essential aspects of successful teaching. And do incorporate information from past lessons in each new video. You’re doing a course rather than just a bunch of videos on the same topic. Create a playlist for yourself and your audience and decide what must come first, next, last.

Let’s recap

How is your audience like an orchid? Answer: they each have specific needs that must be met. How is your educational video series like an orchid? Each needs to be sustained (must keep blooming) over time. Now buy an orchid for inspiration and make that series!