In Educational Technology, Mobile Learning, Video

In the last several years, online video has reshaped how everyone learns. This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennials (95% of Gen Z-ers use YouTube and 50% can’t live without it). For this group, video has become an important, and in some instances, a primary source of learning. A quick search on YouTube and you can find educational channels for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. Their videos have a phenomenal viewership—kids respond to them. Actively watch them. Talk about them. And learn from them. 

That reality presents a challenge for educational publishers to stay relevant. So, how can you create video content that connects with audiences raised on YouTube?  

Keep it Short  

Running time matters. Now more than ever, the amount of time that learners are willing to watch your content is getting shorter and shorter. How short? The popular online video learning site EdX did a 2013 study of their learner’s viewing habits and found that “students engaged more with shorter videos” and “the optimal video length is 6 minutes or shorter.”   

We tackled the attention span factor head on when we developed an eco-friendly, online video series called Today’s Green Minute. For this series, we wanted people to A. Watch it (each video runs 1-1 ½ minutes) and B. Be Informed while being entertained. In order to do this, we used an engaging host and visual style that kept things moving. It’s pretty amazing how much information you can cover in a short amount of time. Have a look! 


Create an Intriguing Hook 

What’s your hook? The thing that’s going to get learners to invest viewing time in your videos? Start by figuring out a thematic thread that sums up your topic and creates audience expectations (e.g. Today’s Green Minute—one minute videos on eco-friendly innovations). Getting this part right requires really understanding your audience and what’s driving their need to learn.  

In a video series we created for an Ed Publishing client, that hook was “a day in the life” look at careers. With the cost of college being a huge factor in career choices for Gen Z-ers and Millennials, we spoke to this underlying need with a collection of videos that gave viewers an up close look at careers in fields like journalism, politics, and law enforcement.  

The CrashCourse series on YouTube is another great example of using an appealing hook to build your series around. As the title suggests, the series uses the idea of the “crash course” as a jumping off point for exploring a variety of topics in a way that’s fun and visually interesting.    

Get the hook right and you’re halfway there.  

Make it Visual 

Perhaps the biggest factor in creating engaging educational videos boils down to what it looks like. Seriously, there’s so much out there fighting for your learners’ attention, you need a visual style that draws them in to watch (and to keep coming back). This is where you can distinguish your company’s content and build a loyal audience within the crowded educational video landscape.  

When figuring out the visual side, we advise clients to think about what differentiates them from others. For example, one of our Ed Publishing clients has a stable of international experts to draw from for material. When we create video content for this client, we build the videos around their experts. By using their cool, amazing careers and research that most kids aren’t even aware existed, we’re reaching them in a way that makes science fun and exciting. 

One visual technique that we’ve found works time and again is whiteboard animation. See how we used this technique to turn a potentially boring topic like financial literacy into something entertaining as well as informative.  


The school-age kids you’re trying to reach live digital lives and video consumption is at the center. This Gen Z, and to a lesser extent Millennial, audience relies heavily on video for learning. For Ed Publishers, understanding this mindset is crucial. Before producing your next educational video series, you need to come up with a creative way to engage and entertain with your content. Otherwise, your videos are destined to get lost in the playlist shuffle in favor of the latest viral cat videos.