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New Modes of Help: Best Practices for Instructional Video

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Purpose: To examine instructional video as a vernacular form of technical communication serving readers unwilling to consult print documentation. Provide a set of best practices for creating and delivering video based on analysis of existing, highlyrated content on YouTube.

Method: Assessment of a criterion-based (that is, software type) sample of 46 instructional videos stratified by user ratings. Inductive coding of shared withingroup (that is, “good,” “average,” “poor” rating) features, including genre conventions, rhetorical work, and communication design qualities.

Results: Good instructional videos share qualities that appear to account for their strong user ratings and distinguish them from average and poor videos. Good videos spend significant time introducing an instructional agenda and forecasting goals and steps. In this manner, they function like video equivalents of printed documentation. Good videos also focus on demonstrative content, in which steps are both performed and explained or elaborated. By contrast, videos with lower ratings focus as much or more on simply doing the steps without explaining or explaining without doing. Good videos were also designed so that their instructional messages could be easily identified and accessed, easily understood and applied, and so that the messages were engaging and encouraging.

Conclusions: Designers of instructional video can successfully apply lessons learned from the design of instructional content for print while taking into account the medium-specific affordances and constraints of video and sound. The potential for rapid, viral distribution via social media channels should also inform the selection and design of instructional content.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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