Q&A – Why Picture-in-Picture Is Effective for Video Tutorials

Picture-in-Picture Can Be Effective For Video Tutorials

It’s not necessary, but when used effectively, picture-in-picture can help enhance the learning context by giving non-verbal cues to online learners.



My thoughts about this is in constant evolution.  Just asI try different techniques every time I teach a live class or workshop, I try different techniques also in my online video presentations.  No one technique, however, is definitive.  Like many presentation styles, there are a variety of approaches that can be effective.  The main thing is that we keep trying different techniques AND keep reflecting on feedback from our network so that we can refine our technique for the next iteration.

Also, my choices about how I include picture-in-picture in my screencasts is also influenced by a desire to make each presentation as much like the “feel” of a classroom environment as possible.  In a classroom, the teacher/facilitator is always visible.  The teacher doesn’t have the luxury of visually fading out… although I know some lectures you and I have attended can certainly feel like that would be a benefit.

But my point is that, more often than not, there’s a benefit to seeing the instructor.  You and I, as students in a live classroom, often take our visual cues from the non-verbal mannerisms and gestures of the facilitator as much as we would from the verbal.  But, the question of how best to translate that same live classroom atmosphere to a video context is an ever evolving challenge — one that I think too many online teachers actually DON’T do well.

For example, too many online facilitators, I think, go too far the other way.  That is, they display NO PIP (picture-in-picture) overlays at all and rely exclusively on voiceover and screen recordings of PowerPoint slides.  Now, I’m not saying that’s wrong.  Because, you only have to go as far as a site like Lynda.com to see how effective pure voiceover instructional content can be.

But, my experience, too, is that in far too many pure-voicover style instructional videos–especially from folks who are trying this for the first time–is that the facilitator relies almost exclusively on PowerPoint and voiceover and ends up becoming too far removed from the learner.  And, in a way, I think that ends up sort of robbing the learner of non-verbal cues and facial expressions that can otherwise enhance the learning environment.

Now, I have some thoughts about what makes for an effective Picture-in-Picture overlay that I’ll follow up with later. But, for those of you in any of my online courses now, you can catch my thoughts about that in the introductory lecture about the Picture-in-Picture overlay in my Digital-Know-How course.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. For videos you’ve seen that use a picture-in-picture of the teacher, what is it that you did or didn’t like about them in general.  And, if you like the pure voiceover type videos (with PIP overlays), is there something specific you can point to that makes them particularly effective?

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Comments (1)

  1. James Roughton

    Nice video as usual Mel,

    I like the way that you format your picture-in-picture in your
    presentations. This is something that I am considering with my own videos as I
    move forward.

    The only problem that I have picture-in-picture is that sometimes the picture
    moves too fast from side to side particular when the presenter has several
    thoughts that they are trying to convey within a few seconds.

    Otherwise, I think this is a great technique as you suggested to keep the
    learner involved.

    In addition, you stated that you like movement on the screen around 30
    seconds. I totally agree with this as you need to keep the learner engaged. I
    am trying several techniques to improve some of the presentations and I am
    working on.

    As always again, I appreciate your videos and enjoy what you have to

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