Purnima Valiathan

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Script writing for video tutorials

Is the approach to scripting a video tutorial similar to how you script for traditional E-Learning courses? If not, how is it different? Let us see.


Given below are two forms of writing for an online lesson on ID Reviews. How are the two different?


“Imagine yourself as the author scripting away furiously. You spend a huge amount of time learning, understanding, researching and thinking. You go through many cycles of writing, editing and rewriting until you finalize the script. Then you submit your work for a review, to an ID reviewer. When you receive the review, you find that she has ripped apart your entire work and filled the document with negative comments. How do you think you will feel? Not very pleased, right? Your brain functions will change, and you will begin to see the reviewer as an adversary, rather than a mentor.  That’s how it works. It’s plain physiology.”


“Consider this scenario. You submit a document for review and when you get it back, you find out that it has been ripped apart by your reviewer. How will you feel?”


The first one is a tad dramatic and long winded. This is definitely not an approach that instructional designers are taught to adopt as per the traditional school of instructional design for scripting a topic. Brevity. Brevity. Brevity. That’s what has been drilled into instructional designers as part of the traditional training process. In fact, they live in morbid fear of the ID Reviewers and editors who will chop off any word or phrase that seems unnecessary. By this standard then, the first option will obviously be dumped.


The Rules Have Changed!

Let’s now fast forward to the current online learning scenario, where the rules are being rewritten. Large structured online courses are giving way to short video bytes. In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the popularity of video-based online learning. In this situation, can we continue to adopt the formal, concise and preachy writing style?

The answer is No.

The script for a traditional E-Learning course is written to be read. Yes, we do have audio, but it mostly supplements what is written on the screen, or it is a mere repetition of the on-screen text. And, well the graphics too are mostly representative or decorative. In short, there is nothing remotely auditory or visual about a traditional E-Learning script.

On the other hand, a video script needs to be written to be seen and heard. It is important to bear this in mind when we write the script.  A well-written video-script should include vivid imagery – something that will capture one’s imagination. In fact while reading it, one must be able to visualize it completely. This holds true even for a video that features a domain expert who is explaining a concept or principle. He/she may be able to speak extempore, but the oration must be powerful enough to evoke emotions. In the case of the expert-video, the expert must speak passionately on the topic so that similar emotions are evoked in the learner. It cannot be a drab and dreary monologue.

Some of us may think that since videos are short in length, you ought to be more concise in this medium. Well, that is not true. On the contrary, you have a short time to capture the attention of the learner. That is why you have to ensure a mix of sensory inputs in your learning video. What is better presented as a visual must not be explained in words. And when you use words, make sure that they leave a strong impact. Adopt a style that is fluid, friendly and informal. As mentioned earlier, this is so because the script in a video is written to be “seen and heard”, and not “read”. A little drama does go a long way to capture and sustain interest. A script that is written in a conversational and dramatic way also allows the presenter to intonate.

Here is a sample video tutorial. Re-imagine Learning

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