Leveraging Educational Videos as Learning Tools

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Is it time to delete PowerPoint and sign up for TikTok? The landscape of medical education is changing, and with increasing use of virtual learning, asynchronous content and self-directed curricula, the traditional “PowerPoint presentation-at-a-podium” might be moving to a thing of the past (or at least play a smaller role).

Short medical education videos are effective educational tools to facilitate self-paced learning in a remote setting, decrease repeat performances of educators, and can help standardize curricula for learners. With a little investment upfront, medical education videos can be high-quality, durable tools for educators, providing timeless content to a wider audience.

Though this task may feel daunting, creating video content is easier than ever and can be done in minutes with only a smartphone.


Why should we bother with videos?

Short educational videos have been shown, particularly in the surgical literature, to improve procedural skills acquisition when supplementing the traditional apprenticeship model(1). They can also be helpful for learners grappling with complex concepts. Learners can access videos as they please, just prior to a procedure or after discussing a complex patient on rounds. This easily-accessible content allows for “spaced learning,” which we know is an important means for solidifying educational concepts(2).

For those of us in critical care medicine, providers are expected to manage high-risk, low-frequency medical conditions, for example, emergent tracheostomy or placement of an esophageal tamponade catheter. In these instances, just-in-time video content can be particularly helpful (EM:RAP – Emergency Medicine and Reviews, has a 5-minute video on this topic that has been viewed over 47,000 times(3).


Choose an appropriate topic.

Before setting out to create a video it is important to pick your topic appropriately. Is there a topic that keeps coming up on rounds? Do trainees keep asking about the same content? Is this a high-stakes or high-stress, low frequency topic? Would procedural images or visual diagrams be helpful? If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then there may be a role for an educational video.

Next ask yourself what role will this play for my learners? How will it be used? How will this add to or replace the content they already receive? Keeping these goals in mind can ensure that your end product is something of value.

It is also critical to ask “Can I keep it short?” There is ample evidence that we can only pay attention for so long. The evidence suggests keeping it under 20 minutes, though some suggest aiming for 6-9 minutes in order to maximize learning gains and minimize inattention(4). If it can’t be kept short then maybe look to another method.


Make sure there isn’t something already out there.

So, you’ve chosen topic, but before diving headfirst into production mode be sure there isn’t already a high-quality video out there that suits your purposes. You can to turn to a free video sharing platform like YouTube or Vimeo; however, there are some platforms with content developed specifically for pulmonary and/or critical care. EM:RAP and Best of ATS Video Series are two great, high quality, peer-reviewed resources. Why make more work for yourself?


Treat it like any other educational curriculum: Plan!

If you’re going to put in the effort to make a video, be deliberate! With a little planning this can be a durable education tool and resource for your learners, and actually save you work in the long run.

Like any high-quality educational content, start with creating learning objectives, as this will help keep the content focused. For a nine-minute video, aim for two to four objectives. Remember, the goal is not to produce an hour-long lecture – the most effective videos are bite sized!

Next, plan what you want to say and what you want to show. You can do this by creating a script of what you’re going to say, along with the associated images you plan to show. This enables you to be deliberate, keep the content concise and focused, AND allows for peer review. Getting feedback from other educators (and even from learners) at this stage can help ensure your content is succinct.

Once you’ve planned your content, collect the images/videos that you want to include. Sometimes the simplest diagrams can serve your needs. Mine the materials you already have! Most #MedEd inclined folks have a cache of curated content. If you have a well-made PowerPoint slide or a stockpile of (de-identified) images from procedures, these can be repurposed for your video (though be sure to adhere to your facility’s rules for use of patient images).


Produce it.

At this point you’ve already done most of the work in the planning stages but, often, the actual production step can feel like the most intimidating part. There are a number of free programs that can make high-quality content. Screencast-O-Matic is PC and Mac compatible and free. For Mac users, iMovie (which has a simple “drag and drop” interface) can be used. Or videos can even be recorded on a smartphone (just be sure to keep your camera steady). For those who are social-media inclined, TikTok and Instagram have simple video editing tools and many MedEd focused communities.


Watch it.

More importantly, have other people watch it. They can provide honest feedback, and typically those things that you find annoying (why does my voice sound like that? That transition doesn’t look as nice as I’d like) your objective observers won’t notice!


Share it!

Videos can be hosted on free platforms (such as YouTube) or shared via online file sharing, but make sure it is something your learners can access on their own terms. With the growing #MedEd community on social media the platform for short education videos has never been bigger. You never know how far your efforts will reach!



  1. Green JL, Suresh V, Bittar P, Ledbetter L, Mithani SK, Allori A. The utilization of video technology in surgical education: a systematic review. J Surg Res. 2019;235:171-180.
  2. Carpenter SK, Cepeda NJ, Rohrer D, Kang SH, Pashler H. Using spacing to enhance diverse forms of learning: review of recent research and implications for instruction. Educ Psychol Rev. 2012;24:369-378.
  3. EM:RAP Medical. Linton, Blakemore, & Minnesota tubes overview [YouTube]. April 2, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v.Yv4muh0hX7Y. Accessed July 28, 2022.
  4. Guo P, Kim J, Rubin R. How video production affects student engagement: an empirical study of MOOC videos. In: Proceedings of the First ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale Conference, March 4-5, 2014. Atlanta, GA. New York: ACM; 2014:41-50.


Ilana Roberts Krumm, MD is a second-year Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellow in the Medical Education Track at the University of California-San Francisco. She plans to pursue a career in medical education, and her academic interests include curriculum development, procedural teaching and the pleural space.

Rosemary Adamson, MB BS is the Associate Section Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System and Associate Program Director of the PCCM Fellowship at the University of Washington. Her professional passions are providing excellent healthcare, improving medical education and attending to healthcare provider wellness. Her personal passions include raising her two children and outdoor exercise.