Explain Complex Concepts Through Animated Videos

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Animated videos create an effective learning experience and better engagement for students in online environments. In this presentation we will discuss a variety of digital instructional design tools and the process we use for creating these videos. Emphasizing pedagogical aspects, we will highlight important video characteristics in the creation of these videos.


Presently, I work for Empire State College as the Director of Instructional Design. I strategically direct College wide instructional design policy and procedures to ensure courses are current and in-line with current research on best practices for online learning. I also coordinate and promote collaboration and fact finding of existing resources with other members of the College to identify gaps and opportunities and determine boundaries to increase efficiency and effectiveness. I am also an adjunct faculty member with the College, instructing a graduate course on Assistive Technology and Digital Tools. I also teach for The College of Saint Rose, a graduate course on Assistive Technology and Interactive Whiteboards and two undergraduate courses, Introduction to Computer Science and Educational Computing for the Computer Information Science program.
Mark Lewis is an Instructional Designer for SUNY Empire State College. He is also a Core Faculty Member in the Master In Learning and Emerging Technologies (MALET) program. He has designed and taught graduate studies in Instructional Design for Online Learning Environments; and Games, Simulations and Learning. He has also designed and taught undergraduate courses in Game Design and Development, Digital Photography, Interactive Multimedia Design, Web Site Design, Adobe Flash Animation, Graphic Design & Desktop Publishing, and Technical Theatre Production. Recent instructional design work has included the incorporation of UX design practices within the creation of collaborative next generation online learning environments and the creation of a faculty oriented instructional design portal. His prior technology and design related work experience includes graphic design, website design and development, technology training, and management of enterprise help desk support. He also worked for many years in technical theatre lighting and set design in the New York metropolitan area and frequently incorporated photographs and digital images in his designs. He was a technical editor for four editions (CS3 to CS6) of Photoshop CS6: Essential Skills published by Focal Press. He is interested in the application of UX design processes for developing learning environments and for game design, games and meaningful play in education, game culture, and games for social change. He has presented at many regional and national conferences on instructional technology, game design for education, game culture and gender issues, and accessibility issues for game design. He is a member of the International Game Developers Association. He holds an M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology from Walden University, an M.A. in Media Studies from the New School, and a B.S. in Visual Arts from SUNY New Paltz where he worked in both painting and photography.
Alena Rodick is an Interim Assistant Director of Instructional Design at SUNY Empire State College. She has been a Co-Pi and/or project member on four SUNY Innovative Instructional Technology Grants, including Career Brand Management for Everyone: Expanding Access to Career Development Learning by Launching an On-Demand, Competency-Based OPEN SUNY Specialization on Coursera; Increasing Access to Online, On-Demand, Competency-Based Nonprofit Management and Leadership Education; Metaliteracy Learning Pathways: Fostering Innovative Teaching Across SUNY; Increasing Access to Nonprofit Management and Leadership Education. While working on these projects, she has designed courses in various platforms, utilized different project management processes, and built learning artifacts with a wide range of tools. She has facilitated workshops and presented at the regional and national conferences and has a special interest in application of design thinking process and learning analytics in instructional design. She is also an adjunct faculty teaching an undergraduate course for The College of Saint Rose and Senior Networked Instructional Designer at Southern New Hampshire University. She holds BS degree in Business Administration from SUNY Albany and MS degree in Information Design and Technology from SUNYIT, and currently pursuing another MS degree in Data Analytics.

Extended Abstract

Animated videos are also known as whiteboard animations, videoscribe, video doodling, or speed draw videos. Basically, they are short videos that use illustrations and sometimes voiceovers to communicate information. These videos show sequential animations drawn on a whiteboard as the story progresses, and they offer an effective and engaging way to explain a complex idea or describe a process.

We first started creating and using these videos in some of our MBA courses to help our students understand complex models and theories - something that is not easily seen in the real world (Ainsworth, 2008) and topics that our students struggled with every semester. After successful implementation and positive feedback, we expanded the use of the animated videos to other areas such as using them to provide professional development to our faculty.

As per emotional design theory, our videos strive to use graphics and images with personification and visual appeal to “increase the learner’s motivation to make sense of the essential material and thereby prime deeper learning processes that lead to improved learning outcomes” (Mayer & Estrella, 2014). We also rely heavily on Dr. Mayer’s multimedia principles when crafting our videos.  

Most of the videos combine audio and visuals, and all of them include subtitles and/or transcripts. If students prefer, they can skip these videos altogether and read articles and lecture notes instead. Therefore, we offer different modes of delivering required content to meet various learning needs of our students.

We’ve used a few different tools, including PowToon, Videoscribe and animated PowerPoints, and have established a collaborative team process for creating these videos.

In this presentation we will demo some of the tools we use, showcase the samples of the videos we created, share the process we use for creating them and highlight theories and principles we rely on in this process.


Ainsworth, S. (2008a). How do animations influence learning? In D. Robinson & G.Schraw (Eds.), Recent innovations in educational technology that facilitate student learning (pp. 37–67). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.