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How to Teach Basic Financial Concepts Using Video

Financial literacy is more important now than ever before. Think about it. The need to make sound financial decisions is all around us. From calculating how much we should contribute to our retirement accounts and children’s education to increasing our company’s profits, knowing the key concepts behind crucial financial decisions is paramount to success in almost every area of our lives.

As a result of the increasing complexity of financial concepts, there’s an enormous demand for effective elearning courses that will make these complex subjects accessible to all types of learners–even those with a non-finance background.


This is where online video course come into the picture. As a medium that combines text, images and animations in a visually appealing format, video has been proven to be one of the most effective tools in the classroom.

Not only is it extremely versatile, it is also one of the most resource-intensive mediums available, which also makes it one of the most impactful. It can be used to present lectures, case studies, instructional animations, interviews, and digital storytelling, among many other options.

Despite video’s versatility, though, there’s an ideal way to use video in online courses–and a not-so-ideal way.

In this post, we’ll provide some pointers for creating online financial courses that cater to all types of learners within a wide audience, whether B2B or consumers in general.

Basic Rules for Creating a Financial Course Using Video

Just because a video is full of stunning imagery, mind-boggling animations, and an entertaining script doesn’t make it effective and educational.

So that learners get the most out of your financial courses, it’s necessary to heed a few principles garnered from years of research in the areas of elearning and the science of teaching:

1. The Multimedia Principle

After 10 years of studying the use of media in elearning environments, Richard Mayer and Ruth Clark came up with the ideal media mix for online learning. Their research confirmed that using both still graphics (such as line drawings, images and charts) and motion graphics (such as animation and video) aids learning.

The key to effective teaching, however, is to use visuals that further the textual message and not just entertain the viewer or make the course more visually appealing (these kinds of visuals will not only not help the learner, they will actually detract from the final message).

Take a look, for example, at the way Kay Stice, an accounting professor at Brigham Young University, uses simple but effective visuals to explain the importance of cash flow analysis by using Home Depot as a case study.


Here we see that the visuals complement the audio narration in a way that reinforces the final message instead of adding distracting visual noise.

In order to properly choose visuals that work in harmony with the content and further the specific learning goal in question, you can refer to the table below, which displays the ideal visual support for different types of content.

For example, in the case of visualizing a process, you can use animated diagrams and illustrations of the stages of a process, as seen in the example above. Or, in the case of explaining the purpose of different financial statements, you can use realistic illustrations or images.


2. The Contiguity Principle

Mayer’s research also found that placing text near the relevant graphics improves learning. It is often the case in online learning that text is placed at the top or the bottom of the screen and that the relevant illustrations are placed beneath or on top. This should be avoided since text and relevant graphics should be placed close together on the screen, so as to make information processing easier on the learner.


In the above extract from a course on corporate finance, for example, you can see an animation with text related to the graphic, which appears in the order that the text appears in sync with the audio narration.

3. The Modality Principle

When teaching complex subject matters such as finance, it is best to explain graphics and animations with audio narration.

Called the modality principle, this rule refers to the fact that our working memory has two storage areas: one designated for auditory information and the other for visual information. In order to increase learners’ working memory’s capacity, you can use both types of information.

For example, in the video lecture below on financial markets, the learner only has access to auditory information. This will create a greater burden on learners’ phonetic memory capacity.

Click here to watch the video ->

If, however, you combine visuals with audio narration, as in the following example, learners are much more likely to comprehend complex concepts and retain their newfound understanding for a longer period of time.

Click here to watch the video ->

4. The Redundancy Principle

While explaining graphics with audio can improve learning, using text in combination with audio that reads the text can actually hurt learning. Since the printed words and the animation both use up the visual component of our working memory (see below), this makes information processing all the more difficult, not to mention redundant.


Take, for example, the video below. If watched with subtitles that display what is simultaneously being narrated, the focus is taken away from the explanatory animations and placed on the captions, which obstructs the viewer’s learning process.

In general, it’s best to avoid simultaneous text and audio narration when teaching complex concepts using animations. If, however, graphics are not involved, research has shown that text in the form of written words combined with audio actually aids learning, as seen below in this video which explains the financial term “interest”:

5. The Coherence Principle

While it might be tempting to add all kinds of bells and whistles to your video content to make it more attractive to general audiences, the truth is that any material that is extraneous to the core lesson will only end up making it harder for the learner to process and store information.

Gimmicky elements such as over-the-top animation made more to impress than educate or distracting music might seduce the senses but they don’t make concepts easier to understand.

The reason is simple. Anything that leads the learner to recall irrelevant prior information distracts the learner from the lesson’s key points and makes it harder for him/her to organize the information that is being processed into a coherent mental model.

See, for example, how the video below resorts to all kinds of distracting elements, from cartoon animations and photographs to sound effects. In the end, however, these additional features don’t lead the learner to a better understanding of the subject matter–they simply distract.

This doesn’t mean, however, that learning has to be boring. To the contrary. If an interesting story or an eye-catching animation aid in the comprehension of the core material, then, by all means, use it!

Click here to watch the video ->

6. The Personalization Principle

Human beings are relational creatures, so when teaching is directed by an actual person rather than an inanimate object such as a computer, learning always stands to benefit.

For example, video instructors should speak in the first and second person and use conversational language to make themselves more personable. If learners are able to see an on-screen coach face to face, even better. Just like in offline settings, this allows learners to make a connection with the person, even if they’re on the other side of a screen.

In the following example, the instructor uses a relatable tone from the get-go, making the learner feel more like they’re having a conversation rather than listening to a lecture.

7. The Segmenting Principle

Another way to ease the learner’s cognitive load and, thereby, facilitate learning is to break a long and complex lesson into various smaller parts.

This allows learners to process information in bite-sized chunks and go back over concepts if needed or advance to the next section when ready.

This video course on making investment decisions, for example, covers one major concept in each video segment, which is an average of two to three minutes long.


8. The Pretraining Principle

As with in-person learning environments, online learning also requires an orientation session to explain key concepts before delving into the meat of the course material.

In this QuickBooks Pro 2015 video course, for example, the instructor first familiarizes learners with the accounting software’s interface before going into the basics of managing a business’s finances.

These are just a handful of some of the basic principles you can start implementing in the creation of your financial video courses.
If you have any questions about the process behind creating and selling your own financial video courses, just drop us a line in the comments section below.

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