What do ‘drawing hand’ videos do?

An open question to anyone reading this: what do you think of ‘drawing hand’ videos. You know, the kind of thing made famous by the RSA series of illustrated lectures, where a cartoon being drawn is filmed in real time or simulated by tools like Videoscribe and EasySketch Pro?.

The first few I saw, I found fascinating. Then at the Big Bank one day I had to fend off a project manager who wanted to reroute an elearning project to a 45 minute (yes really!) drawing hand video, and had obtained a huge quote from an elearning company to do that. I knew intuitively that was a bad idea and it made me think about these videos.

I went and watched a few more and asked myself:

  • did I enjoy it? (yes, for a while)
  • what did I enjoy? (the skill of the cartoonist, trying to fathom out what something was before it was completed)
  • how much did I remember? (practically nothing)

I noticed two things in particular: firstly that ‘fascination’ was an appropriate term. I was almost hypnotised by the drawing as it was being revealed, and only registered the occasional word from the voiceover; and secondly my thoughts were preoccupied with the process – how is this done, how did they plan that huge drawing, where’s it going next? – at the expense of the topic.

From what we know of sensory channels it’s not surprising that my visual sense took priority over the auditory channel and I was only actually switching from  one to another.  And I also thought that someone who’s not coming from an elearning design position of ‘can I use this technique?’ might not be so distracted by the process.

I even got a licence for Videoscribe as I still liked the presentations, but that didn’t diminish my inability to get past the technique viewpoint when watching them, in fact it made it worse now that I knew what was involved.

So I wondered if there’s any research on this technique and its effectiveness? It’s certainly popular so it must engage a lot of audiences.  I’d imagine it’s a great way of getting attention in a course or presentation. So that probably means it has a limited duration (maybe a minute or two?) of maximum effectiveness. With each one I saw I knew that I’d seen a presentation on X or Y, and could recall maybe a single image from it, but definitely not detail.  Snazzy or not, it’s still a lecture, it’s the Exposition learning strategy in Clive Shepherd’s terminology. So if we wanted any retention we’d need to use cognitive techniques like repetition, chunking and signposting in addition to memorable images.  My hunch is that the effective ones do that.

But that’s just me surmising. Does anyone know of actual research?



2 thoughts on “What do ‘drawing hand’ videos do?”

  1. My initial reaction to the drawing hand videos is that they are very engaging, however, I hadn’t stopped to think if their messages stuck with me. I’d also be curious if anyone has done research on their efficacy. To what would you compare the drawing hand video? An interactive e-learning course? A static text document? A video of the presenter on a stage?

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