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Microlearning Videos: 2 Core Types

I built a new home last year. I learned two things through the home-building process. First, it will test any relationship, and second, construction occurs in phases similar to the way microlearning happens. It takes time, energy and work to become proficient at anything worthwhile. Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs) videos are structured in the same way.

There are two core types of microlearning videos that my SHOTs team produces – demonstrations and presentations. I’d like to provide an explanation of both and when to create them.

Demonstration videos (how-to)

A few years back, our IT department reached out and asked if I’d be willing to create a series of SHOTs videos. They had heard of the SHOTs videos and felt that all employees would benefit from having them as references for the new software. The videos would be for a new internal communication software soon rolling out to all 80,000+ employees called Skype for Business.

I first had to identify what videos would be the most beneficial to all employees and ended up creating 25 individual SHOTs videos on using Skype for Business.

Now, I can hear you asking, “Why not use existing demonstration videos on Skype for Business?” That’s a great question! The answer is that most videos are not short or specific enough for our SHOTs format. Typically, our demonstration-based videos are three-minutes or less.

Also, some program features are not available due to security or other concerns. If we sent employees to view videos showing all available features, they may become frustrated after realizing not everything is available to them.

Instead, I break down each topic into a single specific action or process per video. In fact, one Skype for Business video is only 50 seconds long and demonstrates Uploading a PowerPoint. I then made a slightly longer video on Sharing a PowerPoint in Skype for Business.

These are two separate videos because the person uploading a PowerPoint may not be the same person who will be presenting it. Thus, those who need to know or learn a specific step can watch the video and do the action in a short amount of time. Everyone has three minutes to watch a SHOT video and quickly learn something new or be refreshed on a certain action.

Some examples of demonstration-based SHOTs video topics that we’ve produced include:

  • Using Zoom for Government
  • Navigating our Virtual Library (part of our knowledge management & transfer site)
  • Inputting Timesheets
  • Requesting Retirement Estimates
  • Adding Accounting Codes in ConcurGov (for travel)
  • Using our Learning Management System (LMS)
  • plus, many more!

Presentation videos (informational)

Another internal customer from our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Department (EDI) reached out asking for a different kind of video. They had topics that they wanted a quick SHOT video on to help all employees have a better understanding of their office’s purpose and the services they provided. However, these videos didn’t demonstrate anything. Instead, they were simply informational in nature, providing overviews and core information. These videos are typically four minutes or less, with links to additional resources or information provided at the end of the videos.

I worked with EDI to create a different type of storyboard based in PowerPoint. These presentations are also narrated and still considered videos. My Instructional Design certification (ATD) and years of elearning expertise helped me to create graphically interesting SHOTs videos. As I’ve found, employees don’t want to read a lot of text when viewing a video. Employees also don’t like slides that “stick” or are displayed too long.

Some examples of informational-based SHOTs video topics we’ve produced include:

  • Interacting with ASL Interpreters
  • Creating a More Inclusive Workplace
  • Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
  • What is Change
  • Alternative Work Schedule (AWS) Overview
  • Mentoring Overview
  • Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Overview
  • plus, many more!


Our SHOTs videos are made by employees, for employees. Employees know the terminology, best practices and available features. There’s no need to hire a third-party company to create videos when your own employees can be trained how to create them internally as I am doing at the IRS. This not only saves time but money as well.

I often provide virtual trainings on how to create microlearning videos including best practices, how to record, edit, annotate, close caption (508 compliance) and publish. If you’d like to learn more about our SHOTs program, please contact me.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected]. And to read more from our Winter 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.

Kelly Barrett has worked for the IRS for over 22 years, starting as a Data Entry Transcriber and working his way up to a Human Resources Education and Knowledge Management Specialist. Kelly has over 12 years of training project management experience with expertise in elearning course development and is a certified Instructional Designer (ISD) and Online Training Professional (COTP).

Seven years ago, Kelly began researching microlearning videos and how they can increase retention of training, and, using his Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting, he started a program called Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs). He has since grown the program to an enterprisewide initiative with over 500 SHOTs videos for all 80,000+ IRS employees to view, anytime they need to.

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