This generation of new students has a knack for learning on the internet. While apps like TikTok and YouTube are focused on entertainment, there is a community of educators that has teaching complex subjects in under a minute down to a science. With Virtual Orientation here to stay, let’s take a look at what Higher Ed can learn from Short Form videos.

What are “Short Form Videos”? Most argue that a short form video is 10-60 seconds in length. This style originally became popular on Instagram and TikTok, with some longer style videos around 2 minutes being popular on YouTube.

Boclips, a provider of educational videos, states:

“Shorter videos tend to be more engaging. Many of us are time-poor with numerous competing demands on our attention. Learners want to get to the meat of a lesson as quickly as possible, and lean, well-edited videos allow them to do this best.”

This seems to be the predominant trend for learning through videos since a pedagogical study found that students are more likely to engage with videos under 6 minutes. With this in mind, we get a clearer picture of how to create an orientation program and how to adjust content to improve engagement and student retention.

What can Higher Ed learn?

There are 3 main lessons Higher Education can learn from Short Form Videos.

Video Structure

While the TikTok style of video is not well suited to Orientation, we can learn a lot about the concise way creators structure information.

Here is how most educators on these apps structure their bite-sized videos:

1) Provide a quick context- Start with a question to orient the viewer and grab their interest. These contain more helpful information than a simple title, giving a sense of action and direction.

Example: “Thinking about living on campus next year?”.

2) Provide the core information towards the start of the video- This is what the rest of the information will be built on. It preps the viewer for the information to come and is most likely the piece of information they’ll walk away with.

Example: “University Housing is here to help.”

3) Build on the core info- This is the bulk of the information.

Example: “University Housing will let you know what options are available, costs, and where to look for financial aid.”

4) End with a hook or sign off –This can be used to reinforce the core message, making sure students know where to start looking for help.

Example: “If you need help with Housing, come visit us!”

These videos are lean, concise, and aren’t crammed with excess information. They are more of a jumping off point than a full exploration of a topic, with links for further reading in the description.

Social Aspect

The videos produced by a content creator are made by the same person, allowing the user to get to know their personality. Reacting in the comments develops a sense of community, often hosting running jokes and facilitating conversation. Most online orientations don’t have a comment section but building a sense of community has always been a main stay in the student onboarding process. Taking notes from social media, having more personality in videos, more students involved and interacting with campus, and bringing up campus culture will built connection. This is more than welcoming new students to college, it’s a about being a local guide. The development of a “We” is a key factor.

Voice and Tone

There is a very distinctive, almost democratic feeling to learning on these apps. Mrs. Sloan, an AP Biology teacher who started creating “micro lessons” on TikTok as a resource for her students, had this to say about the voice she developed for this form of media.

“I have always thought of myself as ‘the sage on the stage,’” said Sloan. “Now I need to guide my students, but I’m not the keeper of the information anymore. I’m coming alongside them and helping them to understand it better.”

Instead of the traditional power structure of educator and student, there is this feeling of working with the viewer and equipping them for their journey. This tone is cultivated by the “talking head” style of video and the excitement creators bring to the table. There is a feeling of curiosity and energy, which is fostered by the length of the clip.


Even though these mediums are different, there is a lot we can learn for short form videos. A succinct kinetic video will go a long way and help students retain the information you are giving them. Including students, showing users around campus, and bringing up campus history and culture will promote a more dynamic relationship and build that sense of community.