Transformative Learning

First Person Video and Learning

Icon squareby Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Video tutorials have become an increasingly popular way to effectively learn new tasks.  In a recent study on Google customer trends, 7-10 of all YouTube viewers use the platform to seek help with everything from work, studies, or hobbies (O’Neil-Hart, 2017

However, when demonstrating certain tasks, the perspective of the video can have an impact on how well a person learns a new task.  In a 2017, Fiorella, Van Gog, Hoogerheide and Mayer found that first-person videos have a positive effect on viewers ability to model, complete, and remember modeling the assembly of a circuit board compared to presenting videos in the third-person.

While first-person video may not be a conventional teaching approach for all topics, Fiorella et al., suggest that it may be a better way to help viewers create a more “accurate mental representation” of the “internal representation of observed spatial relations and actions.”  As a result, they discovered students who watched the first-person demonstrations were generally “more accurate, faster, and made fewer errors on an assembly task.” (Fiorella et al., 2017, p. 10).

While third-person demonstrations can be a valuable (and easy) approach to instructional videos, their study illustrates the importance of considering cognitive load when designing video-based media.   Cognitive load is the internal process of receiving, recalling, and transferring visuomotor information from working memory to long-term memory (Mayer & Moreno, 2003).  Unlike third person videos that include additional visual information, a first-person video can help viewers translate observed actions into their own perspective.

The researchers from this study suggest the creation of a “perspective principle” where first-person design becomes a preferred method of video creation for assembly type tasks.  If you are exploring incorporating video into your teaching, consider the best perspective to support your learning outcomes.  If you would like to explore how the perspective of instructional videos can support your learning outcomes, please consider meeting someone from the Reinert Center for a teaching consultation.



Fiorella, L., van Gog, T., Hoogerheide, V., & Mayer, R. E. (2017). It’s all a matter of perspective: Viewing first-person video modeling examples promotes learning of an assembly task. Journal of Educational Psychology109(5), 653.

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational psychologist38(1), 43-52.

O’Neil-Hart, C. (2017). Self-directed learning from YouTube – Think with Google. Retrieved 17 April 2018, from