What is the Optimal Video Length for Online Course Content?

Video length is essential in online courses because it can affect student engagement and retention. There are several reasons for this, so when you think about your course design and start to map out how you will achieve your learning objectives for each lesson, keep in mind these points. We will discuss the ideal length for the video later.

  • Attention span: The average attention span of online learners is relatively short, so it's important to keep videos short and to the point. Videos that are too long can cause students to become distracted and lose interest. We are so used to short pieces of media presented in social media apps that we have almost been trained to accept only short pieces of input. Keep this in mind. Today's students, your students, are used mainly to bite-size inputs.
  • Retention: Research has shown that shorter videos are more effective for retaining information. When videos are too long, students may forget important information by the end of the video.
  • Accessibility: Some students may have limited internet access or slow internet speeds, making it challenging to watch long videos. Keeping videos short can help ensure that all students can access and view the content.
  • User experience: A good user experience is essential in online courses. Students are more likely to become frustrated and disengaged if they have to sit through a long, boring video. Keeping videos short and engaging can help maintain student engagement and satisfaction.
  • Time management: Students are often busy and have limited time to dedicate to their online courses. Keeping videos short and focused can help students manage their time more effectively and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the content they need to cover.


What Research Says About the Ideal Length for Videos for Online Learning

Several studies have been conducted on the ideal length for videos in online learning, and the results have been mixed. Here are a few of the key findings:

  1. Attention span: A study by the University of California, Irvine found that the average attention span of online learners is 20 minutes. This suggests that videos should be kept short to maintain student engagement.

  2. Retention: Research conducted by the University of Wollongong found that shorter videos (3-7 minutes) are more effective for retaining information than longer videos.

  3. Engagement: A study by Kaltura found that videos that were 2-5 minutes long were more likely to be viewed in their entirety compared to longer videos.

  4. User experience: A study by the University of California, San Francisco, found that videos that were well-structured and visually appealing were more likely to be viewed in their entirety, regardless of length. Read this post on the student learning experience.

The ideal video length for online lessons can vary depending on the subject matter and the course's learning goals. However, some general guidelines for video length include the following:

  • Short, bite-sized videos: Short videos of 2-5 minutes can be compelling for quick, focused lessons on specific topics. This allows students to quickly review essential information and move on to the next topic.
  • Medium-length videos: For more complex or in-depth lessons, 10-15 minutes can be more effective. This allows for more detailed explanations and examples.
  • Longer videos: For more comprehensive lessons that cover multiple topics or concepts, 20-30 minute videos can be beneficial. This allows for more in-depth coverage of the material and can help students to understand better and retain the information.

It's important to note that the video length itself is not the most critical factor, but how well the video is structured, whether the video provides all the information needed for the students, and if the video keeps students engaged and motivated to continue learning.

It's also good to consider including interactive elements and quizzes within the video to keep students engaged, to provide an opportunity for students to check their understanding and to give students a chance to review their progress and performance.

The research suggests that shorter videos are more effective for retaining information and maintaining student engagement. However, it's essential to consider the subject matter and the target audience when determining the ideal video length for online learning. Videos between 3-7 minutes are recommended, but this may vary depending on the specific circumstances.

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