A common question I get from clients interested in creating online course videos is, “How long should each video be?”

This is a question with various answers depending on the research you follow:

edX once looked at the engagement statistics of over 5 million video sessions on the edX platform over a number of courses, and found the ideal length is 6 minutes per video if you want students to stay and watch everything.

Another source, Udemy, has a huge load of data guiding their advice to make videos around 5 minutes, and going up to 10 minutes per video.

You might have seen other data around suggesting videos as short as 1 minute, but those often tend to look at wider forms of online video content on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, advertising, cat videos and news recaps. If you were to check out the TED site then you could be led to believe that the best length of a video is around 18 minutes.

It’s easy to latch onto quoted numbers and forget the specific aim of our question, which is looking at education, lessons, online learning… which is (hopefully) a whole different genre to cat videos on YouTube. Justin Reich makes a similar point in his article where people seem more likely to latch onto numbers of video minutes and engagement rates, with these numbers overtaking the core question of how long should a video be if you want students to learn well from it.

If the numbers game seems confusing and conflicting to you, then here’s a basic rule that you can stick to with confidence:

For online courses with video lessons, try stick to one main idea per video.

If it helps, think of it like chapters in a book, or a scene in a movie, or even an article like this in a blog: one main idea.

It keeps things together in neat little bundles (or “chunks” as we call them sometimes), it makes it easy to update later if things change, and most importantly it’s a conscious design decision by you, of which you need to ask yourself, “How much do I want to cram into my student’s head before I let them relax for a second to let it all sink in and ponder on or question before continuing to the next bit?”
-That- is the ideal length of your video for that lesson.

If you’d like a hand making videos for online courses, then contact Ricky

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