How Long Should Your Course Videos Be?

Video courses are hot right?

Except when all the videos in your course are 30 mins (or longer) of someone talking non-stop, or worse: narrating a 400 slide PowerPoint. *gasp!*

This is when your learners tune out, walk off or distract themselves with a Twitter/Instagram/Facebook death spiral.

It’s not your fault, it’s just that the Internet has ruined our brains and we have the attention span of a gnat. So if we all agree that everyone dies slowly while watching a 30 minute lesson presentation, why do we keep making 30 minute lesson presentations?

Because it’s easier. (I know. It hurts, but it’s the cold, hard truth.) Making long videos is less work. It also happens to be hell for your learners/viewers.

Here’s How We Can Be Better

If you want to avoid loooongform video boredom and create videos that leave your learners pumped and craving more, you’ve got three options:

  1. Cut it

  2. Chunk it, or

  3. Spice it up

Cut It

This is the hardest one of the three, but also the best bet. Simply put: shorter videos keep learners more engaged. For optimal engagement, make your videos between 1 - 5 minutes long. That’s hard, right? But it’s true. Wistia published a great article on video length and engagement rates if you want proof. 

Image Credit: Wistia

Image Credit: Wistia

Tips for Cutting Your Videos

  • Focus on teachable moments. That’s what I call nuggets of learning in your videos. Instead of creating a video for an entire main topic, can you create a video for each of your sub-topics, making sure to teach a small step in each one?

  • Be concise. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a lesson and listened to someone ramble for 5 minutes while waiting to get to the what I needed to learn. Freestyling is cool…if you’re a rapper. No? Then make a script. Keep that script to a 1 - 1.5 pages. That will help you trim the fat and make shorter videos. Tip: Your presentation slides are not your script.

Chunk It

Let’s say you've done all you can and can only cut your video to 10 minutes, what do you do? You need to chunk the content.

Chunking makes content easier to scan and digest. It’s usually a concept applied to written content, but there are ways to chunk video too.

Tips for Chunking Your Videos

  • Add chapter markers. If you’ve outlined your content and you have a script, it should be easy to see where the main topics divide into sub-topics. From there you can record your video and add chapter markers at the start of each sub-topic. This will allow your learners to skip to the content they need to access or that's most relevant.

  • Set up resumable videos. Another fuzzy method of chunking is to set up your video so your learners can resume where they left off. This lets them come back and digest the rest of the content when they’re ready. It’s like saving the second half of a sandwich for later.

Have no idea how to do either of these? Lucky for you, I scrubbed the Internet for resources: 

Spice It Up

This last one is something that everyone should do regardless of their video length: be interesting. If you’re not excited about what you’re talking about, how will anyone else be?

Tips for Spicing Up Your Videos

  • Boost your energy. Bringing a bit of passion to the screen goes a long way. Wherever your energy level is, try amping it up half a notch and you'll notice a big difference in your videos.

  • Callout important parts. Add text annotations for important quotes. This could be bullets or regular ‘ol text on the screen. This works whether especially well for breaking up talking head videos and screenshares.

  • Check in. If you use Windows, try a program called Camtasia to add interactive quizzes to your videos. This is helpful in informational videos where you need to make sure your learners grasp concepts before moving on.

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Back to you. What's been your experience with video? Do you have any tips for making videos more engaging?

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