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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Video Length in Online Courses: What the Research Says

Image Courtesy of Panopto

Lecture capture is popular. Very popular. It provides a number of affordances for faculty, such as capturing important content for students who miss class due to illnesses or athletics events. Almost every overhauled learning space at ESU now includes a camera and microphone. Many faculty now utilize lecture capture to record their courses - particularly courses where there is significant didactic content. 

While this is extremely useful for replaying a class that the student may have missed or where the content was difficult to understand, these recordings are not especially effective as a surrogate in an online course. Across the country, faculty use their class recordings as a replacement for their traditional lecture in the online environment. But are they effective? Research suggests otherwise....at least not in the hour-long+ format. While uploading a facsimile of a class lecture may seem advantageous to the time-strapped professor, there are suggestions noted further below in this blog that may make marathon videos more effective.

A large scale study conducted by MIT of over 6.9 million video sessions recorded for MOOCs found that the optimal video length should be under 6 minutes. Shorter videos were found to be much more engaging. Videos longer than 6 minutes were found to result in significant viewer attrition.

A similar study conducted at the University of Wisconsin found that while students believed video to be very important to their learning, most preferred videos under 15 minutes in length. In addition, students leveraged captioning - even though none of the students in the study suffered from a hearing impairment.

Dr. Philip Guo from the University of Rochester analyzed several math and science courses delivered through the EdX platform and found that video engagement peaked at 6-minutes, and dropped off rather precipitously as the video length increased.

Consider this: Ad Age found that advertisers lose 33% of their video audience within 30 seconds; 45% within 1 minute; and 60% within 2 minutes. Attention spans are short...and getting shorter.

When it comes to video provided on social media, the results are even more startling. The following list illustrates the 'ideal' video length on each of the respective platforms:
  • Twitter: ~45 seconds
  • Facebook: ~60 seconds
  • YouTube: ~2 minutes
So, do you still think those hour long lectures are engaging? Research suggests they are not.

  • Invest in pre-production that will allow chunking of the content into shorter segments. Add these video chunks to the respective learning modules.
    However, if the presentation is designed as a continuous presentation - such as a TED video - leave it as is. Note, however, that every TED presentation - no matter the presenter - is under 18 minutes. TED refers to this as the "18 minute rule".
  • Videos that intersperse the faculty with slides or whiteboard is more effective than a 'talking head'.
  • "Khan-style" videos with writing are more engaging than static PowerPoint slides. If interested in this, we encourage exploring a WACOM tablet with a writing stylus.
  • A faster speaking style is more engaging than a slower lecture with long pauses. Remember, too, that if your audience is not mic'd, their questions turn into uncomfortable, long, vacuous pauses with nothing being shared.
  • Informal recording venues are more effective than formal venues.
  • Many students replay video back at 2x or even 3x the normal playback speed. Be sure your product supports multi-speed replay. 

Berg, R. (2013) Leveraging Recorded Mini-Lectures to Increase Student Learning. Online Classroom

Burch, B. (nd). Video length in Online Courses. Quality Matters

Guo, P. (2013). Optimal video length for student engagement. blog.edx.org 


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