How long should an online lesson be, and what should it look like?

I guess this is a similar question “how long is a piece of string?” There are many variables which you have to consider. Such elements include:-

The learner’s needs and anything specific to their education and development

The flexibility and time the learner has

The content of the course and if it needs to be broken down (complexity)

How the learner will access the course / their access to the internet and devices

I know this will not sound helpful, but there is no right or wrong answer. What I can tell you, is that those long sessions delivered in a webinar format with keynote slides won’t always work. At Outcourse, we try to think about the flexibility of the learner first; for example, their working hours, family life on top of this and how they access the information.

When we look at qualification courses, we tend to break down each lesson per learning outcome, this is often displayed in a pre-recorded lesson ready to watch “on the go.”

Even with pre-recorded sessions, we film or make two versions, a shorter one, say 5 minutes with access to additional resources and a longer one, around 15 minutes. Alongside this, there is an audio-only version which is made in a podcast. While this can seem time-consuming to make, in the long run, this is going to provide an organisation with excellent value for money.

If the session is presenter focused – try and include animations and words which come up on the screen; however, be careful as too much can create a cognitive overload.

Also, keep it simple, nothing too flashy, no huge transitions as this can all be a bit too much. Colours are important too. Check out dyslexia and autism guides to name a few.

The device is important, most people can watch on a smartphone, so when you make a more animation focused video or use words – don’t make them too small and test the content first. Also, be prepared that some learners have poor access to the internet and therefore, downloadable slides or a downloadable version of the video session (short-form version) should also be used.

While this has only just scratched the surface of what you need to consider, I hope it’s allowed you to think more creatively and understand some core concepts when making video lessons.