I have sat through many 50 minute lectures in my life. Notice how I wrote that sentence “sat through”… was I always engaged? Probably not. Is it realistic to be engaged for a full 50 minute block? Probably not. So how does one go about maximizing engagement in a distance course with video. Well, is the best strategy to record a 50 minute lecture video? Probably not.
First, let’s consider how people typically “consume” video online on a daily basis. Most of us watch trailers for new movies, we watch our favourite sitcom the day after the live broadcast, we watch funny videos that we see posted on Facebook, we watch sports highlights from last night’s hockey game, we watch music videos, we watch news segments that include interviews, we watch Ted Talks, we watch some movies on Netflix, we watch some commercials (mainly because we are forced to!), we watch a how-to video on YouTube, we watch a funny segment from a late night talk show comedy, etc. If you assembled all this video consumption together to try to describe the average length of the videos that we watch online, then I think you would agree that the length of the average video that most of us watch online is short. The nice people at One Productions have built this infographic that illustrates this point. Short is the average. So we are most accustomed to short videos when we are consuming videos online.
Second, let’s consider video in education. Learning a concept is a much different business than watching a talking dog video or being Rick Rolled. So what would the ideal video length be for the educational context? Philip Guo at the University of Rochester has shared his recent findings regarding a preliminary analysis of videos used in edX math and science courses. His take home message is that “the average engagement time of any video maxes out at 6 minutes, regardless of its length.” Also, his findings showed that the longer the video, the less engagement students had with it, on average. So if you want to create instructional videos for learning then don’t go much more than 6-7 minutes, if possible. Consider adopting the strategy of breaking your long videos into short segments and you’ll likely be doing the students a service.
What do you think about Philip Guo’s findings? Will it change how you create instructional video for your course?