When creating an online course, size really does matter. Particularly when you get down to the nitty-gritty details of your course lessons.
Get fundamentals like lesson length wrong, and you could put your students off and watch your course fizzle.
Striking the right balance is vital: you need to deliver enough content in each lesson to help your students meet their learning objectives, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed or bored.
In today’s fast-paced, low-attention span world, bite-sized lessons are the way to go when creating an online course.
Let’s look at why shorter lessons work so well.
Modules And Lessons
When creating an online course, you’ll need to clarify the structure before you can get stuck into developing your content.
The most common format for an online course breaks content down into modules, which are further split up into lessons.
Think of each module as a chapter in a book. Usually, modules will cover content under a specific topic umbrella or group similar themes together.
Within each module, you’ll deliver content in various lessons. The number of lessons is less important than the length. You may choose to have one or two lessons in a less complex module and include ten in another.
Lessons can be delivered in different formats, such as written, audio clips, or videos.
How Long Should Your Lessons Be?
Regardless of the overall length of your course or the complexity of the content, your lessons should be short, snappy, and purpose-driven.
You want to help your students get to the solution (the learning objective) in the quickest, most direct way possible. While people learn at different rates, strive to make your lessons completable within 5-20 minutes.
Not everyone has spare hours every day to sit down and work through course content. Keeping it briefer makes it more likely that they can find time to tick off a lesson or two every day.
Research shows that people absorb and retain information more effectively when they’re given it in smaller chunks (this is literally called “chunking!”).
For example, if you’re trying to memorise a sequence of numbers, like a phone number, your brain tends to group them into chunks of 3-4 digits and remember them that way, rather than all in one go.
Why Bite-Sized Lessons Are Best
Breaking your lessons into bite-sized pieces also makes life easier for you as you’re creating an online course. It helps you stay on topic, ditch unnecessary info, and it’s far easier to create and edit a 5-minute video than a 30-minute one!
It can be tempting to stuff extra content in while creating your online course, but it’s imperative to stay on topic and only give your students the information they need to reach their objectives.
Aim to create lessons that can be consumed in just one sitting, without taking up a lot of time.
Bite-sized, easy to digest lessons mean students are more likely to complete your course, giving them the experience they were after, and making your course far more successful.
Video Length Tips for Creating An Online Course
Video may be more engaging than text for many learners, but even the slickest videos have limits. According to research by SumoMe, shorter videos are much more effective at keeping students engaged.
They found that viewer engagement drops sharply after about two minutes of watch time. Between three and six minutes, engagement continues to plummet. After six minutes, attention levels tend to plateau before dropping again after around 12 minutes.
Researchers from MIT also conducted a study about student engagement when viewing videos. They took data from 6.9 million video watching sessions and found that educational videos should be no longer than six minutes in length.
Bonus tip: they also discovered that informal, talking-head videos are more engaging than videos featuring slides alone – and that videos with a more personal feel were more engaging than professionally filmed, high-studio recordings, so don’t be afraid to put your face – and your personality - in front of your students!
Shorter Is Sweeter
When it comes to creating your online course, shorter really is sweeter. But that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the quality or depth of your content in favour of brevity.
If you need to present vital information, feel free to include it in your lessons. But, try to break it up so that each lesson focuses on one core message or task.
By presenting your course content in this way, you‘ll help your students remember more and provide the value that they’re looking for.
Need some help planning and pulling your course together? Then, contact me at Task Diva for a free 20-minute call to find out more.. I specialise in helping you to create engaging course content that delivers immense value to your students.
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Debbie Mills Robertson
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