It’s a reality of instructional design: when it comes to video, learners have a short attention span.
How long should an instructional video be?
Depending on the study you read (and the context of your video), the “ideal video length” is anywhere between 30 seconds and 6 minutes–a huge range. We advocate that our clients adjust the length of their videos to suit the needs of their audience and content.
Even with these quick takes, research shows that learners rarely stick around until the end of the clip.
Keeping videos short means that we designers have small windows of opportunity to draw the learner in, convey important information, and set up the next task. Below are 5 ways you can seize that moment and make your instructional videos matter—no matter the length.
Tips for short instructional videos:
1. Make instructional videos easily accessible.
Might sound obvious, but if learners have a hard time opening your video, they’re unlikely to watch it! Make sure to compress your files to a commonly available bandwidth. Also close caption your videos whenever possible. This makes them accessible to learners who can’t see the visual components, and if your video is public, it helps optimize your work for Google search results.
2. Frame instructional videos as “mission critical.”
Is the video a “how-to” that the learner will follow with application? Make sure learners know the video contains information vital to the next lesson. Does the video provide context for self-reflection? The prompt for that reflection should refer back to the information in the video.
Let your audience know why the video is mission critical! Making the parts of a course inter-dependent is solid pedagogy, but sometimes learners need more obvious connections. Use the video introduction, instructions, or title to convey that the learner’s time is well spent preparing for what comes next.
3. Make the beginning of instructional videos pop.
Since research shows that learners rarely finish instructional videos, front-loading content is a must. But nothing will make the learner close a video quicker than an overloaded, context-empty, fast-talking opening!
Instead, grab your learners in the opening seconds with a hint at what’s to come in the video. This lets them know what they should stick around for, and serves the dual purpose of offering a brief overview.
4. Break up longer instructional videos into bite-sized pieces.
Would you be excited to sit down to a 53-minute instructional video? Nope, me either.
But sometimes complex content requires longer videos. Consider breaking up those longer clips into easily digestible pieces. You’ll be doing yourself a favor, since smaller videos are easier to make and easier to move around in a course. You’ll also be doing your learners a favor, because they won’t have to schedule a large chunk of time to tackle a load of content. As a bonus, you’ll be riding the wave of the recent micro-learning trend!
5. Consider learner logistics.
Will the learner be watching the video just-in-time and on the job? Make sure the video is brief, thoughtfully tagged, and specific enough to answer the question that led them there in the first place. Do learners need to take notes in order to complete the task following the video? Make that clear up front, so the learners don’t have to re-watch. In other words, put yourself in the shoes of the learner: how can your set-up choices make the video most useful to the learner?
If you’d like to know more about how we can help you incorporate instructional video in your online course or training modules, contact us.
Also consider checking out these great resources:
- Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement(argues that optimal length is 6 minutes)
- The Ideal Length for Instructional Screencast Videos (argues that optimal length is between 90 seconds and 4 minutes)
- 10 Tips to Effectively Use Videos in eLearning
- Instructor-Made Video as a Learning Scaffolding Tool (Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
- 7 Killer Tips for Effective Video in eLearning