The number of lessons you choose to include in your online course mostly depends on the learning objectives you promise to deliver. Most short courses comprise of a couple of 5-minute videos while longer ones have 20 to 50 videos which are each around 5 to 20 minutes long.
When deciding the length of an online course, you have to make sure it’s not too short or too long. If it’s short, people might not consider it to be worth their time. And if it’s too long, they could get bored and drop out halfway through.
Here, we’ll go through some actionable tips to help you find the right length for your online course. Along the way, we’ll also give you suggestions about how you can make your online course engaging for your students.
How Long Should Your First Online Course Be?
The first thing you need to do is define the purpose of your online course. Your goal is to meet the learning objectives that your course promises to deliver and will be an important factor in deciding the ideal length of that course.
So, if the purpose of your course is to generate leads for your business, a few videos around 5 minutes long might suffice. On the flip side, if you’re looking to offer a $200 course, it has to be longer and will require considerably more effort on your part.
While the price of a course doesn’t dictate its length, it plays a key role in deciding how long it should be. That said, the learning objectives you promise should be the main focus of your online course.
If the length of your course is too short, people might think that it doesn’t contain enough information and isn’t worth their money or time investment. And if it’s too long, they may lose interest in your course material and find it difficult to finish it.
Here are some examples:
- An introductory course showing people how to manage their finances: 8 lessons (1 hour, 5 mins)
- An extensive training course that teaches people how to make motion graphics: 45 lessons (6 hours, 30 minutes)
The aim of the above examples is to reinforce the point we made earlier: your learning objectives will decide how long the length of your course should be.
How Long Should Each Lesson in Your Course Be?
You probably already know that people are able to retain information better when it is broken down into small, bite-sized chunks with breaks in between. The same goes for memory recall. For instance, if you break down a string of numbers into chunks like 345 564 654, it will be easier to retain and recall than if you try to memorize a long string like 345564654.
If you’re creating a long, in-depth course, you can make it easy to digest by breaking it down into different chapters, parts, or modules. Each chapter might be made up of 3 to 10 individual lessons which will contain related information or guide the student to a more advanced topic. A good practice is to keep the lessons of each chapter short.
This delivers a better learning experience to your students not to mention creating content in small portions will be much easier for you. Plus, if you have to ever make a correction in a course video or update it, it would be much simpler to modify a 5-minute video as compared to a 30-minute one.
Pro tip: If you think that a lesson is longer than you want it to be, you can simply split it into two individual lessons and arrange the video content so that the topic transitions smoothly from one video to the next.
3 Student Engagement Factors to Keep in Mind
A great way to keep your students engaged with your course content is by spacing out the learning journey. This will also improve the student’s learning experience and make it easier for them to retain the information.
The traditional approach is to introduce the fundamentals of your course in the start and, from there, take your students step-by-step towards the outcome. This way, they won’t get overwhelmed by too many concepts early on in the course.
The structure of your online course is an important factor in the learning experience and will help you in the content creation process. To get started, you need to give your audience an overview of your course with specific guidelines. For example, you might ask them to complete one chapter of the course every three days or require them to complete assessments before moving on to the next chapter.
Some course building platforms – like LifterLMS – offer content-dripping features that allow you to restrict the access of your students to specific sections (or lessons) of a course until they complete a pre-requisite section (or lesson). Another way this works is by scheduling the release of content so that only one chapter unlocks on a given day to prevent students from skipping ahead.
Additionally, a great way to improve student engagement is by including activities between lectures. For instance, once students complete a lesson of your course composed of 5 minutes of video content, they’ll be prompted to pause and fill out a worksheet before they can continue with the rest of the lesson.
Good Course Structure Matters
If a student is really interested in the subject, they’ll stay engaged regardless of the length of the course and be more likely to get better results. So, even if you create lengthy sections in your course about cooking basics, your students might engage with the course content more than if you were to create a long course about, say, quantum mechanics.
Put simply, you need to remember to make your course material relevant, to the point, and easy-to-digest.
Another way to increase student interest in your course is to make the learning process interactive and fun. Enabling your students to practically use the learned information allows them to see the benefits of it.
You can ask them to take short breaks during each lesson and reflect on some questions, come up with creative answers, and jot them down. This way, they’ll feel comfortable about their learning journey and stay involved throughout the process.
You can include quizzes, short Q&A breaks, surveys, polls, worksheets, and other similar kinds of interactive tools.
The video quality of your courses also plays an important role in delivering a high-quality learning experience. A 360p course video simply can’t compare with a 1080p HD video. Similarly, you should use the best possible audio equipment with noise-canceling features to record your video content. Finally, always try to use engaging, high-quality visuals to create your presentations and organize various elements in a way that delivers a smooth learning experience.
Keeping Students Engaged
Let’s look at some useful tips that’ll help you keep your students engaged in the learning process:
- Communicate with students. You can make your online course engaging by using different communication channels. For instance, community forums and course emails allow you to facilitate discussions between other students and with you (the course instructor). Instant messaging, chat rooms, embedded video and audio, and broadcast text messages are also useful tools to communicate with your audience. Explanatory video screencasting is also a great way to deliver effective tutorials and instructional guides.
- Share additional resources. You can provide students with downloadable guides, relevant reading material, and lesson resources. This allows them to take control of their learning process and motivates them to develop an interest in the subject.
- Gamify your course. Implementing gaming elements in your online courses is an effective way to create a start-to-finish, ‘mission-focused’ learning experience. You can reward students with badges after they complete course milestones. This will also help them keep track of their progress throughout.
- Provide useful feedback. You can increase the effectiveness of your online course by giving students access to timely feedback and allowing them to track their performance and progress. This includes quickly responding to discussion posts and email queries to keep them updated about the upcoming assignments or lessons. Grading their assessments on time also allows them to identify their weak points and the areas which need improvement. Brief but constructive feedback will help your students make the necessary adjustments they need to improve their performance.
- Regularly measure success. Quizzes and assessments can help you measure the learning progress of your students. This also shows you that your students are following through with your lessons and taking the information in.
Factors like the course topic, learning objectives, and video length determine how many lessons you should include in your first online course.
Properly structuring your course content (from fundamentals to advanced concepts) and breaking up longer lessons into smaller, more digestible ones will help you deliver a better online learning experience. To take things to the next level, you can use a learning management system – like LifterLMS – to drip-feed content to students, create assignments and quizzes, and easily track student progress.
Which learning management system do you use for your online courses? We’d love to hear from you so let us know by commenting below.