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How Long Should Videos Be?

I’ve been impressed by the timeliness of some of the blog posts from LearnDash, and this one by Laura Lynch certainly applies to video content VetMedAcademy tries to develop and highlight.

All of this gets to the attention span of the learner, and the image shown associated with this “Evidence-Based Learning” blog post was actually taken at the back of a vet school class (and I even think it was right after lunch!). Notice that the screens are not all showing the same thing!  

So, just as good practice is to focus on at least 1 major concept every 10 minutes of a face-to-face lecture, Laura Lynch refines that advice with “it depends.”  

LearnDash Blog Link: How Long Should Videos Be for E-Learning?

1. Capturing interest on social media. (1–3 minutes)

2. Training, trailers and recaps (2-5 minutes)

3. Guides, tutorials and overviews (6-10 minutes)

There is some research (Edx blog) that says that six minutes is the optimal length for a video.  Indeed, while we often miss the mark, this is a target we seek for videos on VetMedAcademy.

4. Deep content (up to 20 minutes)

This is similar to TED Talks where they have an 18 minute rule.

It [18 minutes] is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline. TED Curator, Chris Anderson

Videos of this length are ideal for more complex topics, that is, those that cannot be covered in only 6 minutes. So, most veterinary instructors would find themselves labelling their topic as "more complex."  But notice, we still aren't talking about the 45-50 minute video!  It isn't easy.   I recalled this dilemma myself trying to create a short video on the topic of endocrine regulation of calcium by parathyroid hormone, vitamin D and calcitonin.   There was no easy way to extract one from the I think I ended up with 23 minutes!  

I particularly like Laura Lynch's admonition, when it comes to re-creating content from a 45-60 minute lecture.

This sets a great pace for mobile content and micro learning. So, next time you’re tempted to film an entire lecture in one sitting, re-think your approach. A forty-five minute lecture broken into seven or eight videos will be more effective—and it makes for a perfect e-learning module.

As far as an example of this, please see how VetMedAcademy treated topics from 30-40 minute lectures on feline hyperthyroidism and pediatric pharmacology.  They are listed as YouTube playlists, but the instructor should seek to create some feedback for students to break up these topics into more "bite-sized" pieces.

Crazy Cats: Update on Feline Hyperthyroidism (5-part playlist) - Cynthia Ward, DVM, PhD, DACVIM

Pediatric Pharmacology (5-part playlist) - Melissa Clark DVM, PhD, DACVCP, DACVIM

So, even longer lectures have logical sections...and if you think about facilitating a student's review of a topic (like when they might have forgotten that 50 minute lecture), such as when they have a clinical case they're managing and are highly motivated to review (learn for the first time?) the topic again, keeping it brief makes it that much more searchable and palatable too.