Online Course Videos: 4 Critical Guidelines for Length and Engagement

One of the questions we receive often from online course creators is: “how long should my online course videos be?”

As an expert, it is tempting to pack your videos full of everything you know. After all, you want your customers to get tons of value from your course!

The truth is, the length of your online course videos can have a big impact on the results your students achieve. It can also massively impact completion rates for your program.

By following a few guidelines, you can set your students up to cross the “online course is complete” finish line easily, priming them for what’s next – a long-term relationship with you.

In this article, we’ll explore how to create online course videos that help your students achieve the result your course promises.

Guidelines for Online Course Video Length:

1. Try to keep each of your videos shorter than 10 minutes.

The average human attention span is 8.25 seconds. Attention spans can range from 2 seconds to over 20 minutes.

For your online course videos to be effective, each video in your program needs to be less than ten minutes long.

I can hear your brain processing from here… “How is that possible? I have so much to teach…”

Your course modules CAN have more than one video if needed. As you’re structuring your online course videos, think about natural stopping points for your students to “rest,” absorb the information you’re teaching them, and take small action steps towards the result. This ‘resting point’ is typically the perfect spot to end one video and move into a second.

2. Limit the number of videos to 3 videos per module.

While you can certainly add more than one video per module, we recommend three videos or fewer per module.

Again, we’re focusing on attention spans here. Imagine yourself as a student. You dive into the new program you purchased wholeheartedly, humming with excitement. You sign in and open module one to find there are 10 videos to start, with each one being ten minutes long… That’s an… intimidating way to kick off a learning experience. It can feel daunting.

Try to narrow it down to 3 online course videos max per module. If you have more than 3 videos per module, you are likely promising too big of a result to your students.

3. Keep the number of modules to a maximum of 8.

We see many experts stack on way too many modules in their programs because they think “more” teaching directly ties to more value, which leads to the ability to charge more for their program.

What they don’t consider is that “more” typically leads to more overwhelm. And overwhelmed students don’t finish programs. They usually ask for a refund instead.

The average completion rate for online programs massively decreases after the 8-module mark. This is the sweet spot to ensure you’re delivering a result for your students AND keeping them engaged along the way.

4. Visuals are your friend!

Slide decks don’t have to be the boring, text-ridden presentations (unfortunately, we’ve all sat through those in our careers). Slide decks can be your (and your student’s) friend!

When you’re creating your online course videos, think about opportunities to add in visuals for your students.

This can be anything from:

  • Full-width images
  • Icons
  • Charts and diagrams
  • Screenshots of tools or exercises you may want them to complete as part of the program

Ditch slides that are heavy in text (your students will thank you!). Studies have shown that presentations with images and graphics keep engagement longer.

How to Narrow When You Have TOO Much Online Course Video Content

So now that you know you need to create short online course videos that help your customers take action, you might be thinking, “Well that’s nice, but I have 43 videos in my outline and there’s no way I can make them all under 10 minutes each!”

When you find yourself in this conundrum of having too much content for your online course videos, there are two ways to think about trimming down: revisit your result and/or narrow your audience.

Revisit Your Result

When you’re deep in the course creation process, it’s easy to add more and more content. What started with a simple 5 module course can easily balloon into a 13 module program with a blurry result you’re hoping your students will achieve.

It’s crucial that you continually revisit the result you are looking to achieve in your course. When considering adding in content, ask yourself, “Is this directly supporting the result I want my people to have?”. If the answer is no, the content likely doesn’t need to be included in this course.

The good news is that you don’t need to ditch this content completely. Think of other ways you could pivot the extra content in your online course videos – include it in your program QA calls, bonus content you could post in your Facebook community, or even stash it for a future follow-up, next-level offer!

Narrow Your Audience

The next way to shorten your online course videos and reduce your course content is to narrow your audience.

Narrowing your audience allows you to get more specific about who you’re serving in the course. When we try to cast a wider net on who we want to reach, we can easily find ourselves trying to include WAY too much information in the course because we’re trying to meet every possible “audience” where they are.

For example, if you’re targeting business owners, that audience can be in different places of their journey – thinking of starting a business, the act of opening a business, managing a business, evolving and growing their business… The list goes on.

Instead of targeting ALL business owners, narrow down to one audience and one “starting point” in their journey. Then, the content within that course drastically narrows and changes, which makes your videos shorter, more concise, and much easier to consume for your customers.

In the table below, you can see an example of what happens when you drill down into a more specific group of people. A narrow audience means you can tailor your content to their exact questions and struggles, which ultimately helps them achieve the outcome they are looking for from your online course.

Before Narrowing Your Audience
Small Business Owners
After Narrowing Your Audience
Small brick and mortar clothing stores
Module 1: Finding Your Ideal ClientModule 1: Finding Your Ideal Shopper
Module 2: Creating Your Business PlanModule 2: Increasing Traffic With Social Media and Advertising
Module 3: MarketingModule 3: Pricing Strategies
Module 4: HiringModule 4: Hiring and Sales for Retail Associates
Module 5: FinancialsModule 5: Building Loyalty and Long-term Customer Relationships

Next Steps

If you’re just starting your course creation journey, the first step is to get clear on the result your course is helping your customers achieve. This is the most important piece of your online course, since every piece of content flows from that result.

If you’re deeper in the course development process and feeling stuck on where to narrow the content to ensure you’re hitting the mark, we can help!

Next-Level Course: Your Custom Private Review

Is your course perpetually “almost done”? Or are you afraid it isn’t good enough? Our team will review your course and set you up with a custom, step-by-step strategic game plan (including suggestions for your videos!) so you can finally launch your program into the world.

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