This is the question which gets asked in nearly every eLearning project we have done where video content has been produced. There is no perfect answer to this question but the following 4 factors can help determine the optimal length of a learning video for a particular project.
I. The topic to be covered in the video
Some topics can be explained easily within a few minutes of video. Others can take a long time to explain. Let’s see some examples.
In a project for a large sports retailer, we build an animated video to explain the necessity to align two of their major brands as part of a new go-to-market strategy. We were able to get all the key communication points across in just 1 minute of animation. That’s it! Just 1 minute. (See Case Study)
Similarly, in a Health & Safety eLearning project for a manufacturing company we had to explain the dangers of using an electric drill without the proper safety precautions taken in advance. We simply re-enacted the dangerous situation and within 30 seconds with a voice over had an eLearning video which got the key pedagogical points across. (See Case Study)
So a video can be as short as a minute or even less if the topic allows it.
At the other end of the spectrum, you can have videos which last as long as 30 minutes. Here are two examples.
In a project for the passenger train company of Luxembourg (CFL) we had to simulate the overheating of the brakes of a train and then explain the legal procedure the train driver needs to follow after the incident has occurred. (See Case Study). Well, this legal procedure takes 20 minutes! So what can you do other than capture the entire procedure on film and show it as it is supposed to happen. So needlessly to say this eLearning video was longer than 20 minutes.
In another project for a very large global manufacturer of medical devices, we created an eLearning video capturing the optimal sales conversation between a sales rep and a doctor. Such a meeting normally lasts 30 minutes and the dialogues are very important for the training. So we filmed every dialogue and the eLearning video lasted 30 minutes. There was no way around it.
II. Budget available
More often than not, the budget available for a project dictates the length of the eLearning Video. I have talked before about the Typical costs for making Animations and the Typical Costs for making Films. The costs for making animations are fairly linear. An extra minute of animation will cost the same as the previous minute and so for small budgets animated video work can work best because upfront costs are low. On the other hand, filming requires a lot of planning and is more complicated and has the greatest risk of unplanned scope expansion. So filming should be done when there is adequate budget and when it is the best form of media to cover the learning topic in question.
III. Time available to produce the video
The longer the video the more time it takes to make it. This is logical. However, it is important to note that the relationship between the length of a video and the time needed to make it isn’t always linear.
This is especially true with Films. Filming requires enormous planning and so until the first minute of the video can be filmed a lot of time is spent with no real output in terms of media created. However, once filming starts the video content gets rapidly produced.
On the other hand, animation video requires less time for preparation but each new minute of the animation can take just as much time as the previous minute.
And so it is important to see how long it would take to build a certain video and let that be a factor in determining its ultimate length.
See Related Post: How long does it take to make an eLearning video?
IV. The Learner’s capacity to absorb the learning content in the video
Perhaps the most important factor in determining the length of a learning video is the ability of the learner to absorb the learning material. In a world of instant gratification, modern learners do not have a very large attention span.
When we build our videos we know that we have no more than a few seconds to grab the learner’s attention and no more than a few minutes to get our messages across.
Consequently we advise our clients to keep eLearning videos to less than 5 minutes.
If a video really needs to be more than 5 minutes then care should be taken to keep it interesting throughout or even better to try and break it up into several shorter videos so that each video in the series stays under 5 minutes.