At the STC Summit, I attended a wonderful presentation by Matthew Pierce of TechSmith describing “What Do Video Viewers Really Want?” His data came from over 1900 user-nominated videos that were considered “good”. The data showed that, while users preferred individual video clips to be 2-3 minutes long (such as a demo), the preferred length for an entire “informational” video (such as an eLearning module) is 10-15 minutes (1st choice) or 7-9 minutes (2nd choice).
In other words, online learners prefer to get a good “chunk” of content in an informational module, rather than clicking on a 2-minute clip and then another 2-minute clip, and so on. For my company’s eLearning deliverables, a module includes the intro, objectives, content slides, demos, knowledge check, and outro.
To get a module into the preferred 10-15 minute sweet spot, I fully script the module in advance. This allows me to be succinct when recording, and to avoid being redundant with the on-screen image. When writing the words, I’m always thinking of what graphics I’ll be showing on the screen. I don’t want to display the words themselves; I want to display graphics that illustrate the meaning. In effect, I’m creating a storyboard; a table that shows what graphic is displayed for what words.
My personal preference is that I never go longer than 15 seconds without changing the graphic in some way. It’s easy for distance learners to lose interest, so I keep imagining how to keep them engaged, either through graphics or user interactions. I strive to say just enough to provide context, while the graphics provide the detail. In practice, I time the animations so that I’m not displaying too many graphics; 5 seconds is the minimum time I display a graphic before either replacing it or building on it with the next piece of information. I don’t want to flood the user with information, just keep them engaged. I don’t want them to drift off to another window. Animation keeps them interested.