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What’s the Ideal Video Length for E Learning Videos?

At Beverly Boy Productions, we get this question all the time: “What’s the ideal video length for E Learning?” And of course it makes sense that clients would ask, because they hear so many things about how if a video is too long your audience will lose interest or if it’s too short you’ll lose out on opportunity to connect with the client. As if grabbing the attention of the audience and keeping them engaged isn’t enough work, now we have to worry about exactly how long a video should be!

What makes this so difficult to answer is the fact that every audience is different. Certainly an audience of healthcare professionals will stick around longer than an audience of kindergarteners! So what’s the ideal video length for E-learning, exactly? The truth is, there is no single ideal video length!

But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some input!  

What Viewers Think is the Ideal Video Length for E Learning  Videos

Let’s talk about what most audience’s think, first. The majority of audiences believe that instructional video content should be under 20 minutes. Now, this doesn’t mean that viewers actually want video content to be that long, it just means that they know for sure they don’t want it to be any longer! 

While viewers do admit that they want e learning videos to be under twenty minutes, the majority of viewers actually prefer videos to be under 6 minutes! Certainly, viewers didn’t admit this when asked, but in a study by MIT that analyzed 6.9M videos, students found the videos that were 6 minutes or less to be more engaging than those that were longer. 

Videos Over 15 Minutes Lose Student Interest

You might be wondering, what if I can’t manage to get all of the important data across to my students in 6 minutes or less? What’s the ideal video length for e learning in the event that 6 minutes simply isn’t enough? A study by the University of Wisconsin found that students can maintain their focus for more than 6 minutes, but if you really want your audience to remain interested in what you have to teach, it needs to happen in 15 minutes or less!

Students lose interest in video content after 15 minutes. In fact, when a video surpasses the 15 minute mark, the classroom begins to zone out and lose interest in what is being taught. So, while you don’t necessarily have to get all of your points across in 6 minutes, you probably should in 15 minutes or less – unless you want to risk losing student interest.

Preference Given to Shorter Bursts of Content

When you ask, “What’s the ideal video length for e learning?” and we tell you that 20 minutes is what students state a video must not surpass, and yet studies show that it’s actually 15 minutes, but that most videos perform best at just 6 minutes, you’re probably feeling a little confused and overwhelmed. Of course, who can blame you! The idea here is that preference is given to shorter, easy to digest, bursts of content.

We see this a lot, particularly because our attention span has dropped to just 8 seconds! Watch any video on social media, and you’re quickly going to find that the average sweet spot is under 2 minutes. Watch any educational video, and you’re going to find the sweet spot is under 6 minutes. Watch a movie, and you’re going to find that the sweet spot is 2 hours. Society already has “sweet spot” ideas about how long video content should be, you just need to pay attention to the cues!

What if I Need More Time?

So, what happens if you need more time to deliver the educational content that you’re focused on? If you absolutely cannot deliver the important details in 15 or even 20 minutes, what do you do?  Do you risk losing the interest of your student audience? Do you risk not delivering all of the details that you feel are important to the subject or topic at hand? What happens if you just need more time?

As much as we have data on video “sweet spots” and the total time that is “ideal,” there is something that data doesn’t tell us and that’s – what the ideal time is for YOUR video! Certainly, we know that some viewers will stick around longer than others. We know that some topics require more advanced instruction than others.  We know that 6 minutes or less is the target for most, but not ALL e learning videos.

If you’re creating e learning video content and you feel like you cannot get your topic covered appropriately in 20 minutes or 15 minutes or 6 minutes – or less, you have some options:

  • Consider breaking the topic down into shorter, sub-topics that are easier to teach in short bursts.
  • Consider making a long video that covers the topic in-full.
  • Decide on the best length for your video based on YOUR audience.

Ultimately, when we look to answering the question, “What’s the ideal video length for e learning?” the truth is, the ideal video length is whatever your audience will stick around for, and the shortest duration required to deliver the details of the topic you’re covering in full – that’s the ideal length for your e learning video!