Record It and They Will Watch? Student Preferences for Video Content

A recent article, How Video Production Affects Student Engagement: An Empirical Study of MOOC Videos, examines how student engagement is influenced by the length and style of course videos. While Guo, Kim, and Rubin focus on MOOC-based instructional content, their findings and recommendations have wider relevance for video-based instructional content for other types of classes, whether online or on ground.

The authors’ key recommendation is to keep videos used to support instruction short: under six minutes. This suggestion to chunk instructional content into shorter segments is also affirmed by research cited in Why Long Lectures are Ineffective and Does Length Matter? It Does For Video. As these two articles detail, students’ attention spans last for 10-15 minutes at most, with their memory of and engagement in the first five minutes the strongest. When possible, instructors should limit the length of course videos to 15 minutes – and even shorter is even better.

Guo, Kim, and Rubin also provide a number of recommendations regarding the style of videos. For example, instructors might want to consider including not only professionally-recorded studio- and classroom-based videos, but also more informal content that replicates students’ experience of visiting with an instructor during office hours. These might include handwritten or sketched and extemporaneously-spoken tutorials to illustrate a concept. Videos are also more engaging if they include not only the instructor’s voice but their “talking head,” and if instructors strive to share their enthusiasm for the topic they are teaching by speaking with enthusiasm and energy.