How Long Should Your Online Course Be: To Engage Students?


Do you intend to develop your online course? Do you have knowledge about specific topics, which you like to share with others? Setting up online courses has become increasingly popular in recent years. Partly because more and more people want to be able to take a course from home. For example, they no longer depend on fixed teaching times but can take the course at a time they want. It’s so easy! An important question you will have when developing a course: how long should your online course last? What is a good length for online course lessons?

In this article, we will give you an answer to this question! Please note that it is not only the length of an online course that is important. For example, also note the order in which you offer information during the course. A sequence should make sense so that the teaching material remains understandable for students.

No fixed guideline for the length of an online course

There is no fixed guideline for the length of an online course. After all, the perfect length is strongly related to the design. Difficult topics are often not explained in five to ten videos of, for example, five minutes. If you do, a course could create more confusion than making things clearer for students where a length of several hours with easy subjects may be sufficient. In the latter case, you can combine the course material with useful exercises, cases from practice, and so on. Similarly, taking a shorter course is interesting for students.

Look at the length of similar courses

The question of how long the duration of an online course should be will also have occurred to other developers. Therefore, take a look at the number of developed videos for similar online courses. How long are these videos? Do the videos only focus on explaining a topic, or do you also find practical cases? Based on this information, you get a good idea of the ideal length of your course material.

Tip: when comparing other online courses on the same subject, also look at the price of the course.

Determine the purpose of your online course

Do you now have a good idea of the duration of other online courses? In that case, it is essential to formulate the purpose of your online course. What is the target group of the course? What knowledge and information do these students may already have? These factors affect the duration of the online course. Compare the following situations:

  • An online course for beginners who want to start a vegetable garden at their home.
  • An online course for professional growers, who want to know more about the use of toxins on a crop.

Both online courses have a very different purpose. Where the first course is an introduction to gardening and growing vegetables, the second example is a more in-depth course. An introductory course often lasts no more than a few hours, where a deepening course can quickly take five to ten hours.

Divide the teaching material into different parts

Students will not take the course at once. They do this in addition to their work, family life, and sports club. Often one plans half an hour to an hour every week to view a new part of the course. Keep this in mind when developing your online course! Make sure that the divided teaching material has a logical order. Don’t make the videos too long to prevent people from losing their attention or not understanding the substance at the end of the lesson. Often one assumes that there are three to ten lessons per module, with each lesson lasting a minimum of five to a maximum of twenty minutes. You can, of course, choose to add multiple modules to your online course.

Tip: Also, read our article about the time it takes to develop a course [Internal link]! Here you learn more about the time investment for a five to 20-minute video. 

Create a logical structure

As described earlier, a logical structure in the teaching material is crucial. You want to continue to captivate students throughout the course. Besides, you want to prevent the teaching material from becoming unclear and too overwhelming. Determine in advance what a fine structure would be to better understand a subject. Then ask a friend or family member to think along with you! Does he or she understand the subject after taking the course? Which adjustments are necessary to make the teaching material even more logical?

Tip: you can already mention the structure of the online course in the description! Often an interested student reads the description on a course page before taking the course.

Turn your online course into an adventure

There are many different ways to continue to captivate and engage students in a course. It is not without reason that interaction is an important element in courses at a physical location. This interaction is more complicated when it comes to an online course. After all, each student follows the teaching material at a different time. Fortunately, in addition to creating interactive conversations, there are several other possibilities to turn your online course into an adventure.

  • Work with intermediate tests and quizzes. You don’t have to give students a grade for their skills. However, the quiz or test shows them whether they have understood the subject correctly.
  • Offer additional help in the form of separate attachments to the online course. In these attachments, you have all the space to elaborate in-depth information. Practical cases often do well too!
  • Indicate what the next lesson is about at the end of a video. This already arouses some interest among students, which means that they are more likely to start the next lesson.

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