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Want to teach? Make a sandwich! | Great Online Teaching

Numbers don’t lie.

The shorter the video, the more likely your students will watch the entire thing. As the video gets longer, students start dropping like flies.

Wistia, a video hosting platform, studied viewer engagement in relationship to the length of the video and found that the sweet spot is somewhere between 6 to 12 minutes.

Keep in mind that the Wistia study was for ALL types of videos, not just instructional videos for online courses. With paid eCourses, your audience is already motivated to watch your videos, so that gives you a bit more wiggle room. But not much. Attention spans are short. And probably getting shorter.

So … you could make your videos longer because, well, it is easier. No need to get razor sharp in your focus and cut out all the fluff. Or you could make them long because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Heck, you might want to keep them long as a rebellion against a disturbing trend of shortening attention spans.

Go ahead. But most of your students won’t watch them. That means that your students won’t learn the lessons you hope to teach. If you want your online students to get results, you need to get disciplined about shortening those videos.

Teaching Tip: Sandwiches for everyone

The standard solution to long blocks of content is “chunking,” or breaking the content into bite-sized pieces so students don’t overwhelm their short term memory with too much information. This is a great place to start. But you can take it one step further to skyrocket your students’ results: make a content sandwich.

Here’s the recipe:

  • Break your content into chunks. Ideally, no more than 5-7 minutes. If you can get it shorter, even better.
  • Create a “Hook” for each chunk of content. Your hook brings the students’ attention to the topic you are going to present in the chunk. You might ask a provocative question, pose a problem, use a meaningful quote, or challenge an assumption. The idea is to prime your students to be thinking about the new information on offer. Keep your hook to a minute.
  • Conclude each chunk with a Reinforcement. Ask your students to DO something with the new information they received so that it begins moving from short term memory into long term memory. It doesn’t have to be anything grand – simple is best between chunks. Ask them to jot down a quick response to a question, take a 3 question quiz, try out a small skill they just learned, or maybe just stand up, stretch and breath while repeating a particularly important phrase. A reinforcement can be 1 – 2 minutes.
  • Group your chunk sandwiches together. Keep the groupings to 20 minutes.