Brevity is Best for Online
by Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
of the world's best lectures recorded live in college classrooms are now
available free and easy on YouTube, MOOCs, and
Problem is, I've never watched one of the 50-60
minute lectures all the way through. Have you?
It can be tough enough to focus on these lectures
live in the hall, but online with a static camera
frame, the diffused energy of streaming media, the
distractions of emails and computer games, it's no
surprise many viewers click away after just a few
minutes of video lecture.
Prior to my current incarnation as an online and
onground university instructor, I spent many years
in broadcast media, as a TV bureau chief covering
the fall of the USSR, NBC affiliate news anchor,
radio talk show host, documentary and
public affairs program producer
all toting tons of
The most important lessons learned there for effective
communication: be brief, especially if you have
something really important to say.
There are many excellent examples of this done
well for educational ends.
gives a platform for insightful and inspiring
'ideas worth spreading' in technology,
entertainment, design, business, science, global
issues ... reduced to 15 minutes or less. And
viewers do watch them all the way through.
produces brief lecture videos
averaging 5-10 minutes each, covering topics in
science, math, finance ... effectively condensed to
is a model to follow, even
winning acolades from
Bill Gates in a 60 Minutes interview
They find the most excellent college lecturers,
take them out of the classroom, put them in a
studio, and professionally record comprehensive
materials in digestible segments.
found that about six minutes is an
effective length for lecture videos, since
students are able to keep a focus through that
limited amount of time, and may even give it a
repeat viewing or two.
I've found my own
hour-long onground classroom lectures can be
15-minute (or less) videos, leaving out student
interactions, page-flipping through notes, and
pauses for breath.
I post my course lecture videos
on YouTube, which embed nicely in most learning platforms.
It offers the onground students a chance to review
lectures, and the online students a richer
dimension of material. Most usefully, it gives my
many non-native English speaking students a means
to pause and replay content at their leisure.
You are welcome to review (and even use) my
lecture videos on
fundamentals of marketing
effective writing skills
publics and demographics
dealing with disruptive students
other educational topics
And if you
have educational videos of your own to share
through these pages, please
send me your
so they might be added to our instructor