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Brevity is Best for Online Lectures

by Steven R. Van Hook, PhD

Steven R. Van HookSome of the world's best lectures recorded live in college classrooms are now available free and easy on YouTube, MOOCs, and university pages.
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 gear.
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.

TED 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.

The YouTube hit Khan Academy produces brief lecture videos averaging 5-10 minutes each, covering topics in science, math, finance ... effectively condensed to bite-size bits.

The superb Teaching Company 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.
One learning program 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 clipped to 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, transcultural teaching, social marketing, communication appeals, publics and demographics, dealing with disruptive students, and other educational topics.

And if you have educational videos of your own to share through these pages, please send me your links so they might be added to our instructor resources.

~ Steve

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