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Longer = Better?


From the moment I've started to create an online content I've encountered the eternal question – can a short online course really deliver a serious content? Shouldn't be there a minimum threshold of time to deliver contents?

I'm a minimalist, I hate that my time is being wastes and I hate to waste others. From the first online course I've created I understood that this platform enables me to do things a little bit differently.

But before I'll tell you how, I want to tell a short (yeah, short!) story – One of the academic institutes I teach at offered to film one of my course's lectures and put them on the course's site, so students may watch it again, or students that missed the class will be able to watch it. It was done, and the videos were uploaded to the site. I never watched them, though.

One day a student had asked me about something I've said in one of the recordings. I didn't remember and thought I made a mistake there, so I went to watch it. Now here is the astonishing part – The lessons were 2 hours and a half. But when I saw the video's timing it was only one hour and less then 50 minutes! Where have more than 40 minutes disappeared? Well, the video editors did some editing on the files, and they cut out un-useful or "dead" parts from the video. So – the break was something like 15-20 minutes. It was left out. If students asked me personal questions about their own exercises, or when someone had talked with me when I arrived to the class, this was left out. The editor was maybe tough, but he/she was also a true testimony to my class' length – if nothing important was said, it was left out. Moreover, when I watched the video I saw that there were few examples that I typed during the lesson, and sometimes I was wrong, so depending when I caught my mistake, it also took some time that was actually useless (but of course was not cut by editing, because the editor had no way to know it's not part of the class).

So where does it take us? A class that was scheduled to 2.5 hours, had only one hour and 50 minutes of valuable content, and this is only by cutting out the parts that obviously wasn't useful. Could it be done otherwise?

Now it's time to move back to the online course platform. As I see it, we must not treat this platform as a "live lesson that is filmed". Doing so, we take all the bad parts from frontal teaching and migrate them into online teaching. No, we have to see and use this platform's advantages to create meaningful content. Here are some of my guidelines that help me create a good course:

  1. The content is edited. So there is no reason, whatsoever, that an online lesson would include "hmmmm" and "let me think for a moment" and all those phrases we use naturally in a live lesson. Why should it?

  2. Moreover – there should not be not-working examples, unless it's part of the learning material (such as "here is a wrong code, how will we fix it?").

  3. Use presentations, arrows, animations and any visual aid that may help you deliver your content. No talking in the air, no hands waving. Put on the screen whatever you think should be learned.

  4. Cut anything that is irrelevant. I think that in an online course there is no reason to waste the student's time. Just be accurate and concise.

My conclusion from all of that must be one – in my opinion, if a course takes 40 hours (full semester in university) of live lecturer and live classroom, its online equivalent just cannot be 40 hours! Or even 30 or 20, far less than that. Again, online course is not a live lesson that is being recorded. Don't treat it like that.

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