Choosing what videos to show in class or include with required materials is always a battle. Are shorter videos best to keep students’ attention spans? Are longer videos ideal to be the most thorough?

We recently surveyed thousands of college students about their experience with video in the classroom. For one question, we asked them simply, “How long  should a video shown in class be?”

Choosing the right content

It turns out, there is no one-size-fits-all video solution for classes. The majority, 60% of college students, said “It depends on the subject.” This suggests that if the content warrants it, longer videos can be very enlightening.

However, only 3% of students said they always prefer longer videos. And another 8% said they don’t mind either way.

Whether you teach online or in-person, it’s important to mix up your presentation techniques now and again. Show a video of a demonstration you’ve found online, or even record yourself conducting an experiment and share that clip. You can also try these additional student engagement techniques.

For even more supplementary material ideas, learn how instructor Beth Pandolpho relies on videos on current events to draw connections to her course material in her post, “My Students Aren’t ‘Readers'”.

Sectioning content

Some students may prefer very brief videos in their lessons. In fact, 29% of student respondents to our survey said they prefer brief videos only. 

For this reason, if you’re providing a lengthy YouTube video along with your suggested reading, have the video start right at the important part. That way students who want to watch the whole video may, and those who wish to view a brief version by do so easily.

To find what works best for you and your students, it may be a good idea to ask each class what they prefer.

What types of video content do you provide to students — and in what subject? Share your ideas below!