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Ask HN: Why are online training classes divided into small chunks?

I have noticed in both Unity and GCP trainings that each "module"/"week" is divided into small chunks, each under 10 or even 5 minutes. I find it very frustrating as it is difficult to maintain focus when the teaching material deliberately breaks it. Why is it so? Why is it not divided into ordinary 45-60 min chunks?

  • 11 points
  • 12 days ago

  • @hnthrowaway0328
  • Created a post

Ask HN: Why are online training classes divided into small chunks?

@FiReaNG3L 12 days

Replying to @hnthrowaway0328 🎙

Much easier to record / update as well


@randcraw 12 days

I saw this first when Udacity began. I think all their initial courses were chopped up this way. As I recall, Andrew Ng claimed it made the instruction more interactive, since you couldn't just sit for a long stretch of time before coding up what you just learned or being quizzed on it.

Frankly, I find it very annoying. I watch videos in a nonlinear way already, often jumping backward to earlier topics to review them as I learn the next one. This is made a lot harder when the background for the next topic is not on the same video.

I suspect chopping videos into bite sizes was also done with an eye to making it harder for the user NOT to use proprietary GUI and playback software provided by the video distributor (e.g. Udacity) to navigate all those small videos and quizzes. Curiously, such gateway software has not arisen to control access to MOOCs as yet. (Such software is used extensively by Universities to control access to their instructional materials.)


@gostsamo 12 days

Three theories:

1. Attention span: most people would not concentrate to study on their own for long hours, they will sneak little chunks whenever they feel like it.

2. Search: you have a single question, you google it, and you find a short video that answers it to the point.

3. Easier to produce: short videos don't need that much post processing and doing it one by one is easier.


@pfortuny 12 days

As a teacher myself, I have made a bunch of videos for my classes which cover all the material in my courses [1]. I tend to cover a single concept/a single exercise in each. This makes the videos bearable.

They are not “videos of lectures” but “lecture videos”.

I do not know exactly what you are referring to, but my students are very happy with that material.



@Leftium 12 days

I bought a UX course several years ago. Each video was over an hour.

The creator later redid all the videos, cutting them into shorter videos no longer than 9 minutes. He stated the reason was because this was one of the top requests from students.


@rg111 12 days

For me, the optimal length is 18-22 minutes. 20 minutes in average. Lower than that, I am annoyed because I have to click the "Next" button or whatever too many times.

Longer than that, I feel pressure. I feel that I have such a long video to watch! I keep planning to get that chunk out of my day, and keep postponing it. I know I am grown-up enough and should not be feeling this, but this is what happens.

This was personal.

But there are factual plus points in favor of smaller chunks:

1. The quizzes at the end of each chunk. The smaller the chunk is, the easier you feel to learn facts and other stuff, the more retention you have before you get the opportunity to face questions and cement a concept.

2. You can very quickly find it later. Rather than having to click through a 100 minute video, you can quickly read the titles of sections on a web-page.

3. When sections are short, the instructor remains focused and to-the-point as well. This is what I want from most instructors. Sure, I would love to hear Yann LeCun blabber about AI for 60 minutes unscripted, but I don't want that from a rando MSFT engineer teaching a tool.


@stmpjmpr 12 days

I don't mind it being broken up, but I would prefer that there wasn't any kind of opening/titles/intro to the ones beyond the first.


@melling 12 days

Obviously more people have 10 minute chunks of their day in which to squeeze in another task. If someone needs an hour people will more likely push it off.

People can chain together as many lessons as they would like.

When targeting a market, you want to include as many people as possible… Targeting the people who have 45 minutes excludes the others.


@Peritract 12 days

The conventional wisdom for e-learning is that content should be delivered in short chunks. [Six minutes](https://blog.edx.org/optimal-video-length-student-engagement) gets spoken of as the ideal, but 'short chunks' is the headline. People are more likely to engage with shorter videos fully.

I personally do take some issue with this - it's a quick boost for engagement metrics, sure, but some topics actually need time and space to breathe. Short videos work for hammering key bullet points into students, but when you're dealing with more complex content - anything skill-, rather than knowledge-based, for example - then it gets more complicated than that.

Shorter videos are more likely to attract attention. With that said, attention/engagement is an important factor when teaching, not the end goal, and complex ideas can be poorly sub-divided or simplified to fit into prescriptive chunk lengths.

Overly bitty videos in training courses are due to people applying a general guideline too rigidly, without thinking about other relevant factors.


@alpaca128 12 days

> I find it very frustrating as it is difficult to maintain focus when the teaching material deliberately breaks it

Different people learn in different ways. For me it's the exact opposite, in longer sessions my brain just shuts off after 15-20 minutes. And this doesn't only apply to videos, so school wasn't particularly fun. I'm glad online content is often more focused.


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