This is How Long Your Online Fashion Course Should Be

course design Oct 10, 2017

In this post, we're going to explore how long your online course should be.  It's a question that always crops up so let's tackle it head-on.

My cheeky response to this question is that it should be long enough to meet your learning objectives. This might seem good enough as an answer but as I said it's cheeky because you really need more explanation in the reply. On the surface that’s not a bad answer, but it’s usually one that doesn’t satisfy either.

There are several factors that determine how long your online fashion course should be, so I'll walk you through these and try and plump up that answer to the question.

Factors That Influence Course Length

Your leaners decide what's enough because they'll stop when they've had their fill or they'll ask for more. So to feed their appetite for learning I recommend delivering the content of your course in digestible chunks or portions. This way the student can take what they want to suit their appetite. Rather than one big course with long modules and long lessons, it's better to chunk this down and offer more courses, with fewer modules and shorter lessons.

Our students are used to digesting content online via YouTube, TedX and other social media platforms where delivery is in bitesize portions.

Chunking down also means that you can easily update your content and with most course hosting platforms using drag and drop course building arrangements it makes designing new packages of content easier when you have bite-size pieces to bring together.

We know from research and our own experience that the optimum engagement duration for online course videos is around 6 minutes. That doesn't mean that a lesson only has to be that long, but be aware of your video length.

For example, you may have a lesson that times out like this:

  1. A video of 6 mins.
  2. An activity to complete for the student which takes them 15 mins.
  3. Some reading to complete that takes 15 mins.
  4. A short assignment to complete and report back on that takes 30 mins.
  5. A peer review of other students' work that takes 10 mins.

In such a case the total length of the lesson is 76 minutes but you are only presenting for 6 minutes of it.

Equally another lesson may just be a 7-8 minute long video because that delivers everything that the student needs.

Adopt the Rule of 10

I try to adopt the following rule when designing our online fashion courses. Have videos no longer than 10 minutes duration, modules that have no more than 10 lessons and downloads that have no more than 10 pages. The rule of 10 is easy to follow and remember so that I donàt get carried away with building course behemoths.

Drip Feed Their Content

There is much evidence that concludes that spacing out the content over a period can help improve the learning taking place. Spaced learning or drip feeding the content online is possible providing your course hosting platform has the option. You can then develop your course so that the modules can be started by your students between defined spaced intervals that you set. So they enroll in your course and then each module is released to them after so many days perhaps 7 - 10 days between modules.

This type of delivery encourages engagement, the student looks forward to the next module and doesn't get overwhelmed which could be the case if they have access to the entire course and feel bloated after just reviewing the contents let alone taking the lessons. Dripping can make a long course feel shorter.

The Number of Slides Is Irrelevant to How Long the Course Should Be

If you've ever sat through a PowerPoint presentation with endless slides and content on the screen full of bullet points and graphs you know how boring and tedious it can be. You would have given anything to have just a few slides and the presenter give you handouts of the background info if you needed it. Most of what these presentations cover could have been delivered in a document and you could have spent your time elsewhere doing something far more productive.

The amount of slides you have in your lessons has no relevance to the length of your course. We can have just one key message on a slide and only use it to support our message as we narrate or present alongside, with slides changing frequently. Or we can have several key points on the slide and then the slide changes less frequently. You can add video in between the slides, you can add graphics and interactive 'assets' that engage the student. So it's possible to make a three slide lesson take longer to complete than a 30 slide lesson and vice versa.

So don't measure your course length in relation to the number of slides.

Measure it in terms of how long will it take you to provide the learning intervention that delivers the learning objectives.

 

This, therefore, makes it impossible to answer the duration question accurately because every course is different.

Breaking it Down

Lets' break it down. Let's imagine a student wants to learn about gross profit margins in retail. She is a designer that runs a small boutique selling handmade shoes both to order and RTW but finances and the associated terminology is not her strong suit. So she takes a course about managing finances in retail, basic stuff.

How long will that course take? It depends on everything we discussed so far and more. For example her skill level at basic maths including percentages and decimals which for some people has eluded them during the formal education. Does your course need to cover a lesson or two on these basics, perhaps?

It depends on everything we discussed so far and more. For example her skill level at basic maths including percentages and decimals which for some people has eluded them during their formal education. Does your course need to cover a lesson or two on these basics, perhaps?

She will need to have some theory input delivered by you, some examples and then plenty of practice activities to help her apply what's she's learned. For some students, they may only need to take a few of the practice activities, for others more, so already the course is longer for one student than another.

Here is my way of estimating how long the course needs to be:

  1. Where is the student with their current knowledge and skill in relation to the topic? Call that point A.
  2. Where do they need to be to competently do whatever it is they want to do or have the transformation they need? That's now point B.
  3. Point A to B is the gap your course needs to bridge.
  4. What sequence of input and activities would they need to experience to get them from A to B?
  5. Will this sequence need to be spread out over several days, weeks, months or years?
  6. How long will it take them to go through this sequence? Include both the content itself and the time delay between dripped content. For example, a course could last 12 weeks because the content is dripped over the period with new material presented to the student once a week for twelve weeks, but each lesson only takes an hour to cover. So is this a twelve-week course or a twelve-hour course?

Don't get hung upon on how long the course should be. Design it for what it needs to be but be realistic. Give them what they need for the transformation to occur not everything you know on the subject then the course will be the correct length.

Next Steps

I hope that this post has given you some insight into course length and what to consider when you develop your own courses. Without doubt planning your course thoroughly leads to a better outcome when you design the course. The effective design makes for more efficient creation of the course components such as all the content, audio, video, worksheets, spreadsheets, images etc.

If you are not yet started on your course development but need a step by step guide to get you going we have a small, short course that covers everything you need to know for the PLANNING phase of your online fashion course development. Find out more here or if you have done all the planning and now need some guidance on the DESIGN phase you can take our course called How to DESIGN Your Fashion Course With Minimum Effort.

Cheryl Gregory is the Founder of The Fashion Student Hub, a marketplace for selling online fashion courses, and We Teach Fashion teaching fashion subject experts how to create and promote their own online courses, generate revenue and serve the growing need for online education in the fashion sector.
 

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