How long should an online course be?

September 10, 2021
This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products. Please refer to our disclosure policy for more information here.

As you begin to create your online course you will have many questions to have to decide on before diving into production and content. How much you're going to charge, what material you will be teaching, and how long your online course should be are all items you need to consider in the planning phases of course creation.

The length of an online course depends on the end goal you want your students to achieve. Typical online course lengths can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the type of course and complexity of the information you're teaching. 

For example, if someone wants to learn about Photoshop so they can create a simple graphic to share on social media, they might take a one-hour course. 

But if they want to learn about Photoshop to become a graphics designer, then they might take a course or program that lasts several weeks.

There may also be some other factors that affect course length. This includes how much a student can learn at once or if they have certain limitations, like having a busy schedule. 

But there is no set guideline on how long a course should be. While an online course's length can vary, it should be proportional to the level of skill set that students should expect to receive.

Read on if you're interested in learning more about the ideal online course length!

What is eLearning?

Man Smiling and Sitting at Desk Typing on the Computer

Online learning, or eLearning, is web-based education that provides students with flexibility.

Many businesses create online courses to achieve one of three main goals: 

  • educate and inform (episodic eLearning)
  • develop technical skills for computer applications (skill development eLearning)
  • provide job-specific training in an online format (job task eLearning)

The 21st century has created a global phenomenon of information because of easy access to education and content in digital form. Sharing and receiving data has never been easy and an uprise in how we get information doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

What are the benefits to online courses?

Woman Using Computer on the Beach with Ocean and Mountains in Background

There are many benefits to eLearning, such as access to courses anytime, anywhere in the world. 

A working student can read an assigned chapter on break or even zoom through a module at lunch. 

Online courses are also usually less expensive than traditional education. This makes it ideal for students on a budget who want to continue learning.

More and more, companies are utilizing online courses for training, providing information, and conducting their business. 

In a world of ever-expanding technology, it's never been easier to create and access online courses. 

If you’re interested in creating an online course, one of your first questions might be, “How long should my online course be?” 

What is the average length of online courses? 

Person Typing on the Computer with Glasses and Coffee

Most eLearning courses are designed to be completed in less than six hours. But if the course promises in-depth material or a completion certificate, it will naturally take longer to finish.

So, what's the better option for your course? It depends on the following:

How interactive is your online course? 

The interactivity of online courses refers to the level of engagement between a student and the eLearning content. 

This can vary from highly interactive programs (like virtual reality eLearning) to e-books and PowerPoint modules. 

The activities you provide will depend on what you want your students to achieve. 

For example, if the course dives into the details of a topic, you may want to regularly assign activities like quizzes and case studies. This allows students to assess what they learned. 

On the other hand, if the information is more superficial and the course is meant to be finished quickly, too many activities will slow your students down.

How in-depth will you dive into the topic?

With eLearning, the more involved the content, the longer it will take to complete. 

If your topic is simple and straightforward, the course should be manageable within days, with each module lasting only a few minutes long. This makes sure that you’re covering only the information your students need and avoids unnecessary details.

On the other hand, if you're creating an in-depth course – one that promises to help people transition to a new career, for example – then your course should last at least several weeks.

How quickly do you want your students to achieve their goals?

Decide on the type of online program you create and who it's designed for. This will help you determine how to present the information.

If your goal is to educate someone who has little to no prior knowledge on a topic, you'll want to dole out the information over a long period so the student can build a foundation without getting overwhelmed. 

Is your online course designed to be completed within a timeframe?

Say you want to create a course that includes live video sessions with an expert. You're going to need participants to sign up and schedule a time to complete the course. 

This will affect your online course length, as a one-time webinar should be completed within a couple of hours. 

If your format allows for more flexibility – pre-recorded videos instead of one-on-one consultation, for example – then your course can go on for much longer. 

Short vs. Long Online Courses

Woman with Glasses Taking Notes while Studying for an Online Course

However, another factor that you may want to consider is how much money you're planning to make on your course.  

Thinkific recently conducted a study on the average revenue of an online course. On average, creators with courses that lasted between 10-25 hours generally earned $10,000 in revenue. 

The shorter courses, which ran about 5-10 hours, were found to be about 75% as profitable. 

Surprisingly, the longer courses, ranging between 25 and 100 hours, seemed to be less profitable than the other two options. 

Online courses that include video sessions and other live content are usually bought as a whole eLearning course package. Courses with live content may be more expensive to make, but they're also great for generating revenue in the long term. 

With eBooks, you aren't going to make as much revenue since they typically don’t sell for as much as eLearning courses. They are great for content marketing, though, and can be used to generate leads.  

How long should each lecture be?

Woman Applying Makeup to Arm while Filming an Online Course

Are you thinking about creating an online course with pre-recorded lectures? No problem! 

Video lectures have been found to be a very effective format for online learning, as not everyone likes to read all their information and would rather have it explained by an expert.

These types of lectures are easy to learn from but you don't want to meander around the topic as you may bore the student. Keeping the lectures concise and to the point is usually the best method for maximizing the student's experience so that they can learn at the highest performance.

Break up your lectures into 15-minute to 1-hour modules so the information is still digestible. Information that goes beyond the 1-hour mark can make the student drop out and you won't be able to maintain completion rates for your course.

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

There are so many factors that will affect the length of your online course: Who is your target audience? How do you plan to present your content? What type of revenue are you hoping to get out of your modules? 

The best thing to do is experiment with different lengths until you find a format that works well for your online course business!

Our Community

Join our FREE community where other online course creators are there to help you create, market, and sell your online course.
We discuss everything from validating your course idea to driving consistent traffic and generating sales. Click the button below to join now.

Join Today! :)
join NOW
©2020-2021 Online Course Igniter - 
This site is not a part of the Facebook website or Facebook Inc. Additionally, This site is NOT endorsed by Facebook in any way. FACEBOOK is a trademark of FACEBOOK, Inc.