“The 4:5 Rule” : Lecture Capture Video for the Internet Attention Span

Sleeping Students / Passionate Teacher

Sleeping Students / Passionate Teacher (Photo credit: Poldavo (Alex))

How long is too long for a lecture? Teachers can commonly spend upwards of 45 minutes lecturing in class. This arbitrary time frame is something we’ve settled into thanks to the traditional lengths of classroom meeting times, not because they are the optimal way to learn. This article will discuss a simple rule for creating online lecture videos that are focused on topic and geared for your audience.

The 4:5 Rule

As you think about moving your lectures online, remember these two numbers:


4: The  number of new pieces of information you can learn at a time. [source]

5: The number of minutes people expect to watch online video. [source]

When you think about making video recordings of your lectures, limit them to about 5 minutes, with 4 key pieces of information each. Rather than covering several topics in the same lecture recording, break it up into short, focused lessons that stay on one topic only.

4 Key Pieces of Information

Be very intentional about which 4 ideas, skills, or bits of knowledge you want your students to retain from this lecture, and draw students’ attention to them explicitly.  You can do a recap/ review at the end of the video, offer review questions that students need to know how to answer, or alter your PowerPoint slides to show the importance of these four ideas.

Often, teachers stuff more information into lectures than is strictly necessary, including personal anecdotes, digressions, and related ideas that embellish upon the themes in the content. From students’ perspective, though, this makes it hard to sift through all the information in order to know what’s important and what’s merely interesting.

 5 Minutes

Limiting your videos to 5 minutes is a great artificial limit to help you keep your video lecture focused and engaging. This doesn’t mean you need to condense your 45 minute lecture down to 5 minutes– you can always have multiple videos that help you convey whatever you want students to know.

Keeping your videos short also bring some technical advantages as well– long video files are large, slow to upload and download, expensive to store, and unwieldy to share. You can easily capture short videos on any smartphone, upload them to free hosting like YouTube or Vimeo, and even start your own video podcast. Jing, a free screencasting tool, has a 5 minute limit that works surprisingly well for short skills tutorials or narrated slideshows. These short videos will also be easier to edit, won’t fill up your computer’s hard drive, and won’t drive your IT team crazy. It’s so sensible in so many ways and will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Give it a try, and tell us how it was in the comments!


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Written by

Ted Curran is a Learning Experience Designer/Developer for Autodesk. He is committed to empowering educators and learners to create transformational change through effective pedagogy and technology integration. You can follow Ted on Mastodon, LinkedIn or learn more at my 'About" page. These thoughts are my own.

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