What is the best length of online courses?

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While many people would argue on how long an online course should take, there are some definite advantages and disadvantages on how much time the online course can really take that simply cannot be overlooked. The length notwithstanding, the objectives and the expected learning outcomes should be put into consideration. In the end, online courses need to be as long as it may take for the content to be effectively and satisfactorily delivered. On the other hand, improved technology has highly enabled course instructors/designers to design and implement online courses or modules through the use of advanced techniques and tools that are currently available. However, not all online courses are designed the same way. Unfortunately, this is not easy as quite a number of factors must be taken into consideration. The following factors should be considered before coming into a conclusion on how long an online course should take:

Organizational need/deadline – Is it an academic or corporate setting?

One of the most important factors to consider is the deadline. Depending on the organization deadline, the course can be designed to be a bit shorter or take a longer length. The characteristics of your target group are also something to consider. For example, are you targeting full-time students or part-time graduate students who are already employed?

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Instructional design model – Is it academic courses or training modules?

Instructional Design Model will not only ensure safe, certain and thorough training but will also ensure that time allocated for online courses are ideal. In addition, some courses are a bit easier than others when it comes to designing and development. Apparently, courses that are more demanding may take longer time hence there is a need to plan accordingly to the meet the needs of every course.

The complexity of the content

Another factor to be considered is the nature of the topics being covered and the competencies being taught. Also, the time required for students to complete the needed assignments. For example, a topic like an introduction to chemistry, an introduction on how to build an airplane and customer service may require different teaching approaches and time. As a matter of fact, more complex instructional courses will take more time to prepare and learn. This might also mean more online meetings with the subject-matter expert and more attention to online content details.

Types of media to use

Will the course require making a video, a power point presentation, or other interactive materials? Videos may often require more effort and time for preparation and also more time will be required to edit the materials.

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Learning technologies or hardware device

It’s obvious that how short or long a course should take will depend greatly on the technologies used, their speed and how accurate they are. The use of online tools decreases the time used in learning the online course. Moreover, technology sometimes may give up in the least expected moment. For example, one can prepare course material for 3 hours and unexpectedly the computer goes off before saving data, this can cause unusual delays in the process.

In conclusion, there are a number of issues associated with a shortened format or a full-length format when determining the appropriate length of time an online course should take, whether short or long its effectiveness depends on the different strategic approaches used. Nonetheless, student satisfaction with the time of course delivery is majorly determined by its structure and contents. However, not all online courses are developed or designed in the same way. Thus, it is simply quite difficult to characterize a typical online program.




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