What Exactly is Enough Content?

You’ve probably taken a course or two where you feel like a failure because you didn’t get through all the lessons. It probably wasn’t your fault, but that there was probably too much content:

  • to digest
  • to assimilate
  • to transfer to your life or biz

Thus, the question many course developers ask is…

 When is enough content enough?

Here are some measurements about adult learners to keep in mind:

  • Short-term memory response is 8 seconds (that’s how long you have to get their attention)
  • Adults have an attention span of 20 minutes; after that you’ve lost them (think of the last time you were in a 60 minute lecture and the moment you faded out)
  • Within those 20 minutes, the natural rhythm of the brain requires constant stimulus to sustain focus

By Kaliym Islam for Training Industry

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Let’s translate that to content creation…

35483937_sGrabbing their Attention

While the 8-second attention grabbing rule sounds so much like marketing hype it’s actually how our brains work. In the context of learning, the first 8 seconds of any lesson has to address why it’s so important and how it will help the student.

For example, a lesson on working with dying patients might start with the emotional state of the patient through a story to help the student understand the many thoughts, struggles and closures occurring for that person. The story provides the purpose (understanding and connecting with the dying person) and how the student can use this information in her/his practice.

As well, you can add images and other decor to stimulate their visual sense and tap into their emotions to help grab attention. Ensure it is authentic and connects to the lesson.

Adult’s Attention Span

This concept begs to stop the creation of 60-minute training videos that are offered as the main content, one after another. Adults can’t focus on content that long.

If adult’s attention span and retention of information wanes after 20 minutes, break your lessons up to be no more than that.

A 20-minute lesson is the actual time a person reads, listens or studies the content. The exercises are not included in this measurement – that’s another attention span.

You can have as many exercises as needed to accomplish something as long as there are lessons to support all the actions. The more complex the exercises or projects, the more lessons are needed and the longer the course.

Providing Stimulus During Learning

To provide constant stimulus during a 20 minute lesson, chunk or chop up the content regardless of format (i.e. text, video, audio, book chapters, etc.) into short segments that might take 1 to 2 minutes to absorb.

At this point, you may be feeling that you are catering to the instant gratification trend and in some ways you are.

But technology has provided us with the tools to create learning that is more empowering and likely to be absorbed and used (vs. the futility of the dreaded textbook chapter). People have become used to info provided in this way and are wanting that format.

Chunking a lesson could mean:

  • Changing the font, colour, and size of text of separate ideas/messages
  • Placing key points into text boxes throughout the pages
  • Adding important steps into an infographic that can be downloaded and followed
  • Adding pauses to a long video (i.e. stop and do), or cut up videos into 2 or 3 smaller ones
  • Inserting intro and summary paragraphs to help with focus and retention
  • Adding images that project the same message



Most courses on the market are considered informal vs. formal learning. The latter are credit courses people must take to gain a degree, diploma or certificate.

Informal learning is something people want to pursue because they are interested in building their skills or improving their life. And with this comes a casual attitude towards learning, so brutally long and difficult courses will be less appealing to this crowd (and less likely to be completed).

For informal courses, follow this general formula regarding amount of content:

  • No more than 5 modules with up to 4 lessons each
  • Each lesson includes 10 to 20 minutes of content absorption
  • Lesson content chopped up (chunked) into 1-2 minute pieces
  • 1 or 2 activities per lesson
  • Equates to 3 or 4 weeks of learning

If you feel you need to provide more content, perhaps make a longer, chunked up course; create a second course; or see where you can condense your content or lessons.


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