How long should my audio course be?

Updated: Jan 24

Thinking about doing an audio course? Great! Audio is a fantastic format for teaching and engaging with students, clients, customers or just about anyone. When you set out to get your first audio course out the door you're probably thinking: how long should my audio course be? What audio course length is 'normal'. Before answering that, it's important to ask yourself another question: is this a course or is this general education.

Why the distinction? Courses tend to be longer. They purport to cover a topic in depth and bequeath that in depth knowledge to the learner. That's what this post is about. If you're looking for how long your individual podcast or lesson should be, this probably isn't the right place. Here we'll be covering how long an audio course should be, and spoiler alerts: 30-60 minutes isn't quite enough.

"some of the most educational pieces of content out there are short and sweet. It's just to say that a course, which covers more information, needs to be longer."

How long should your audio course be?

The two main factors to consider for audio course length are:

  1. How long will your entire course be

  2. How long will each individual lesson (i.e podcast or episode) be.

Let's start with #1: How long will your audio course be?

Online courses vary in length, they usually stretch from 30 minutes to multiple hours. Audio course length should differ from a regular online course for many reasons. We'll start by covering some reasons and why they matter. If you're curious about how to write an audio course in general read our post on writing audio courses.

The main differences between regular online and audio courses are:

  1. Your audience is probably multitasking

  2. Audio listening tends to be a habit, so lesson completion tends to be higher over video courses.

Why do these matter? Well, the fact that your audience is multitasking means that they're probably less focused. So for things to really sink in you need to be chunking your information properly and applying a heavy dose of repetition. Repetition also means in between lessons, and not just inside each lesson. If there are key concepts you want learners to remember and actually apply and take away, you have to be repeating them throughout your course.

The second reason why repetition and appropriate chunking is important throughout your course is because you need to augment the learning experience. Since your course is audio only (or audio mainly if there are accompanying resources) to bring key concepts home, especially complex ones that rely on longer explanations, repetition, interleaving and chunking is key (here are some tips on using those elements properly).

"3-8 hours is what you should aim for for an in depth audio course."

For your audio course to be effective it has to be long enough that it can intersperse repetition into different lessons. To do this properly, your audio course's length will probably have to be longer than 30 or 60 minutes. Yes, it's much easier to get something short and quick out the door, but honestly, if it's 30-60 minutes long, it's not a course. That's not to say that it isn't educational, or that someone can't learn from it. Not at all - some of the most educational pieces of content out there are short and sweet. It's just to say that a course, which covers more information, needs to be longer.

How much longer should your audio course be? That entirely depends on your material, but 3-8 hours is what you should aim for for an in depth audio course. Why at least three hours? Because that translates into roughly 10 individual lessons, which, while challenging for a learner, is also very doable. Audiobooks tend to be at least 3 hours long, so it's already a proven format in terms of user attention. Three hours really lets you get that repetition in properly. More so, it gives you the ability to layer in concepts properly so that the information is really sinking in. That's critical when it comes to teaching an actual course that's covering complex topics that are new to your learners.

Why eight hours as the upper length limit? A course longer than 8 hours will probably be overwhelming for a student. There's a reason that degrees are broken up into years and years are broken up into semesters. It's overwhelming otherwise. Same is true here. If you open up your course and see 65 lessons left to complete - well, that's just disheartening. Consider breaking it up into two courses, even if individually, that course won't be as long as you'd like.

The key idea to takeaway is that an audio course needs to be long enough to apply the principles of teaching for audio. These include chunking of information and repetition. To properly apply these, you need enough lessons and student listening time. 30-60 minutes unfortunately just don't cut it. Try and make your audio course's length at least 8-10 lessons long. This will enable you to repeat key ideas and themes throughout your course as well as properly chunk that information in the first place.

In part 2 of this series we explore how long each individual lesson should be.

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