What's your preferred course delivery format?

I'm interested in what delivery format you prefer for online courses as a learner. Select the format that best matches your learning style and needs, the one you'd prefer to get the majority of the content given a choice.

In a few days I'll update this post to tell what's my preferred format and why I'm asking this question.


As promised, here is some context on my question.

First off, I stronly prefer text courses. To the point I never take video courses, not even if they are free.

I suspected I may not be alone, hence the poll. As I write this, the poll got 19 votes with these results:

  • Video: 63%
  • Text: 37%
  • Audio: 0%

Video is hot, so I did expect the majority of votes to go to this format. But, to me, the most interesting takeout is a non-negligible preference for text, much larger than I thought. Text is where I want to focus my course creation efforts as it matches my learner and creator preferences. And, hopefully, the format may be a selling point in an interesting niche of the course market.

I run the same poll on Twitter and got 13 votes:

  • Text: 61.5%
  • Video: 38.5%
  • Audio: 0%

Another takeaway is, although podcasts and audiobooks are hot, there's apparently no interest in course content delivered through audio.

Some of you pointed out in the comments there are other considerations for selecting a delivery format, such as the subject matter. And a course can of course include various formats and media.

Thanks to all of you who voted and contributed feedback in the comments.

What's your preferred course delivery format?
  1. Audio
  2. Text
  3. Video
  1. 5

    At this stage of my life, the problem with video and audio is that I can't quickly extract what I need. When I go for a course, most likely there'll be plenty I know already or that I can figure out by myself, so I skip ahead to a point where things are new. With video and audio only, it's almost impossible to do. On the other hand, a mixed approach is hard to get right, since it requires not just a transcript, but abstracting and linking to the relevant moment in audio/video.

    I always struggle with the difference between a text course and a book, where's the line that separates both?

    There's a big exception when it's about learning how to use a program or something in the real world. Screen recording vs infinite screen shots is invaluable. The same when someone teaches how to use a tool like a soldering iron, etc.

    Audio courses are useful only when you are engaged visually in something, like driving or taking a shower, that does not require active attention. There's no way I would otherwise prefer listening to someone instead of reading.

    1. 1

      Interesting. For my course, I'm thinking of doing video + text summary (not transcript).

      Decided to go with a text summary rather than transcript because as a learner, I've often hated that the transcript was the same as the video content and hard to skim. What do you think?

      1. 1

        I think it is a great idea!

    2. 1

      Thanks for the feedback. Although the line between a book and a text course is blurry, what usually defines a course is the way it's marketed and structured (e.g. lessons in separate document files or web pages).

  2. 2

    1:1 :). Mostly video, you can have audio and text with video. But I think subject matters. I'm almost always watching development related stuff. If I were looking for language courses I'd rather audio versions so I'll be able to listen anywhere. And if it's a scientific subject, I'd rather text-based paper like "courses".

    1. 1

      Thanks, by Audio I mean the majority of the content is audio. And I left out 1:1 because I'm focusing on online courses 😉

  3. 1

    I think the one thing that separates audio from the rest of the course formats is the fact it's passive and on the go learning. Studies show you actually absorb more info when you're a little more active!

    It's easy to listen while commuting, running errands, etc. Especially if formatted in a repetitive manner, I can internalise the information a bit more. As an entrepreneur, it's hard to find the time in the day to sit down and watch a 1hr video or absorb a chunk of text, so it seems to be the next best solution for me.

    But see what people are saying on this thread that with textual courses, it's easier to extract what you'd like from it. Perhaps a solution is if creators structured their audio/video courses into subsections within that section, so they can skip to the bits they like?

    I think it's a hard question which varies per person, depending on their learning style. Audio might not work for one person but it can work for another.

    1. 1

      Interesting insight, thanks.

      Perhaps video courses are so widespread because the association with traditional class lectures makes video a natural default for both learners and creators, with not much thinking put into its effectiveness. So there's less experimentation with alternate formats such as text and audio.

      1. 1

        I agree, I think there definitely needs to be more experimentation with learning mediums to see which one is the most effective for a group of learners!

  4. 1

    Hey Paolo,

    In my opinion, the best course delivery format largely depends on the type of content, the audience, and their learning goals.

    As @aqui_c pointed out, some people don't want to consume everything in a course, but pick and choose what they need to learn. Videos aren't great for this, especially without a transcript.

    On the other hand, when the audience needs a lot of handholding and step-by-step guidance, videos do a much better job. This is also where group programs and bootcamps are more effective than self-paced courses.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback, I agree. The reson why I'm asking to pick only one format will be clearer when I will have updated the post to provide the context of my poll.

  5. 1

    Hi Paolo,

    The honest answer is: It depends.

    Learning coding in the past, I've always loved videos. I also prefer videos for courses on how to use certain software or tools.

    For most other things (business, marketing, strategy), I prefer to read & make notes.

    1. 1

      I see, thanks. In many cases, the learner's choice is a context-dependent continuum rather than a simple selection from a set. The reason for picking only one choice in my question will become clear when I'll update the post to share my motivations.

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