It is fair to say that e-learning design and development is closer to art than to science and it is hard to measure what exactly it takes to develop an interesting, successful and rewarding course. Nevertheless, the process still needs to be timed and budgeted and therefore questions like: How long does it take? or How much does it cost? need a concrete answer.

As an e-learning expert you are aware that you cannot give a straightforward answer to those questions as it depends on the type of learning, the content, the elements it has like multimedia, animation or video, the level of expertise of all the people involved and many other factors.

Thanks to the research carried out by Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice for ATD (Association for Talent Development) and the one conducted by Bryan Chapman for The Chapman Alliance we can find answers to the following questions. Despite the fact that both surveys were carried out a few years ago the data contained in them is still reliable and can be used for a basis when determining the time and cost of an e-learning module.

How Long Does it Take to Create One Hour of E-Learning?

One hour of e-learning doesn’t sound like a long time so people who are not familiar with the overall process can easily assume that it won’t take much in order to develop it.

The truth, however, is much different. The research study of Bryan Chapman involving 249 organizations indicates that in 2010 the development of instructor-led training (ILT) took anywhere between 22 to 82 hours for 1 hour of training depending on the content, elements and complexity of the course. The development of an e-learning course, however, took much more time.

Chapman has divided the courses into three tiers – Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 and also defined three types of scope – low range, average and high range. The time to develop a one-hour course for the three ranges of Level 1 is respectively 49, 79 and 125 hours. The time to develop a one-hour e-learning module for Level 2 ranges is respectively 127, 184 and 267, while for Level 3 it stands at 217, 490 and 716 with some respondents even quoting more than 2,000 hours of work per one hour of finished product.

The survey of Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice differentiates between e-learning developed with and without a template, 3 types of difficulty of the course depending on the elements it contains (animation, interactivity, etc.) and uses two levels – low hours and high hours. The ratio for an e-learning course developed without a template is 93/1 for a text-only course for low hours and 152/1 for high hours. The other two levels are as follows: 122/1 for moderate difficulty for low hours and 186/1 for high hours and 154/1 for high difficulty for low hours and 243/1 for high hours.

The ratios for an e-learning course developed with a template are the following:

  • Limited interactivity; no animations (using software such as Lectora, Captivate, ToolBook, TrainerSoft) – 118/1 for low hours and 365/1 for high hours;
  • Moderate interactivity; limited animations (using software such as Lectora, Captivate, ToolBook, TrainerSoft) – 90/1 for low hours and 240/1 for high hours;
  • High interactivity; multiple animations (using software such as Lectora, Captivate, ToolBook, TrainerSoft)- 136/1 for low hours and 324/1 for high hours;
  • Limited interactivity; no animations (using software such as Articulate) – 73/1 for low hours and 116/1 for high hours;
  • Moderate interactivity; limited animations (using software such as Articulate) – 97/1 for low hours and 154/1 for high hours;
  • High interactivity; multiple animations (using software such as Articulate) – 132/1 for low hours and 214/1 for high hours.

It is obvious that e-learning creation is a time-consuming job, especially when you want it done properly and therefore planning the training course for a company should start early.

What Factors Prolong the Process?

Time-consuming as it is, e-learning development can be further delayed by several factors, such as:

  • Poor time management and lack of responsibility by the client – this includes untimely provision of materials, delay in the review of elements that are already made, unavailability of the project coordinator, etc.;
  • Organizational changes that may occur both in the contracting company and in the company developing the course;
  • Issues with technology – lack of knowledge how to work with the e-learning software tools or incompatible technology used by the developers and the client, etc.

How can we reduce the time? The answer to this question is simple – by improving the communication between the parties. As e-learning experts you have to spend time orientating the client about the process and help them set realistic expectations in terms of time, conditions and costs.

How Much Does One Hour of E-Learning Cost?

Here comes the answer to the most important question – how much will the e-learning course cost? The promised answer is given again in the survey conducted by Bryan Chapman and depends on the level of difficulty of the respective course. Bear in mind that the figures relate to the year of 2010.

  • The average cost per 1 hour of Level 1 e-learning course is $10,054
  • The average cost per 1 hour of Level 2 e-learning course is $18,583
  • The average cost per 1 hour of Level 3 e-learning course is $50,371

Obviously, if you strive for perfection and want to deliver a high-quality e-learning course, you should be ready to pay the price.

TIP: Outsource your Corporate E-Learning Development

There are many reasons why outsourcing corporate e-learning is a smart move, especially when you find the right e-learning partner. The most important of all are:

  • It is cost efficient
  • It is time-saving
  • You can rely on the knowledge of e-learning experts
  • It makes e-learning localization easier
  • It entails higher employee engagement and productivity

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