Planning to develop an eLearning course? Then you’ll want to know how much time it will take. The answer: It depends. eLearning courses range in duration (how long it takes a typical learner to complete) as well as development hours.
Do you know how much time and effort your organization spends on a typical, 30-minute eLearning course build? Depending on the level of interactivity and custom engagement, your project infrastructure and more, developing a new course can take anywhere (truthfully), from 20 to 200 hours.
How long it’s taken me to build eLearning courses:
All other projects in between varied widely in development time too, based on these common factors:
Pro tip: The biggest mistake most organizations make is desiring a highly interactive course, but underestimating how long it takes to develop. Create your estimates on evidence-based resources such research from the Chapman Alliance. Be wary of internal teams or contractors that can promise you a complex course in a tighter timeline—chances are the project won’t be on time or budget, and might not be what you hoped for.
This is why I recommend starting with a small scoping project to test if your budget, project plan, or contractor-client relationship are aligned.
Hiring a consultant you’ve never worked with before is a big commitment. You want to be confident you’re getting the right Instructional Designer or Learning Consultant for the job and the best fit for your organization. That’s why I recommend asking your contractor to complete a scoping or small prototyping project first—it’s a great way to test the waters for both parties.
Some recent scoping examples:
I’ve had the chance to scope out small, medium and large-scale learning projects, ranging from a few hours of LMS administrator training for a non-profit group, to a company-wide data privacy training strategy for a national airline carrier. One all-employee eLearning program took 10 hours to scope and estimate, based on the amount of existing content available at the time. For a healthcare provider instructor-led coaching program, a few hours of scoping was adequate.
In each situation, prototyping or conducting a trial project was helpful for both me and the client to make more accurate estimates and feel confident about working together on a larger project plan.
What does a learning or training scoping project look like?
Typically, the scoping quotations I offer include the following:
Benefits of scoping projects for organizations:
Not sure if your timeline and estimates are realistic or how much your complete project might cost? Engage a learning strategist or instructional design contractor for a few hours to scope it out with (or for) you. It’s easier to secure a small budget for a scoping project or a prototype or draft learning build than for the entire project at once.
Consultants are well-versed at drafting proposals and estimating hours and effort. If you’re struggling with putting this together, or simply want to confirm your estimates with the person who may execute the project, ask the consultant to provide a quote
This not only gives you a chance to see how you and the consultant work together, but it gives both parties a chance to confirm the project plan before diving in.
Benefits of scoping projects for consultants
A trial project allows me to get to know the client and their content. For example, the degree of flexibility and responsiveness about a group can say a lot, and increase the enjoyment of working together too. As much as possible I choose clients that commit to predetermined turnaround times to provide their feedback so that my work isn’t held up.
After I’ve completed a scoping project, it’s often much faster to start on the actual work, because we’ve already confirmed the finer details of the contract language, payment, and communication channels and frequency, so we can just dive in.
Do you have a project that would benefit from a consultant’s perspective?
Learning consultants tend to hear these a lot:
We want an eLearning course.”
“I want a Storyline module.”
“We need you to build a quiz.”
“I want a video.”
“Can you do a webinar for us?”
I suspect that this is one of the top three pet peeves of all instructional designers out there: Many clients and businesses reach out to us asking for a specific deliverable. You've already decided on the learning delivery and format. If you’ve done this before, you were probably on the right track. You know your audience and your needs, and you’ve likely already conducted your own needs analysis or done some requirement gathering.
Often though, by asking for a specific delivery method, you may be selling yourself short. You may not be requesting the most appropriate learning to meet your objective. Instead, work with your learning consultant to explore whether better options exist. It’s their job to make recommendations.
Selecting the most appropriate delivery method for learning really depends on a variety of factors:
1. Needs analysis—what problem should the learning solve?
An important component of instructional designers’ work is a needs analysis. This consists of weighing the project goals, requirements, audience characteristics, and then recommending n the most effective delivery method.
Here are some of the questions I like to ask my clients before I recommend which learning deliverable will provide optimal outcomes:
At the end of the needs analysis phase, your instructional designer can recommend the delivery model that will be most effective for the audience, objectives, topic and existing platforms.
2. Learning tools inventory—what tools do you already have and use, and how relevant are they for delivering the learning?
Next, I take inventory of what tools and systems the organization I’m working with has at their disposal. This is especially important for blended learning requests. The project deliverable has to work within these, or the scope of the project needs to expand. For example, it doesn’t make sense to ask for an eLearning course (i.e., this usually means a SCORM file or Shareable Content Object Reference Model) without having a learning management system or learning experience platform to host, play, deliver and track SCORM-built learning.
In most cases, organizations already have excellent delivery tools and systems already in-house that learning consultants will leverage. For example, if your organization uses a video conferencing tool like GoToMeeting, Zoom or MeetMe, then you have a platform to deliver virtual instructor-led training like webinars or mini virtual coaching sessions.
3. Constraints—what’s your budget and when does the training have to be delivered?
Sometimes our best and most creative ideas are born in the most constrained and rigid settings. An experienced instructional designer will not only do a thorough needs analysis and look at your existing tools, they should also respect your budget and other logistical and operational requirements.
Working with subject matter experts from every department in the company might seem like a good idea until you crunch the numbers and realize that would negatively impact front-line resources.
Similarly, requesting a 5-day train-the-trainer program doesn’t make sense if the organization doesn’t have the travel budget or travel time to allocate for in-person training. Your learning consultant will take these things into consideration when recommending the delivery method that works best for your organization.
So, before you contact an eLearning consultant to “build a 15-slide eLearning course”, be open to working with them to select the best deliverable for your objective. It’s more effective to outline your goal and budget and let your consultant work within these parameters. Let us Instructional Designers recommend the deliverables that best match your training objectives and you’ll get more bang for your buck!
If you’re reading this post and want to hear more about some of the recommendations I’ve made for my clients, don't hesitate to get in touch!
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Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 16+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.