Best Techniques For Accurately Estimating eLearning Development Time And Course Length
“How long will it take to develop this eLearning course module? What will be its exact length?”
These are the two major questions that the eLearning course designers and managers often struggle to answer correctly.
As an instructional designer, it is of prime importance that you correctly estimate the length of your course and the amount of time required to develop it. After all, these are the two elements that play a huge role in deciding the costs and other project plans of the eLearning module.
Sorting out the course content, the graphics, and the audio/visual elements you will be incorporating in your eLearning deliverable is still easy. But estimating how much time you’ll require to get all of this done can be a fairly challenging task.
And to help you out, I’ve created this article that will walk you through the best way of estimating the effort and time required for developing an online study module. So, let’s get going!
1. Select a Benchmark
Before you start brainstorming the various aspects of your instructional design and calculating the time required for each of them, it’s important to have a certain benchmark in place.
A benchmark ensures that you always have a standard point of reference against which you can compare your own estimates. It also acts as a solid source that you can refer to your clients. A popular and widely used benchmark is Bryan Chapman’s Research (which is going to be our reference for the entirety of this article). It has detailed data that is broken down into easily understandable chunks of information.
So, take a benchmark into consideration before you sit down and start estimating the eLearning development time of your course.
2. Consider the Course Complexity
After you have a benchmark in place, it’s time to take a look at the complexity of the eLearning course you are designing. The course complexity will have a huge impact on estimating the development time to create it. Shaping a small and relatively simple eLearning course takes less time.
On the other hand, a larger learning program with multiple elements like videos, graphics, interactive exercises, etc will take much longer to come into its final form. If we go by Chapman’s research, an interactive eLearning course like this has a development of 184:1. Meaning, 1 hour of the eLearning lesson will take a total of 184 hours to develop.
3. Evaluate the Asynchronous & Synchronous Components
When you’re estimating the eLearning development time, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate both the asynchronous and synchronous components. While asynchronous elements like pre-recorded videos, voice notes, graphics, etc., are easier to implement, creating modules for in-person or live online classes is a more complicated process.
Creating a synchronous eLearning course structure will not only add another layer of complexity but will also require more time for development. Hence, the estimated cost and time will be higher for it.
4. Assess Your Audience and Their Requirements
One of the major factors that often gets overlooked while estimating eLearning development time is your audience. We often talk about instructional design, graphics, storyboarding, etc, but, the type of your audience also plays a huge role in estimating the length and duration of the eLearning program.
Like, for instance, if the course you are constructing is meant for a global audience, it’ll mean that you have to spend time creating translations, or maybe captions for visual elements. Also, take into account the cultural tweaks that you are going to make to suit a global audience.
Additionally, the prior knowledge of your audience also plays a role in determining the length and required development time of your lesson. For example, if you are designing an introductory course, where the learner has encountered the subject matter for the first time, it would take longer for you to explain the key terms and concepts. So naturally, the time and effort required for it will be more.
Whereas if you are creating a refresher course, where the audience is already familiar with most of the stuff, the explanation required will be comparatively less. And so will be development time and the course length.
5. Course Analysis, Design, & Storyboarding
According to Chapman’s research, to develop one hour of a level 2 eLearning course (that is, a course having multiple interactive components like videos, engaging exercises, quizzes, etc.) you will need:
- Around 17 hours for front-end analysis.
- Near about 25 hours for instructional design.
- And almost 21 hours for storyboarding.
6. Graphic, Video, and Audio Production
Graphics, audio, and video are one of the most important parts of an eLearning lesson plan. They not only make the module more enriching but also help a lot in retaining the learner’s attention.
A course with a significant amount of images, graphics, and audio-visual elements will naturally be larger in length and require more development time.
To develop one hour of such a course, as per Chapman’s research, will need:
- Almost 22 hours for graphic production to fulfill the need of one hour of an eLearning program.
- More than 11 hours for video production.
- And, around 11.5 hours for audio production.
7. Don’t Forget to Include QA Testing
QA testing is a major part of your online course development process. So while you’re estimating the eLearning development time for your client’s project, don’t forget to include the time required for QA testing.
Normally, the time needed for the QA testing of an eLearning course takes anywhere around 2-3 times the length of the entire course. However, the exact amount of time required will greatly depend on the complexity of your module.
8. Review of The Subject Matter Expert
The review of SMEs and stakeholders are incredibly important in the development process of your eLearning course. So, it is important to allocate a sufficient amount of time for this as well.
9. Project Management and Pilot Testing
Finally, after all of the above-mentioned parts, it’s time to consider the project management and pilot testing procedure.
While the exact amount of time required for project management will vary from one project to the other, it generally takes around 6% of the total time needed for developing the complete eLearning course.
Pilot testing of the module is yet an extremely crucial part of the designing process and requires around 4% of the total course development time.
10. Remember To Include Buffer Time for Unexpected Delays
Things don’t always go according to the plan, do they? Encountering unexpected delays and issues is a natural part of every development process.
So while you are estimating the time for developing your eLearning module, don’t forget to include some extra hours as a buffer. This ensures you have plenty of time in your hands to bring it back on track should things go south.
So there you go! These are our top techniques for perfectly estimating the eLearning development time of your course. Use them in your projects and you won’t have to struggle anymore while answering, “how long will it take to develop this eLearning course module?”
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