How To Estimate ELearning Development Time And Course Length

How To Estimate ELearning Development Time And Course LengthWhen putting together cost estimates and preparing project plans instructional designers and eLearning project managers often find it difficult to correctly estimate the length of the course and the amount of time it takes to develop one. While there is no exact formula that would help to make these estimates, most instructional designers believe that 50 slides or content screens equal 1 hour of eLearning, and a 10,000-word script is also equal to 1 hour of eLearning. Now that we have a better idea as to what constitutes 1 hour of training, let’s look at the number of hours needed to develop 1 hour of eLearning.  These estimates would differ depending on the complexity of the eLearning module. Obviously, basic eLearning that does not have much if any interactions will take less time to develop than complex courses that contain high-level interactions and games. Once the level of complexity has been determined instructional designers need to make a list of all the developmental tasks that need to be considered. Here are some of them:

  • Graphic and visual aids selection and editing – depending on the number of images that need to be located and edited, this task takes about 30 minutes per graphic. If you have at least one visual element on every screen, you can estimate about 25 hours for graphics
  • Storyboarding the course – It roughly takes about one working day or 8 hours to completely storyboard 15 minutes of e-Learning.
  • Building the course – between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours per page depending on the complexity of the course and the tool used to build it.  Obviously, if you use a  rapid e-Learning tool like Articulate, you will not need to dedicate as much time to building courses as you would if you use Flash or HTML5.
  • Audio capturing and editing between 5-8 hours for 1 hour of training
  • Video recording and editing – between 5-8 hours for 1 hour of training
  • Assessments design and development this again depends on the number of questions and the tool you use to build your quizzes, but just to be safe, I suggest allocating about 30 minutes per question.
  • Animations/interactions/activities development – this again depends on the tool you use and the number and complexity of interactions/animations. To get a better idea, I suggest using your own experience or consulting the person who will be developing these pieces for the course.

In addition to the development tasks outlined above when creating a project plan, instructional designers should allocate time for needs analysis, QA testing, SME and stakeholder reviews, and pilot testing of the course.

  • Zoe

    Great! This is really useful for structuring expectations and time. Thanks!

    May 21, 2014 at 5:27 pm
  • Deborah

    Thank you very much, Marina, for this breakdown. It is very helpful in estimating the time it takes to develop e-Learning.

    August 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm
  • I find it helpful to refer clients to these sources, especially if they think training development should take barely any time.

    October 22, 2014 at 10:11 am
  • Very informative and insightful.
    One query. When you say time for story boarding, how much detail do you intend to put on the storyboard. Can you share a sample story board or mail me one. Expecting the most detailed story board in this regard.


    December 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

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Instructional Design for ELearning program