Custom eLearning – How long does it take and what should it cost?

TimeAndMoney

Time, cost, and resource considerations for creating custom eLearning

The amount of time and cost it takes to produce eLearning depends largely upon four major factors:

  • Quantity: The total size of the project including the number of screens, total audio run time, number of custom activities, number of graphics/animations, and other quantifiable items.
  • Complexity Level: the eLearning design complexity/quality level that is desired (Level 0 – Level 4)
  • Source Content: the completeness and accuracy of the source content (none, raw, design ready, and development ready)
  • Review/Revision Cycles: the number and nature of changes/design iterations that are requested along the way (low, moderate, or high)

For example, if you have complete and accurate source content based upon training that you have already developed (PowerPoint decks, instructor notes, student guides, Word documents, etc.), then less time will be required researching and writing this content and subsequently formatting it into production ready eLearning storyboards. Additionally, producing eLearning that simply displays bullet points with stock imagery results in lower complexity/quality than producing a media rich audio/visual interactive eLearning experience. Finally, eLearning development is a highly collaborative process. Therefore, the project sponsor (the person who approves the work and pays the bills) must communicate clearly and exactly what is desired from the beginning and work hard to keep the number of content and graphical design changes to a minimum.

The time and budget estimates below outline the approximate time and cost one should expect in order to develop 30 minutes of custom eLearning and based on the following assumptions:

  • Quantity: 30 minutes, 5 activities, 25 screens
  • Complexity Level: Level 3
  • Source Content: Design Ready
  • Review/Revision Cycles: Low (90%+ is approved 1st draft; changes approved upon 2nd draft)

Add time and budget for projects for which the source content is either raw or non-existent, that go beyond Level 3 in complexity,  and for projects for which your organization has a history of requesting multiple “review and redo” cycles. Reduce time for those projects for which content is fully development ready and requires little-to-no narration or storyboard development and/or that are lower than Level 3 complexity. To better understand how to interpret the charts below, please review the supporting information that follows. If you wish to fine tune estimates further still, see the eLearning Network(TM) Magic Matrix: eLearning Development Effort Worksheet.

Job Roles Required for eLearning Development Level

 Job Role

Level 0

 Level 1

Level 2

 Level 3

Level 4

eLearning Developer

x

x

x

x

x

eLearning Production Manager

x

x

x

x

eLearning Graphic Artist

x

x

x

x

Professional Voice Talent

x

x

x

x

eLearning Programmer

x

x

x

Multimedia Developer

x

Approximate Hours Required by Role for Each Development Level

Job Role

Level 0

Level 1

 Level 2

Level 3

 Level 4

eLearning Developer

30

40

60

70

60

eLearning Production Manager

15

20

40

60

eLearning Graphic Artist

10

25

70

70

Professional Voice Talent

5

10

20

30

eLearning Programmer

25

80

100

Multimedia Developer

80

Total Hours

30

70

140

280

400

Approximate Development Cost and Time for Each Level (if outsourcing)

Development Level Low Average High Time
Level 0 $1,950.00 $2,500 $3,120.00 1 week
Level 1 $4,550.00 $6,000 $7,280.00 2 weeks
Level 2 $9,100.00 $12,000 $14,560.00 4 weeks
Level 3 $18,200.00 $24,000 $29,120.00 6 weeks
Level 4 $26,000.00 $33,000 $41,600.00 8 weeks

Background information and terms:

  • Source Content: Source content includes all existing training material that may be used to create the eLearning course. Examples include PowerPoint decks, trainer notes, subject matter expert (SME) writings and lectures, and any other information that can be legally incorporated into a course (meaning you own or have licensed permission to use the content) .
  • Source Content Completeness: The completeness of source content can be grouped in to several categories – None | Raw Content | Design Ready | Development Ready
    • None: If no content exists at all, then a fair amount of time will be required to write learning objectives and research and write the training from scratch.
    • Raw Content: Raw content can be a collection of files that have no logical structure and no context as to how the content relates to what you want to teach. It is essentially a group of information upon which instructional design must be applied so that the content adheres to some semblance of a course structure and mapped to specific learning objectives.
    • Design Ready: Design ready content is information that is complete (meaning you have supporting information for all learning objectives you wish to cover) and written/formatted in such a way that any trainer or instructional designer can understand and organize into a production-ready storyboard. Content is logically organized, complete with no gaps in content, is accurate and approved by the project subject matter expert (SME), and is mapped at a high level to learning objectives.
    • Development Ready Content: Put simply, content that is development ready can be handed to an eLearning production team, from which the team can then produce all necessary elements (narrator audio script, graphics, illustrations/animations, quizzes, activities, etc.)  Ideally this content is delivered in a professional Storyboard format.

eLearning Production Complexity/Quality

You have no doubt experienced various levels of eLearning quality. From comparatively boring and uninteresting “page turning eReading” content to highly interactive and visually stimulating multimedia experiences, there are many different ways to approach the development process. For our purposes, we will break our estimates into 4 different eLearning levels:

  • Level 0 – Basic: The most simple and basic form of eLearning, this level includes bare essential training content. Either no audio is included or audio is limited to a non-professional voice talent using a USB headset or equivalent low-quality recording setup.
  • Level 1 – Rapid: Often deemed “Rapid eLearning”, this level includes audio narration to which on screen items (basic like text and stock images) are synchronized. Additionally, Level 1 courses typically include professional voice narration, and light custom graphic design.
  • Level 2 – Standard: Considered “Standard eLearning”, this level places greater emphasis on the role of graphic artist, who creates custom graphics and illustrations to really bring a course to life visually. Additionally, an eLearning Programmer is engaged to create custom activities that adhere to the overall course design aesthetic and are customized to the content. In other words – this level includes custom programmed activities rather than just relying on the default templates that may come with an eLearning authoring tool.
  • Level 3 – Deluxe: This level places even greater emphasis and adds additional labor in the areas of graphic artist and programmer. Courses at this level have all custom activities (little-to-no use of built-in templates). Additionally, courses at this level have a look and feel that is unique to the course, matches the organizations branding, and includes custom bullets, buttons, images, and other elements rather than relying on stock imagery. The additional time and effort applied by professional custom eLearning developers shows.
  • Level 4 – Premium: Courses at this level are multimedia rich experiences that include custom audio/visual movies (After Effects, Premiere, etc.) that are on par with commercial grade web marketing and advertising campaigns.  Additional human labor includes Adobe After Effects/Premiere professionals (or comparable software), eLearning designers who understand how to create complex branching scenarios and activities, and supported by advanced level eLearning programmers who can make it all work.

Job Roles

Developing high quality eLearning requires specialized people and skills. Because there are very few people in this world who can perform all of these roles at a highly professional level, most eLearning projects require a team of professionals rather than a “one-man-band” approach.

  • eLearning Developer: This role is responsible for developing (authoring) the final eLearning course. This includes inserting the audio, synchronizing the audio to the on screen visuals, ensuring visuals are in their proper locations on the screen, creating the quiz, and publishing the course. This role generally can handle producing a Level 0 course with little-to-no support from other roles.
  • eLearning Production Manager: This role is necessary once it becomes evident that a project requires more than one person and is responsible for ensuring that everyone works effectively together to achieve success.  This role can be performed by the eLearning Developer or can be a separate person altogether. Regardless, time must be allocated to performing this function for any project that involves more than one role.
  • eLearning Graphic Artist: More than just a graphic designer, a graphic artist is capable of producing high quality custom graphics that are visually appealing and that effectively reinforce the training material. This role generally uses tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and more in order to create visual designs that are layered and add depth and character to the course. This role may also include 3D artists and other graphic art specializations.
  • Professional Voice Artist: A professional voice artist generally records audio in their own home based or rented professional sound studio. High quality audio is essential to producing great eLearning and makes a world of difference when compared to amateurish and scratchy audio recorded by a novice person using a low quality PC-connected headset or equivalent.
  • eLearning Programmer: Whether coding courses by hand or using authoring tools like Captivate or Storyline, eLearning Programmers have the knowledge and skill necessary to create complex custom activities by leveraging every feature and function at their disposal. An eLearning Developer can use the basic authoring tool features, while eLearning Programmers can produce much more complex activities using built-in features as well as custom JavaScript and other coding techniques.
  • Multimedia Developer: For a premium course experience, we recommend adding a multimedia developer who is experienced at creating commercial-grade advertising, marketing, documentary, and other high quality and impressive multimedia. These are the people who know how to create the types of graphics you may see during the Super Bowl, on network news casts, and other broadcast media.

 

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