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ATD Blog

Ask a Trainer: Estimating E-Learning Development Time

Tuesday, February 9, 2021
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Hi Tim,

I work as an e-learning developer at my company, and recently our director asked me to provide an estimate for long it takes to design and develop 20 minutes worth of e-learning content. I’ve done some preliminary research online, but I seem to find a lot of conflicting information.

I’ll cut straight to it: How can I estimate how long it takes to develop e-learning?



Oh gosh. This is one of those questions I get all the time, and I always feel a little bad when I have to give one of my “nonanswers.” Usually, this question gets asked by corporate learning executives (as you described) desperately trying to timebox and budget for the time it takes their teams to build a course and get on to the next one. And, yes, it’s a valid question, and if you do some Googling, you’ll find all sorts of interesting studies, research, and articles on the topic. However, there’s rarely an accurate solution.

Here’s the thing—how long it takes to develop an e-learning course (or any learning) depends on the unique variables you’re currently facing:

  • How complex is the content, and how much of it are you including?
  • How much interactivity are you building into your course?
  • Are you using stock graphics or custom graphics?
  • Will there be audio narration, or will it be a text-based course?
  • What tools are you using to develop the course, and what’s your expertise with these tools?
  • How many people need to review the course, how long will it take them to provide feedback, and how much feedback will they provide?

The questions listed above barely scratch the surface of the number of variables that can affect development time. So, what do you do?

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This is where my nonanswer comes into play. Only you can say how long it will take you to develop a piece of training. You need to consider each of the variables I mentioned and make your best guestimate according to what you think. Over time you’ll get a better sense of how much time you need for a given project. It’s not a perfect science. You can also check out this ATD blog post for more data on how long it takes professionals in the field to develop training.

I hope that gives you something to noodle on!

Tim

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What other tips do you have for designing training for estimating e-learning development time? Share them by commenting below.


Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected] Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all your questions and my answers.



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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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