How Long Does It Take Instructional Designers to Create One Hour of Learning?

In an age of YouTube, where 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, course creation shouldn’t be too difficult or time-consuming, right?

Instructional Designers and development teams always identify the single biggest resource constraint for creating learning:  time.  Much has been written about how to estimate the hours needed to create quality courses. Several factors include:

  • Organizational needs
  • Deadlines imposed by managers and departments
  • Instructional design models
  • Complexity of the content
  • Level of interactivity required
  • Starting skill level of the employee
  • Types of media
  • Types of evaluations, tests and assessments
  • Hardware/device compatibility
  • Delivery methods

Several years ago, the Association for Talent Development sought to quantify the time needed to develop one hour of training content. The survey reviewed the key factors that can cause delays and contribute to the famous “it depends” answer. 

To develop a single hour of training, instructor-led training required 40 to 49 hours, yet e-learning modules required 73 to 154 hours. The jump in time needed might not seem likely, especially with LMS’s and templates at a corporate learning and development team’s fingertips. However, the extra time is most likely needed to create highly specialized training that is engaging and interactive. In instructor-led training, the engagement is simply handled by the instructor during the class.

In another study, consulting firm Chapman Alliance sought to quantify not only the hours needed to develop one hour of training content, but also the average dollar amount invested. From data collected from nearly 250 organizations and 4,000 corporate learning and development professionals, the firm uncovered findings similar to that of the ATD:  fewer hours were needed to develop instructor-led training courses than e-learning.

How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? from Chapman Alliance

And Chapman partitioned e-learning into three levels, Basic, Interactive and Advanced. At its most Basic level, 49 hours are required to develop one hour of e-learning utilizing static PowerPoint slides or authoring tools. At the most Advanced level, employing complex projects, advanced learning simulations and games, and extensive media production, an eye-popping 716 hours could required to develop a single hour of e-learning.

Translated to dollar amounts, it costs an organization $5,934 to develop one hour of instructor-led training, and as much as $50,371 to develop one hour of advanced e-learning.  This is a huge discrepancy!

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