How long should it take?

May 02, 2013

I think this is the right place for this:

I am new to Articulate, and new to building on line courses,  I'm actually a  nurse recently hired to Department of Education to help with the roll out of the new EHR.  I ended up creating how-to videos with screen recordings and now I'm creating quizes in articulate to go with the videos (cutting and pasting the screen recordings  into an Articulate presentation and adding the quizzes - teaching myself how to do it as I go along.)

Anyway, here's my question:  is there some rule of thumb as to how long the process should take?  I see there is a real mix of folks out there in the Articulate Community with a mix of kinds of employment.   I'm interested to hear your experiences. 


26 Replies
Eric Nalian

Hey Lauren,

Welcome to the Forums

What I found when creating my courses - everything from meeting with SME's all the way through adding the course to my LMS it takes anywhere between 30-60 minutes for every 1 minute of the course.  That includes:

  • Meeting with SME
  • Design/development of course
  • Writing script
  • Finding/editing graphics
  • Creating SL Interactions
  • Recording Audio
  • Updates after SME review
  • Posting to LMS

Hope this helps!


Jesse Kailahi


Sorry to piggy back this post, but what about developing without a SME? I use Articulate Storyline. Like many others, I'm the sole developer (from design to delivery) and LMS manager, which is time consuming enough, but I also generate the original content/outline from whatever project I have been given with no guidance from a SME (this equates to additional research time). Projects are usually based on corporate policies of some type, but I have recently released process and procedural training for industry specific jobs. I also produce the programs for both English and Spanish users and use a lot of interactive components. I'm on a single 15-20 minute program per month schedule...

Using this Time to Develop Training chart by ASTD, I estimate my final development time at... 3.1+ hours per training minute based on the fact that I generally don't re-use templates and my courses have moderate interactivity (video, flash, simulations, role playing, animations, and sometimes games). This is triple what everyone here has said! I have used Articulate studio for 1 year and Storyline for 1 year and consider myself on expert in both (as well as proficient in all other areas of graphic design and LMS managment).

Any thoughts? Do I need to re-evaluate my timelines?

Kimberly Read

So far I've worked in financial services, credit card services and the healthcare industries. I have over 13 year experience. My project timelines vary widely, depending on whether a needs analysis was necessary (for example, if the project stakeholder doesn't know what the content of the training should be), the complexity of the material, number of SMEs to coordinate and get through review, the learning level the audience was at vs. where they needed to be, the level of interactivity the project group wanted (as Jesse mentioned), the amount of material I was given to work with versus what I needed to write myself, etc.
I would say that Jesse's ASTD guideline is probably closer to my average, and particularly with my work in healthcare.

Jack Konrath

In my business we do a lot of 30-45 minute interactive technical training modules. Module architecture is set by the "Online University" venue, but generally consists of 5 or 6 sections with each section followed by a quiz.  Each module project begins with objective setting, planning and mind mapping done with the SMEs & client stakeholders followed by an  SME data dump. Subsequent interaction with the SMEs occurs at each milestone, often resulting in (limited) edits and reiteration. We generally budget 160 total implementation hours per module. Actual implementation time takes longer due to client sign-off delays at the end of each activity. In 8 years the implementation time hasn't deviated more than +/- 20 hours on any given project.

Raye Shilen

Welcome, Laruen! 

Given the content of your question, I imagine you might be hearing the same phrase I've heard so many times since starting in this business, "That shouldn't take too long, should it?" In my experience, those who have no experience in this area don't realize exactly how long it DOES take. 

Working for a state agency, I've had to develop a system for quick turnaround on products--especially recorded webinars. One of the biggest time savers was developing a template presentation that I could "drop in" anywhere from 1-8 segments of video clips. In that case, the bulk of my time for those kinds of projects goes toward video/audio editing and quiz creation. Much like Kimberly said above, the time it takes depends on the kind of product you're developing. However, one thing you can count on is that you'll get faster with practice. 

Also, one piece of advice from a self-taught Storyliner, try to enroll in one of the Articulate trainings if you can ( The tutorials and the forums are very helpful, but you will benefit so much from the hands-on practice that these trainings provide.  Good luck! 

Meridith Litton

Sorry to disagree with some of you,  but 30 to 60 minutes per 1 minute of course is just too short; for a 15 minute course, it's only taking 2 working days to create the PPT, add the animation, write and record the narration, and get approvals?  I would definitely agree with Jesse at 3 hours per 1 minute of course; for a 15 minute course, about 1 to 1 1/2 weeks, and with Jack at 1 month per 45 minute course.

You also need to factor into the time it takes to create the course all of the non-course working time that occurs during the day; phone calls, email, meetings not specific to the course, coffee breaks, etc., etc., etc.

Phil Mayor

Lloyd Dennington said:

Sorry to disagree with some of you,  but 30 to 60 minutes per 1 minute of course is just too short; for a 15 minute course, it's only taking 2 working days to create the PPT, add the animation, write and record the narration, and get approvals?  I would definitely agree with Jesse at 3 hours per 1 minute of course; for a 15 minute course, about 1 to 1 1/2 weeks, and with Jack at 1 month per 45 minute course.

You also need to factor into the time it takes to create the course all of the non-course working time that occurs during the day; phone calls, email, meetings not specific to the course, coffee breaks, etc., etc., etc.

All of the courses I develop are SME led (I am not the SME).  The last courses I have built and time to develop:

Duration 45 minutes, == 50 hours development time

Duration 50 minutes == 49.5 hours

Duration 20 minutes == 8 Hours 9No audio in this course)

10 minutes == 6.5 hours

The great thing about being a freelancer and being paid an hourly rate to develop a course is that I have detailed records of how long courses take to develop.  Also to be competitive when pricing work for clients I need to be accurate, 1 so I get the work and 2 so I am not underpaid.

I think we have two different strands here, those who develop courses for clients and those who develop their own courses, it is likely the second group will take longer.

Bruce Graham

Lloyd Dennington said:

You also need to factor into the time it takes to create the course all of the non-course working time that occurs during the day; phone calls, email, meetings not specific to the course, coffee breaks, etc., etc., etc.

I suspect if you kept minute-by-minute records of exactly how long you take on these, and subtracted from your "work" total that the ratio would drop considerably! People often underestimate this.

Typically, when I was working in "corporate land", a "days work" on a project often took 3 working days to produce. As a freelancer I often start at 0700 (or earlier) finish at 2200hrs (or later), grab meals on the fly, work weekends, so the metrics are completely different.

This is always a difficult question, however, if I worked at the rates suggested in some of the posts I see around the place I would never be hired again....

I have one current project where at least 4 days of the budget will be taken up with review meetings, but each of those is probably only 3 hours long - because my travel time is being factored in as well. While I am travelling, I will most likely be working, but it may be for a different client. One course may be totally based on animations, and only be 20-minutes long, which will take considerably longer than a 30-minute point and click where I can create the v/o in virtually 1 take.

It very quickly gets complicated to answer the question accurately.


Holly MacDonald

Hi Lauren

While the whole question is a  bit of an art/science challenge, it is important to remember a few project management terms as you consider it.

1. effort vs duration - effort is the time it takes to do the task, duration is the time it takes for the task to be done. It may take you 3 hours of worth of work to do something, but you do 1 hour this week, and 2 hours next week so the duration of the task is 2 weeks, but it is only 3 hours of work. Phil is right that we may be comparing apples and oranges with our estimates.

2. the project triangle - often in the world of project management we are forced to choose two out of three variables: time, resources, scope. If the scope of the project is tantamount, then the deadline is not fixed and you should be able to add resources to it to meet the goal. If time is critical you either need to reduce scope or increase resources. Make sense?

3. if you have a good estimate at the task level, try the Pert formula method:

Here's a pretty detailed list of estimating techniques to consider:

I know you are looking for more information of what it takes others to do the work, just remember that you are also asking people who have different levels of expertise. Eg Phil is a "master" and you are a novice, you'd need to also take his estimates and add time. 

The last thing to consider is confidence with estimates. If you are not super confident, you need to add a +/- to your estimating. As in I think it will take 50 hours +/- 20%. 

I hope this helps


lauren cuttler

Thank you everyone for your replies.  It's been EXTREMELY helpful on so many levels.  It's helped me practically:  knowing what to consider in estimating time and just as importantly it's helped me "emotionally" - I don't  feel quite so so crazy or incompetent  that  everyting was taking so long!!  Again, thanks.

Fiona  Telford-Sharp

Hi Lauren,

my situation's probably a bit similar to yours. I'm a former high school teacher who moved into community health education a decade ago. I've had experience developing very visual learning activities such as cartoon scenarios and self-made video clips for staff training, and using various online tools, and then making all of that available online for regional staff.

We bought Storyline just before Christmas, and I've been working on two courses which were to be ready this month (Some of the content in them is identical, some has the same visual appearance but different text, and some parts are completely different). I was really interested to try and work out exactly how much time I've spent on the courses.

My estimate is that I have spent 320 hours on the two of them. If you'd like to have a look and see how much interactivity are in them/ how long they are, I'm happy to send you a link but don't want to post it publically.

Having said that, I thought I was finshed but there are all sorts of bits and pieces I am still working on like additional references that our medical director wants added in, a letter for our clients detailing the technical requirements and other instructions to access the course, ie things I hadn't factored in.

Vanessa Rodriguez

For the highly involved and interactive courses I develop (I'm talking more than just a hotspot or a drag and drop scenario), it can take me close to 6-7 hours per 1 minute of instruction and that's just for design and development. It's not taking into account the SME and learner analysis.

To provide context, I design all the graphics, motion graphics, activities, etc.

Darren McNeill


Development to Output is faster once there is good preparation done.

I do Discovery calls first and then determine who the SME is. Once I know the SME I spend time with them going over their Material (or non material), I set expectations then. I often get them to "teach" me the course so I can get a feel for what they are trying to say.

I do not like SME's, who are going to record Audio or Video for example from PPTs, to turn up and tell me, "I have most of the slides, but I will tell you which ones I need to update or edit as I get to them". They need to be fully prepared with their content and scripts, and also well practiced in their scripts before "Recording Day". Over time the SME's I work with are familiar with this and tend to come prepared now. It means a cleaner and less stressful time for all.

For Elearning Modules the Graphics tends to be ideas or placeholders and so time may be required to develop good graphics and images to enhance the experience. The last thing I want is the module to look like a PPT with clip art. I would like to think we have moved on from that :)

Most SME's are unfamiliar with Graphics, Instructional Design or development theories so time needs to be spent explaining the basics so they also understand what you are going to do and why. Constant communication is vital. You want to get what is in their heads out and into a finished module.

 My motto with the SME tends to be " you do not want to create more questions than you are trying to answer"

So although having a rough estimate of time is important, it can be case by case as to the final time required. I have often created longer modules quicker than shorter courses, as again, preparation is the key.

Dave Goodman

Has anyone compared the stats from (left panel "How long should..." and the ATD? There seems to be a wide variance. There are two very different worlds between an in-house designer/developer and an external consultant. We need to keep the differences in mind when we share hours. Also, doing a PPT or Rise course is not a normal interactive, Level 1effort. A Level 2 or 3 course would be at least twice the number of hours stated in the ATD study.

Tony Holguin

I am the lead Instructional Designer at our company and we do things a little differently when designing our courses. We don't have an SME since our courses are product based training (as in we train employees/customers on how to use complex VoIP telephones and other equipment) but there is some heavy Adobe, Camtasia and other video based work we put into our courses. Since our courses have a lot of call outs (or highlighting of certain buttons or actions), we've decided NOT to animate heavily in Articulate but rather to create MP4s of what we want to show and import those MP4s into each individual slide. There is just to many elements to keep track of while attempting to animate them in the Articulate timeline.

That said, I'll walk you through what our process entails:

Emails and meetings with client, etc...: (+/-3 hours)
Developing a Script and validation with the device(s): (+/- 2 hours)
Building the Articulate file (Adding the scenes, slides, text, images, and animations): (+/- 2 hours)
Photoshop (or imagery manipulation): (+/- 8 to 16 hours)
Video work and syncing audio narration: (+/-16 to 48 hours, depending on the amount of videos per course. Ex. 16 hrs = 20 videos)
Importing final videos into Articulate file and checking final player settings: (+/- 1 hour)
Internal Quality Check: (+/- 3 hours)
Delivering and uploading course to client: (+/- 3 hours)

Total time before it goes to client: +/- 38 to 78 hours until completion.

That's an average of 38 hours for our most basic 10 minute course which has about 20 slides. Hope this helps.