How many courses can one developer can create per quarter?

Nov 14, 2011

Big broad question here, I know.  I’m developing a training program of roughly 50 courses and I'm trying to estimate manpower requirements and timelines.  The $64,000 question is how many CBT’s one internal developer can create per quarter, and I’d love to get the community's thoughts on this.  Assuming the following factors, how many e-learning courses do you think a person ought to be able to produce per quarter?  Assume the following:

  • The target audience is retail sales associates
  • The content could be non-technical Product Knowledge, or it could be selling methods (mostly informational, interactive, but not real heavy on simulation)
  • 20 Minutes of learning time per module
  • The content will come from a  subject matter expert within the company who is not the course developer
  • The courses will be built in Articulate, and should be well designed and interactive, with quizzes.
  • There is a thorough cross-functional review process that will add some time
  • For each course, the developer will also have to produce a Facilitators Guide that will guide a facilitator through a live interactive group delivery of the CBT.

 I'm sure there are a million and one other important variables here, but  hopefully this gives us a start.  I really appreciate your feedback!

27 Replies
Phil Mayor

Depends how many hours I work!

20 minutes good quality approx  20 hours work, between 2-5 a week from scratch (I have done a 20 minute module today in 3 hours but it reused a lot of resources)

Last quarter I did 12 20 minute modules

One thing to factor in is changing previous module drafts which takes time, its a bit like compound interest on your credit card.

Ist quarter you develop 20 modules next quarter, 10 because you are editing the previous quarters output as well, third quarter none because you have quarter 1 and 2 to update (worst case scenario!)

Natalia Mueller

I don't know if anyone else wants to answer after that (but that's awesome, Phil!) I've never seen anyone develop more than one a week, including myself. If the script is already written and the course needs to be interactive with everything built from scratch, including recording,editing and syncing audio, creating quizzes, testing published product and re-publishing a few times - one a 40 hr work week is my average. 

Zara Ogden

When asked this I always indicate that I can develop, usually, whatever you want in the time you request.

The issue becomes 2 fold...

1. Who is the SME and how available are they to approve content

2. What quality do you want it to be.

The biggest issue in our org is that the political red tape will create massive and annoying delays.

David Anderson

I think it would also help to see a sample or two of expected course designs. Bryan Chapman's report is one that gets referenced a lot. But without seeing the starting materials and final output, we all have a slightly different idea of what's possible.

In one place I worked, we had a model that, once the script was completed, we could build out 40-60 slides in a day or two. The model was simple: Text w/bullets on left, syncing audio animation and 1-2 images fading in/out on the right.

Oh, if you get a chance, ask Tom about the 140+ courses he built in a year

Heather Young


Although there are many ways to look at it, completing the 20-30 minute presentation depends on a number of things ... including those that Natalia and Zara mention previously.  there are some other things to consider though:

  • What level of completeness is required (60-80% or 100%)?
  • Are there audio and narration requirements, and if so, are these outsourced to professional narrators?
  • Are you including SME/client review and feedback to this or is it just the initial prototype?
  • What is the graphics requirement and are you completing these or a GA?

I am both an ISD and PM, so I have a "template" plan I use when projecting how long an item will take from start to finish, but modify it as needed to the actual client and deliverable ... I'd be happy to share for those of you who use MS Project, or can post in .pdf

Good luck!  These boards are great for learning/sharing!

Anne Goldenberger

Heather, add me to your list!  Thanks!

I have a very hard time estimating time on projects, since I am involved in so many different aspects of the projects.  Once I meet with the business sponsor and get an idea of what they are providing me, and how much of the work I need to do (writing, graphics, etc.), then I can estimate much better.   But I wear a lot of hats around here , so it always depends what else is happening.

I'm probably closer to Natalia's average time, but I almost never get a project that is completely written.

Heather Young
Not a problem at all!  I'm more than happy to share information and have provided my base template (in Excel for you and MS Project) for you here   I hope it is of good use to you! 
Based upon the project itself, the levels of complexity, external narrators, client reviews and particulars there; all durations can be updated ... but I've found this is my BASE that I work from.
Please note that I use a team of the following personnel in nearly all my projects:
Instructional Designer
Content Developer/Subject Matter Expert (sometimes outsourced)
Graphic Artist
Technical Editor (sometimes outsourced)
Narrator (outsourced)
I hope it is of good use to you! 
Pam Jones

Hi - I follow a very similar process to the one Heather has posted. I think it depends on lots of factors (mentioned above) for the project including: 

how much of the content needs writing, creating etc from scratch and

how helpful/involved the SME(s) are/is.

How many reviews need to take place etc.

Complexity of the multimedia to be used - simple pages take less time; advanced pages will take longer if including video/animation/simualtions etc

For one project I did 3 per quarter and another 2 per month. Difficult to come with hard and fast number and it will vary from project to project.

Good discussion though so thanks for starting it


margot wenko

I agree with everything said.  We often have to develop multiple products within a tight timeframe.  The biggest problem we encounter is waiting while SMEs provide and/or review the curriculum/work.  I can create a good 20 minute course totally from scratch myself (with no SME) in a couple days - and sometimes in a couple hours.  But when you must rely on SMEs to provide content and review - that time can be increased dramatically. My best suggestion is to multi-task and be working on several of the projects at the same time so that if you get stuck waiting for an SME you can pick up another one and work on it.

Cris smith

Man, am I glad you all agree that it's based on what the needs of teh learners are. I've developed 20 minute modules that took me one day by re-using a lot of material and developed other 5 minute projects that took me 3 weeks. as a beginer, I'm glad I have a community like this one to let me know where my skills should be

Bruce Graham

Great question, however, there's a million factors - remember, it does not all depend on you.

For example, it could vary depending on your client review cycle, whether they change things after seeing your prototype, or after QA1, or whether they voiceover gets changed, or whether they realise it will not actually work on their LMS at deployment (yes - it has happened to me before....), or whether the SME they get to do the "last QA" decides to add their tuppenth worth and you need to re-work all over again.

It also depends on how many hours you work - I (on everage) do 40 hours a week for one client, and the others get a share of the other 30 hours, so I can get quite a lot of courses done over a quarter

Are you going to add voiceovers, and if so, how different are they from the course "Notes", (if you have any.

I could go on - but the only real way, given the specifics you have is to start, do a month, and see what happens!

Good luck, oh, and for HEAVEN'S sake make sure that you know exactly how you you will track your work, and project manage the whole thing as you go along. At one point I was working on around 15 courses at once, and it all got a bit scary for a while!


Gina Hoekstra

I have only been doing this for about a year now and I am a one woman team. I do everything from the storyboard, the PowerPoint buildout / mockup and then I transfer everything to Captivate (can't wait to get my hands on an Articulate License). I also have to do the script (usually without an SME...MAYBE I have an old powerpoint course to work from) and the narration as well as build the quizes as part of the Captivate course or through the LMS. Most of the courses I have built thus far have been either HR related (my main background) or Safety related using old in person bullet point style PowerPoint trainings that I have had to rework into a course. On top of that, I manage our LMS and keep the Active Directory up to date.

The fastest I did a 20-30 minute course was in just under two weeks and the slowest is about 5-6 weeks. My courses always include what I like to be graphically pleasing and have a lot of interactivty (branching scenarios, rollovers, click areas etc.).

Randy Rowley

Holy cow, Gina! I'll bet your courses are the best out there. But most of us (okay, speaking at least for myself) don't have the luxury of time, so need to follow a strict template - more similar to what David Anderson described. That's exactly what I do because I'm faced with having to create 30-40 lessons per quarter solo. In my previous job, I led a small team that produced hundreds of lessons per quarter.

Getting back to Jim Young's original question, you can produce 30-40 lessons designed using a strict template, or just two or three that are completely unique and interactive. Of the hundreds of lessons I've produced, almost universally my clients demand quantity over quality. I'll usually ask a question such as, "Would you like three amazingly interactive, graphically intense and engaging lessons, or would you prefer 30 lessons that just get the information out?" Corporate clients generally just like getting the information out. I'm not saying that's my preferred solution, but it's the one they typically prefer and they're the ones signing my paycheck. The important thing is that they know going into it what the expectations are and that they can't have both worlds.

Jim, if you're still around, thank you for your post! I'm a new member of the forum and have already learned a ton from all the responses.

Gina Hoekstra

Randy, haha...I like the last two I put out, but I really think I plan on re-doing some of my first few from last year because I have learned so much since then!!

I am really interested in this topic because since I am a newbie at only a year doing this specifically, I wondered this same question that was posted. I even got the courage to bring it up with my boss to see what the expectations are. Now...since I am an HR jack of all trades in this job, I don't have the same goals as some of you other developers who do this 100% of the time....but my main job right now IS the course development and LMS management so I think that it is important to understand the capabilities of an average developer!

I think your info on the logic you brought up is spot on. My husband even said tonight in his business it is like this: You have the option of 2 out of the three things.....CHEAP, QUALITY, can't have all three....

Now, that is not to say that a cheap, quick course can't get the job done. I KNOW it can, but a client / company can't expect to get an award winning course in one week from scratch for pennies in most cases.

Randy Rowley

Gina - Word to the wise: don't redo anything yet, just forge ahead and put what you've learned into the new lessons. I have that tendency too - I see lessons we did in a rush and almost want to apologize for creating them, but then I get feedback about how they're exactly what the client needed. They don't seem to see the same flaws I see in them. On the other hand, sometimes they notice things I wouldn't have even suspected were an issue.

Expectations are interesting... I guess the moral (for me) is, I don't redo lessons unless the client brings up specific issues. That's just me, and it's probably because I'm always under the gun to produce new lessons. A regular update schedule to keep content current is different - yes, I update lessons based on content all the time and it often gives me a chance to improve the overall lesson quality.

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