Time estimates for eLearning design and development

Hello heroes, 

I will say at the outset this is a tricky question with many variables, but I have been tasked with creating some estimates for eLearning design and development in our organization (a multinational financial services firm). The data I found from ATD is a few years old. 

Can you share your typical time frames for developing a course in Storyline or Rise?  We have been aiming to keep our courses about 20 minutes or less seat time, for Storyline. Typically we have a human narrating audio (we use text to speech for the review version). With Rise, since there is a lot of reading, it's difficult to estimate seat time. 

Your insights greatly appreciated!

8 Replies
Judy Nollet

Hi, Deepa,

"Tricky" is an understatement. I think estimating development time is the hardest part of the process.

That's especially true if you haven't seen the content for a given course. Some info is easy to develop, because it provides a structure that can easily be converted into a nicely flowing course with useful interactions. And then there's content that's, well, not as easy to work with...

I usually provide a wide range for the estimated development time, because, as you noted, there are so many variables. 

If you know how long it takes to develop a course with narration, I think it's safe to assume the same content will take less time to develop without narration (which adds a layer of complexity, not to mention extra time simply to step through the course during testing). If your team has already completed a few Rise courses, look at the development time for those, and look at whether the content and/or final product differed in a way that impacted the time.

Don't forget to consider the time needed for collecting images, reviews, functionality testing, and the miscellaneous meetings and emails needed to get a course ready.

BTW, "seat time" for a non-narrated course will always be a guesstimate. It depends on how fast a learner will read (or skip through) the content, which partly depends on their previous knowledge and their motivation. I usually divide a rough word count twice to get an estimated range. For slow, divide by 120 (words per minute), which is the low end of a conversational speaking rate. For fast, divide by 200 (words per minute), which is an average reading rate with 60% comprehension.

Deepa Nirmal

Thanks, Judy! All excellent points. Would you be willing to share your ranges for Storyline development?

I came across some old stats from ATD which struck me as very low (40 hours for one hour of eLearning, start to finish!) so I am looking for insights from actual practitioners about more realistic ranges. 

Deepa Nirmal

Trina, thanks for the link to that fantastic article. A couple of links in there I am familiar with (and a bit skeptical about the low figures) but I look forward to diving into the rest. 

Articulate 360 is a set of great tools but alas, courses still don't build themselves. I guess we will continue to be gainfully employed, so can't complain... :)

Ulises Musseb

I echo those expressing the sentiment of how hard it is to estimate time.

I work with several eLearning vendors, and when they quote their work, they use different formulas. One of them made a rough conversion into time spent in the project based on the content. He has one formula for content in written documents and another for content in slides. It is similar to what businesses do to establish the price of services or articles based on what it takes to get the article or service rendered to the client.

A'd suggest that as you work on projects, keep collecting data of what/how much does it take to complete the project. In time, you will have data to make better estimates.