Estimating ELearning Development Time

When it comes to elearning development, one of the first things people want to know is how long it will take.

This is true for both consulting projects where you are performing the development for a client and internal company projects.

What key stakeholders often overlook is that quality elearning course development takes a significant amount of time. The more unknown variables there are at the beginning of the project, the harder it is to give an accurate estimate.

Still, as instructional designers it is our job to give our best assessment for development duration, especially when there is a fixed budget in place.

One thing that I have learned during my years in this field is that each individual tends to have their own idea of how long it takes to create elearning.

By way of example, when I was working on projects we used to estimate 99 hours development time for one hour of elearning content (basic content).

For more advanced topics, we would add more hours. The tricky part is identifying what is “basic” versus what is “advanced”.

You also have to consider other elements and if they are related to the build phase of the project. Job aids, technical documents, and other relevant assets are often considered as part of elearning. This being the case, it’s important to apply time for the development of these resources.

While the actual creation of the content takes the majority of time, it’s important to allocate time to reviews & revisions in any estimate that you give.

If you are trying to figure out the best hour allocation for your project, have a look at the infographic below created by instructional design firm Radcom.


Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Let's Talk! | Twitter

6 Responses

  1. Very informative… I am always underestimating how long it takes me to do a lesson or entire course. This does reflect what I am actually experiencing. My only ‘solution’ is to create a very detailed outline of what I am going to cover and not to let myself deviate form it while I work on each course unit. Otherwise , I end up working on too many side roads.

  2. Once again, nice job, Justin. This is just what I need to help some of my internal clients understand why e-learning (and instructional development in general) costs what it does.

  3. Hi Justin,

    How you are calculating the development time? For example, Level 1 eLearning 160 hours/ hr seat time. Please let me know the process of calculating these development time.

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