How long does it take to create elearning?

How long does it take to create elearning?

It's a bit like answering how long a piece of elastic is, but here's a general answer:

Bryan Chapman from Chapman Alliance has conducted a survey where he asked a number of people who make e-learning. The question was, "how many development hours does it take to develop one course hour, i.e., a participant spends an hour going through the material". Now, it would often depend on an estimate of how long a given activity takes for different users, but it's not entirely off the mark to use as a measure.

The survey involved 249 companies and organizations, with a total of 3947 course developers, who have created courses that have been seen by 19,875,946 people. That is, relatively a lot of data from quite a few developers.

Time to develop traditional classroom instruction

The survey also asked how long it takes to DEVELOP traditional classroom instruction (also known as ILT – Instructor Led Training). The time includes analysis, design, lesson plans, handouts, project portfolios, PowerPoint, and content experts' review of content to be used.

Development time (development hours : teaching hours)

  • 22:1 – Simple learning content, possibly reuse of a teaching source material, with minimal support material.
  • 43:1 – Average project to create classroom instruction with good support materials (Lesson plan, handouts, project portfolios, PowerPoint, etc.).
  • 82:1 – Complex subject, very custom-designed, extended time spent developing support materials.
  • NOTE that the above numbers do NOT include time for the actual running of the courses.

E-learning categories

The survey divides e-learning into 3 categories by how complex it is: 1. Basic, 2. Interactive, 3. Advanced. Here are descriptions of each category and the time it takes to develop it.

1. Basic e-learning
Content pages, text, graphics, maybe simple audio, maybe simple video, test questions. NOTE: PowerPoint-to-elearning often falls into this category. At its core, we're dealing with slides followed by a test or quiz. Ranges between 49 hours of development time for 1 hour of teaching up to 125 hours of development time. The norm is around 79 hours of development time for 1 hour of teaching.

2. Interactive elearning
Level 1 e-learning plus 25% (or more) interactive exercises, so students can perform virtual "Try it" exercises, liberal use of multimedia (audio, video, and animations) Ranges between 127 hours of development time for 1 hour of teaching up to 267 hours of development time. The norm is around 184 hours of development time for 1 hour of teaching.

3. Advanced elearning
Very interactive, possibly simulation, serious games/game-based, use of Avatars, custom interactions, award-winning caliber course material. Ranges between 217 hours of development time for 1 hour of teaching up to 490 hours of development time. The "norm" is around 716 hours of development time for 1 hour of teaching. (There are very few projects at this level.) NOTE: Several respondents cited more than 2000 + hours of development per finished hour (very advanced simulations and games).

Remarks on the survey

It's clear that to some degree it depends on estimates if a course is on the edge of being in the high end of Level 1 or the low end of Level 2. But the above numbers fit quite well with what our 15 years of experience in developing content tells us.

The indicated time includes ALL time spent developing a course, including gathering knowledge about the content and working with how the content is best presented/structured (what is called "Instructional Design" in e-learning jargon).

In total, a little over half of the time is spent on actual production work in authoring tools (e.g., Articulate Storyline, Captivate, etc.), editing media (audio, video, graphics, etc.), and the rest on analysis, instructional design, storyboards, etc.

It should be noted that if you've never created e-learning before, you should probably expect that you're not as quick as the participants in the study. After all, you will need time to learn the tools and the processes. Likewise, it's probably not advisable to start wanting to create very advanced e-learning if you're a beginner – but that's kind of self-explanatory, isn't it?

It is our experience that most e-learning that is created lies somewhere between the high end of Level 1 and the low end of Level 2. This means that an hour of "standard e-learning" takes between 80 and 140 hours of work to create.

REMEMBER that there is not necessarily a correlation between how long it takes to create a course, and how relevant it is for the users and how much they learn from it. We have seen courses that were at the top of Level 3, that were useless, and small simple courses that were good and relevant.

Credit to Chapman Alliance for this very valuable resource:

How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? by Chapman Alliance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

Check out Chapman Alliance slides ( for at se en mere detaljeret breakdown af fordelingen af de forskellig opgaver.

Would you like to learn more?

If you are interested in reading more about the brain and learning, these articles might interest you.

If you want to know more about digital learning and e-learning, you can start with our Elearning FAQ.

If you're looking for help with e-learning development, or if you'd like to take a course on Elearning, where you learn to create e-learning yourself - we can also help you.

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