How Long Does It Take To Develop an eLearning Course?

Learn how long it takes to develop an elearning course and 2 tips on how to decide the length of your elearning course, even if you’re just starting out as an online tutor.

So you’ve finally decided to develop your eLearning course.

Congratulations! But you have to create it first and you might be wondering “How long should this take?”

How Long Does It Take To Develop an eLearning Course?

When you want to develop an eLearning course, you should answer that question.

A common challenge eLearning and Training developers face is that of effectively estimating how many hours their eLearning course development will need.

But really, you don’t have to sweat it. 

This guide will show you the steps you need to take and the duration each will go for as you set out to develop your eLearning course.

This will save you time, resources, and save you a lot of stress.

Also, you will increase the efficiency of your production and keep your eLearning project topnotch.

When considering the number of hours your eLearning course will take, you should consider two things:

What’s the level of interactivity in my eLearning program? 

How long do I want my eLearning course to be?

1: Interactivity

Most eLearning course models rate the training programs based on the levels of interactivity in the program.

As expected, this also affects the number of hours needed to develop the course.

The general guideline is this: the more interactive your course, the more hours you’ll need to build it.

It’s good to add here that the level interactivity of your eLearning course depends on pre-established factors like the stakeholders involved, resources available, and what your course is about.

It’s smart to keep your viewers in mind when developing your course. Always ask yourself: What’s the best way learning can happen for them?

Here’s a breakdown from Chapman Alliance:

Level 1 – Basic: This is a simple eLearning program, a lot like an automated PowerPoint.

It’s often referred to as “Click and read.” A quiz or another similar method of assessment can be used here.

Level 2 – Interactive: In this eLearning program, “click and reads” are combined with learner interactions like drag and drop, tabbed interactions, and timelines.

Branching is limited here. This level is typical of most eLearning programs produced today.

Level 3 – Advanced: At this level, the programs involve significant amounts of branching, animations, gamification, and/or unique customizations.

This, of course, takes more time than the others.

Instructional and Training Design Ratios

From Chapman Alliance’s research, we have pretty accurate information to help you develop an eLearning course.

Let’s take a look at Level Factors. 

But before we do, what exactly is a Level factor?

A Level Factor is a ratio reflecting the number of hours required to develop one hour of your eLearning course at a given interactivity level.

Thanks to the Chapman Alliance research, we have the accurate number of hours it will take you to create one hour of an eLearning course:

  Level 1 – Basic Level 2 – Interactive Level 3 – Advanced
Low 49h 127h 217h
Average 79h 184h 490h
High 125h 267h 716h

As observed in each level, the more interactive the program, the longer it will take to be developed.

An example is on a Level 2 program; average interactivity will require 184 hours to develop one hour of finished course.

Before you raise your brows, it should relax you to know that this estimation isn’t just half-way through the program, but it is a start-to-finish number that includes every aspect of your project development, from the very initial discussions to the final LMS testing.

You can breathe! It’s worth it.

Also, if some parts of the total production of your eLearning program aren’t a part of your time estimate (i.e., if for instance, you’re picking up from a completed script and you won’t need to produce that part), you should consider using the Low-Level Factor.

Also, if your project exceeds the boundaries for the assigned level, consider using the High-Level Factor.

Once you settle the aspect of Level Factor, you can answer the next question.

2: Estimating The Length of Your eLearning Course.

How long do I want my eLearning course to be?

When it comes to determining the length of your eLearning course, there are various ways to do this.

In most cases, you want to settle on several minutes that everyone is okay with. That’s easy sometimes.

At other times, you have to consider other factors (source materials and other factors).

We’ve put together some possible circumstances that can serve in determining the length of your elearning course:

  1. A Statement from a sponsor or SME that your eLearning program should run for a stipulated number of minutes:

– If this is the case, settle for this information and let it decide how many minutes your delivered program will run.

  1. An instructor-led course (or similar information) without slide decks:

– First, find the information. Determine how many hours of actual instructional time are typical for this type of program. Skip the breaks and lunch.

– Secondly, Convert your hours to minutes. (Hour x 60 minutes).

  1. A slide deck (or several) to convert to eLearning:

– First, locate the information. How many slides are present? How text-dense are the slides? (i.e., how long is the estimated reading time for each worded slide?)

If you decide that the slides are text-dense, more slides will be needed (use the number of slides present x 1.25 to compensate).

– To convert your calculation to minutes: Total slide count ÷ 2.2 slides per minute.

Quick Word of Advice: Try to find other data points asides the slide count.

Each slide differs from the next and each projection varies.

Use this as a starting point for your conversation but take it further.

  1. A Script or (something similar) will be used to build the program:

First, go through the information. How many words are given for the voiceover? How long will it take?

Convert to minutes: Total word count ÷ 150 words per minute.

  1. A Pile of paper, notes (or some not-so-organized source):

Sort out the information, how many minutes will the delivered program run?

Ok! That was a lot to chew.

Congratulations! You have made your eLearning course development a whole lot easier and stress-free.

By going through the steps laid out above, you’ve:

  • Determine the interactivity level of your eLearning course.
  • Decide where your project effort falls on the Level Factor spectrum – Low, average, or High.

And now, all that’s left is some simple math. Ready?

Minutes x Level Factor = Total minutes of development time ÷ 60 minutes = Total hours of development time.

Tadaah! You did it!

 Now that you’ve successfully determined How Long it takes to develop an eLearning course, you probably want to narrow it down to the closest number – an hour.

This brings us to our next concern:

How Long Does It Take to Develop One Hour of an eLearning Lesson?

You have your eLearning course all drawn out.

It’s time to put it all together.

You want to make sure you account for every minute of your eLearning course.

So the big question: How long for an hour?

When it comes to putting together cost estimates in terms of resources and time, you’re not alone in the difficulty that comes with determining correct estimates of time for the length of your eLearning program.

Many instructional designers and eLearning project managers are faced with this challenge too.

Quite frankly, there’s no magic wand or fixed formula to making these estimates but most instructional designers believe 50 slides or content screens will take exactly one hour of eLearning.

Also, a 10,000-word script equals one hour of eLearning.

Thankfully, from our previous discourse, we have a better understanding of how this works.

Now, let’s check out the number of hours needed to develop one hour of eLearning.

Please keep in mind that these estimates differ depending on the complexity of the eLearning module.

By now, we know that the Basic eLearning doesn’t have a lot of interactivity and so, will take less time to develop when compared to the complexity of the High-level interactions in the Advanced level programs.

Once you figure out the level of complexity in your eLearning program, make a list of all the developmental tasks that need to be considered. Here are some of them:

  • Selection and editing of Graphics and Visual aids:

Usually, this depends on the number of images that need to be located and edited. This task takes around 30 minutes per graphic.

So, if you have at least one visual element on every screen, estimate about 25 hours for graphics.

  • Storyboarding the course:

This takes roughly about one working day or a minimum of eight hours to finish 15 minutes of storyboarding for your eLearning.

  • Building the course:

This takes an average of 30 minutes to 1.5 hours per page depending on the complexity of your eLearning course and the tools you employ to build it.

If you use a quick eLearning tool like Articulate, you won’t need to spend a lot of time building your courses the way you would, using Flash or HTML5.

  • Audio Capturing and Editing:

This takes an estimate of 5 to 8 hours for one hour of eLearning development.

  • Assessments design and development:

This also depends on the number of questions and tools you use to build your quizzes.

But it’s safe to suggest an allocation of about 30 minutes per question.

  • Animations/interactions/activities development:

This also depends on the tool you employ as well as the number and complexity of interactions/animations.

Here’s a great way to pull this off, – use your own experience or consult the person responsible for developing these pieces for your eLearning course.

In a cute little nutshell, alongside the tasks we’ve outlined above, when you’re creating your eLearning project plan, you should allocate time for Needs analysis, QA testing, SME, and Stakeholder review, and Pilot testing of the course. 

At this point, you’re probably busting at the seams, ready to start, but just before you put the key in the ignition, let’s settle the critical question:

How Long Should Online Lessons Be?

So, you’re ready. All you need is in place for your eLearning project but you’re still worried.

What if it’s too long? What if it’s too short?

Many eLearning developers are faced with this important question: How Long Should An Online Course Be?

Here’s our answer: there’s no fixed standard for the duration of eLearning courses, but you should keep it in mind when you develop an eLearning course, it should be as short or as long as it needs to be to deliver the learning your viewers need.

You don’t want it to be so long, your students get bored and doze off as it drones on.

You also don’t want it to be so short that your viewers feel short changed or robbed.

In this article, we’ll show you how to split your course into smaller and more measurable parts, as well as some tricks that will come in handy.


The length of your eLearning course depends on the purpose of the course.

What’s most important is that you deliver as promised.

You don’t want to sell yourself short or disappoint your students, whatever the length of your course.

If the purpose of your course is to get people to opt into your email list, you might just need a couple of videos that are about a few minutes long each.

On another hand, if you want to sell a course for say, $100, you’ll need to make it longer and put a lot more effort into the production.

It has to be worth the buy.

Although price isn’t necessarily a determinant of the length of a course, it plays a definite role as a factor.

Keep in mind that the delivery of the outcome promised in your course should always be the focus.

Here are two examples to help:

  1. A beginner course teaching folks how to grow mushrooms at home: 10 lessons (1 hour, 22 minutes)
  1. A comprehensive course showing people how to set up a small scale mushroom farm: 57 lessons (7 hours, 8 minutes)

Okay. Don’t go doing exactly that.

Those are just examples. There’s no hard-and-fast answer to how long an eLearning course should be.

A great advice would be to make it as short as possible while covering everything your students need to know about the subject your course teaches.

Consider their attention span.

Especially if your subject is a technical one.

How Long Should Individual Sections Of A Course Be?

Just in case you’re wondering about the length because anything shorter might fall short of learning delivery, you can have a longer course as long as you’re splitting it up into different sections (or chapters or modules).

Each module can have 3 to 10 individual lessons within it which hold a related subject or step in the learning.

Try to keep the modules nice and short – 5 to 20 minutes long.

It’s smart to create your courses with busy people in mind.

Most of your students are likely to be people with full-time jobs and families to take care of.

They don’t have the luxury of time.

You might be asking too much if they have to sit down and watch a 30-minute video each day.

Psychology shows that people retain information better when given in small portions with breaks in-between.

Besides providing a better user-friendly experience, making your course in small chunks also helps you as a creator.

It’s much easier to modify a lesson (if you need to) of 5 minutes than a 25-minute video.

This article was created to answer your questions about how long it would take to develop an eLearning course.

We hope it has done just that. Let us know how it helped you in the comment section.

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