E-learning vendors receive a wide variety of questions on a regular basis, the most persistent being, “How much does it cost to create rapid e-learning?” And the answer to this question usually is a frustratingly old stand-by, “It depends”. However, rapid e-learning development in the last few years has come a long way. There is enough history of rapid online learning development at this point that we have a pretty good idea of which factors decide the cost of rapid e-learning. Obviously, there are ‘n’ number of factors that come into play, but I will lay out the four big contributors that will directly affect how much your rapid e-learning solution will cost.
1. Overall duration of the course
The duration of a course has the biggest impact of all on the rapid development cost. How? Because, the longer the duration of the course, the more time it’s going to take to develop that course. To put this into perspective, 50 e-learning slides equals 1 hour of e-learning and it takes anywhere between 120-330 hours to develop an hour of e-learning instruction. Anything that exceeds 40-70 hours of development time doesn’t count as rapid e-learning.
So, what is a good enough length for a rapid e-learning course, so that it doesn’t have too much of an impact on the cost? To be fair, the safe bet would be to keep it as short as possible. I would also add that your audience can also influence the course duration. For example, if the learners use mobile devices to access learning content (or if your company has the BYOD policy in place) then short courses are the way to go, which can be rapidly developed.
2. Nature of the inputs
You may underestimate the substance of your content for rapid e-learning, but it’s one of the deciding factors of both time and cost. What is the nature of your source content that you have ready for rapid e-learning? Is it:
- An outline of the course?
- A storyboard (dumped in a PowerPoint presentation)?
- A Word document that contains detailed notes of what the course should be about?
- A recording of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) presenting the material?
Content that is detailed, well-organized, and already has some visual elements to support it can make a significant difference in the budget required for creating a rapid eLearning course. For example, a storyboard is a template for an e-learning course and therefore the development time for converting a storyboard to eLearning is less. This, as you might have guessed, costs less.
Contrast this with mere recordings of an SME as inputs for a rapid e-learning approach, which requires you to transcribe, fill the gaps, and decide on a strategy, then move on to the actual development part. Clearly, these types of content for rapid e-learning are time-consuming, not so much for development, but the pre-development time.
3. Selection of the authoring tool
There are various benefits associated with rapid authoring tools. However, one should be cautious when choosing one because not every authoring tool will meet your specific learning and development needs.
For example, Adobe Captivate is good for creating software simulations and responsive courses, but may not be ideal for creating animations and interactivities. What I am getting at is that each tool has its own strengths and flaws. Therefore, it goes without saying that selecting the right tool eventually has a big impact on the overall cost and time of your rapid e-learning solution. To learn more about different rapid authoring tools, read this informative blog.
4. Complexity of interactivities and animations to be included
Apart from the source content, interactivities and the overall instructional complexity are major contributors to rapid e-learning cost. The amount of interactivities that you include in the course to keep learners engaged will reflect in the eventual cost. What type of content do you want to include in your rapid e-learning courses?
- Custom-developed images
- High-quality videos
- Complex animations and interactivities
Naturally, a course that is primarily text driven will be less costly, but it may be less likely to achieve your target learning objectives. Today’s rapid authoring tools have in-built templates for scenarios, animations, assessments and other such interactivities, which ensure that your course contains high-quality content, all without costing too much. However, it pays well to keep in mind that opting to add too many interactivities and animations in your e-learning course will have a direct impact on both development time and cost.
So, how much does rapid e-learning cost? It really depends ON YOU. You have quite a bit of control over the aforementioned factors and that’s not to say that high-quality e-learning courses can’t be created on a low budget. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the overall duration, a solid understanding of the amount of interactivities and media you want the course to contain. If you are armed with these perspectives and obtain clarity on the factors, you will be able to lead your organization to a successful rapid e-learning solution.