Defelice, R. and Kapp, K. (2009) Time to develop one hour of training Learning Circuits

And, as readers of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy know, the answer is 42 (actually, 43 for stand-and-deliver face-to-face training). But for digital simulations, over 1000 hours.

This is a serious attempt to try and compare costs of different forms of training, but takes no account of economies of scale (i.e. these are purely development, not development and delivery costs covering all trainees). Also it should be noted that these are costs for training, not education. For instance, none of the templates for course development suggested are learning management systems that would be familiar to higher education users.

Nevertheless the data suggest that for most asynchronous e-learning, you are looking at over 100 hours of development for one hour of training. That seems about right to me, from my experience of developing graduate online courses (my figures would be about $180-200 an hour, including SME costs, and using an LMS, but excluding overheads, for relatively limited activity, e.g. no animations – Bates, 2005, p. 163).

Probably more valuable are the hints at ways to reduce costs, which primarily focus on getting better processes for ‘disciplining’ subject matter experts to do what they say they would do at the time they said it would be done. But then that would be harder than to trying to figure out the meaning of life, the universe and everything else.

Lastly, these costs are based on the traditional ADDIE instructional design model. With the development of work-based social networks, open educational resources, etc., at what point do the ‘free’ training strategies start to match the quality of the much more expensive – but high quality – ADDIE approach? And if quality training does cost this much, what incentives are there for making high quality training materials open access?


Bates, A. (2005) Technology, e-Learning and Distance Education London/New York: Routledge

Thanks again to Richard Elliott’s eLearning Watch for this.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here