You are committed to revamping your company’s training and have decided to work on your eLearning courses. Early on, you find yourself getting bogged down and lost as you work through course development, and you wonder if eLearning is really the way to go. After all, you could have just fired up the PC and made some quick edits to the old PowerPoints. Turns out, though, that faster is not always better. Once you have decided that eLearning is the best fit for you, here’s how to streamline your development process to develop your courses more efficiently.
How long does it take to create one hour of learning?
If you are questioning the time it takes to create an hour of learning you are not alone. Entire fields of study are dedicated to answering this question. In 2017, Dr. Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice took a third pass at this, looking at data from studies in both 2003 and 2009 before comparing the average time to develop an hour of learning. Their results were published by ATD here.
What they found was this: although eLearning course development is getting more efficient, developing a quality learning experiences takes time.
For the purposes of this study, the researchers looked at eLearning that was self-paced and asynchronous (learners could access it at any time). Four levels of eLearning were studied.
- Level 1 (passive): Learner simply receives the information
- Level 2 (limited interactivity): Learner gets minimal response to cues, mostly through multiple choice questions or simple interactions
- Level 3 (complex interactions): Learner offers their own responses in different formats (e.g., written, multiple choice, etc.)
- Level 4 (real-time interactions): In this last level, the user provides detailed and complex responses to situations
Most of the courses developed were Level 1 or 2. Lapp and Defelice found that it took an average of 42 and 71 hours to create a Level 1 and Level 2 course (respectively). This was a decrease of 55% and 43% from the 2009 study (and those 2009 developers used a template).
So no, you aren’t making this up. Developing an eLearning course takes time, but there are ways to speed up the process without compromising the quality.
How can I create eLearning courses faster?
Many eLearning course developers make the mistake of enthusiastically diving into the course without laying a little groundwork. This goes beyond buying new hardware and updating the old software. Here are four ways to create your eLearning courses faster.
1. Don’t skip the learning needs assessment
It seems obvious that you would take a hard look at what your employees actually need before you get started on course development, but many developers skip this step.
A learning needs assessment:
- Pinpoints what your employees already know
- Sets goals for learning
- Makes recommendations for how to meet those goals with eLearning
(Spoiler alert: you may not actually need a full one-hour eLearning course).
2. Identify your subject matter experts (SME) and set clear expectations
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Chances are good that when you completed your learning needs assessment you uncovered some SMEs who can help provide the bulk of the information you need to deliver in your eLearning course.
Even if your SMEs come from outside of the company, it’s important to come up with a plan for success that includes:
- Clear expectations: What information do SMEs need to provide and in what format? Make sure they know this up-front.
- Clear time frame: When will you meet, and what do you expect to accomplish?
- A back-up plan: Who will you turn to if the information isn’t complete or the SME doesn’t come through?
Setting clear expectations and time frames with your SMEs ahead of time can drastically reduce any waiting time during reviews.
3. Set targets and outline how you’ll meet them
Estimate how long it might take you create your eLearning course and get out your calendar.
Commit to milestones and targets, and then plan your activities accordingly. Factor in time for your testing and assessment of the course when you are done.
4. Commit the appropriate resources
You’ve completed the learning needs assessment, set up interviews with the SMEs, and have a project plan outlined. Now’s not the time to skimp on resources, and this isn’t just about money.
If you are creating courses in-house, find your best-qualified course developer and free them up to do the work. Picking a rookie may save money, but it may also double the time spent on the course.
What factors are slowing me down?
Maybe you have carefully followed the four recommendations and are still staring down the barrel of a 100+ hour course development time.
Even with the best intentions, you may still find some speed bumps that are slowing you down. Here’s the most common roadblocks I’ve helped clients navigate.
Speed bump #1: You didn’t get buy-in from the top, first
Nothing slows down eLearning development faster than a top-level executive who just doesn’t get why the 100-pound doorstop of a training manual is no longer effective.
It’s not really their fault. Take the time at the beginning of the project to show them exactly why eLearning will benefit the company (and its bottom line!).
Speed bump #2: Too many cooks in the kitchen
You set up your targets and review dates, but when the time comes there are too many fingers in the pie. While it is a great idea to get input from all affected departments, giving them carte blanche in the review process can stop development in its tracks.
If you want everyone to feel included, think about sending tailored bits of the course to the appropriate people. HR doesn’t need to review the actual process for filling in a pothole, but they certainly can help proofread the section on workman’s comp on the jobsite. Pick the best reviewer for the job.
Are there other ways to speed up eLearning course development?
If this is your first foray into the world of eLearning course development, maybe it’s best to start small. If your learning needs assessment indicated a place for microlearning, start with that. Microlearning courses are typically only a few minutes long and take, on average, about ten to 15 hours to develop. This might be a good place to learn the ropes.
You can also create an easily modifiable template that can be used in different courses. This allows for editing and changes as needed, functioning as a prototype that can be evaluated, tweaked, and reimagined when your company’s training needs change.
Finally, your last option is outsourcing the development to an eLearning provider who has the tools to create courses efficiently and quickly.