elearning design: how much should you pay?

 In eLearning

Remember when websites used to cost $10,000?  And you needed to go to an expensive web designer to get them done?  Then every update you made cost an arm and a leg!

The price slowly started falling, 8,000, 5,000, 2,500 until fast forward to today.  Now there are a plethora of free websites where you can create your own in minutes.

I see the maturing of the elearning market in the same way. With the advent of rapid elearning tools and technology in general, the time and skill level to create elearning design is dropping dramatically.  Although with these new rapid tools, in some cases we are losing the instructional elearning design and therefore learning quality and experience behind it! But that’s another blog.

So how do you know, when you engage someone in a supplier arrangement, permanent or project based capacity, how long a piece of work will take?  And what it will ultimately cost you?


How can you get elearning into your company?

  1. Suppliers. There are companies out there who specialise in designing and developing elearning. Frankly, I am often shocked for what is being produced, the thousands of dollars that is charged. For example, on one of my bank projects, I saw a (very average) quiz which would have taken 30 minutes to create.  The client was charged $2,000!
  2. Contractors. Contractors are brought in for their ability to learn and synthesise information and systems quickly.  They start delivering (called ‘deliverables’ in project-land) in a very short time frame.


What does elearning design really cost?

Each  year I do one contract to keep my hand in and keep current. A bit like experiential CPD In 53 days.  After learning the Remedy Change Management system, I:

  • Designed a 30 minute interactive ‘walkthrough’ in Articulate
  • Presented 24 x 1 hour preview sessions of the new tool (to over 350 people in weeks 4-6 )
  • Facilitated 19 x 1 hour computer labs in Auckland (over 100 people – week 6)
  • Facilitated 44 x 1 hour Wellington labs in Wellington (over 250 people)
  • Designed, developed, recorded and edited a 22 minute introduction video
  • Designed and developed 5 x elearning pieces (between 67 and 24 slides each, 5 minutes to 17 minutes in duration)
  • Designed and developed 5 x quizzes.  All the quizzes and the elearning first drafts were created in 9 days.


This is the type of productivity you should expect from designers and developers.  If you can free them up from meetings, long lunches and coffee machine chats.

Let’s look at the  time it took me to develop the elearning and quizzes:

  • A week to learn the system with a dedicated SME and ‘sandpit’ environment and user guide = $4,500
  • 9 days x $800 = $7,200
  • 3 review cycles, therefore edits ($200/module x 3 reviews x 5 modules) = $3,000

Total $14,700 in one month when you consider review cycle times.

Now, I know that the same work would cost at least $6,000 per module from a supplier.  And it probably wouldn’t be done in a month due to other client work load and not actually being onsite.

So next time you are considering having some elearning written, consider how much you really need to pay.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Christy Tucker

    Let’s compare this to some industry benchmarks from Bryan Chapman. Five e-learning pieces at 5-17 minutes each–let’s call those an average of 11 minutes each, or 55 minutes total. I’ll round up to an hour of e-learning, counting the quizzes (it makes the math easier).

    You worked for 9 days x 8 hours/day = 72 hours of work. Reviews are another 30 hours, for a total of 102 hours of work.

    Therefore, you’re looking at a 102:1 ratio for completion time. Chapman’s average benchmark ratio for basic Level 1 e-learning is 79:1; the low average is 49:1, the high average is 125:1. Those estimates include the time from the SMEs, so you’re basically at the high end of the benchmark for Level 1 e-learning.

    Chapman’s benchmark cost (in US$) is $10,054, so you’re well above his average. However, you’re at the high end of development time, so your estimate seems about right for something with a bit more multimedia or complex content.

    Someone charging $6000 for 11 minutes of e-learning is ripping people off unless it’s a serious game or something along those lines. But that’s why Chapman and others have published benchmarks. Clients who are evaluating vendors should look at the ratios from Chapman or the ASTD to get an idea what costs should be, and vendors should be able to justify when they differ wildly from the benchmarks.

  • rusticalamb

    Thanks Kristy, awesome information. Great advice ‘Clients who are evaluating vendors should look at the ratios from Chapman or the ASTD to get an idea what costs should be, and vendors should be able to justify when they differ wildly from the benchmarks.’

  • rusticalamb

    Some further details on the industry benchmarks from Bryan Chapman

    Here are the results of a survey of 3947 L&D professionals, by Bryan Chapman (Chapman Alliance). ‘How long does it take to create learning’ And the extrapolated costs.

    He explains three levels of elearning which would help frame our discussion on costs:

    Level 1:
    Content pages, graphics, simple video, test questions, basically pages with assessment
    Effort 79:1
    Combining average time and average cost for an hour $10,054

    Level 2:
    Level 1 + 25% including interactive exercises allowing learners to perform virtual ‘try it’ exercises with liberal use of multi media (audio, video and animations)
    Effort 184:1
    Combining average time and average cost for an hour $18583

    Level 3:
    Highly interactive, possibly simulation with serious games base, use of avatars, custom interactions, use of award winning calibre courseware
    Effort 490:1
    Combining average time and average cost for an hour $50371

    The full, and very interesting results are here:

  • Andy G

    I have a question about the Chapman Alliance research. It’s all well and good, but what are the benchmarks for one hour of learning (say ILT) in terms of number of PPT slides and the pages in the FG/PG etc? Without those parameters specified, how can you question a vendor on the veracity of their estimates?

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