One of the first questions I get asked about designing and developing e-learning courses is: How much does it cost to create elearning courses? It’s a very good question. Although it is a difficult question to answer I will try to explain as best as I can some general pricing guidelines.
Creating elearning is a bespoke project. The online course is created specifically for your business and learners needs. It’s designed to teach a specific subject to a specific group of learners. To create this bespoke product, there are, in my opinion, three factors that affect the cost of creating the elearning course.
1. How much content needs designing?
First, there’s the course length. Here we’re talking about number of screens that need to be designed and built. Creating an e-learning course is essentially a digital manufacturing process. An elearning course which has 20 screens of content, takes less time to create than a course which has 30 screens of content. When we receive the content for an elearning project, we take time at the start to estimate the number screens. As the design phase progresses, the length of the course becomes clearer. And the more modules you add to your course, then the more content that will need to be designed.
2. Which multimedia will be used to design the content?
The next factor that affects the cost of an elearning course is, the multimedia that will be used to design the content. You can create courses that are very simple and contain mostly images, simple interactions and text. Or you can create courses that are more dynamic and engaging and include:
- High quality graphics
For example, if you want to include video in your elearning course, you have to decide what kind of video to use:
1. Is it going to be video specifically filmed for the project?
2. Is it going to be video that has to be bought from, for example, an image library?
3. Or do you want to create an animated video for your elearning course?
Each of these video options alone has different cost implications. Option 1 is the most expensive because it requires things like:
- Hiring actors
- Selecting locations
- Having props
- A film crew
- Film editing and video production
- And more.
Option 2 is the cheapest because you can buy footage clips for as little as £35 per clip.
Next, let’s take audio. Some e-learning courses use audio heavily where the script is narrated word for word. Now, this is not something that I personally would recommend – in my opinion it kills the learning experience. (See a previous article for more on using audio in elearning). However, if word for word narration if what you decide to choose (for whatever reason), then there’ll be more audio to record than in a project where audio is only used in a few key places.
3. Which learning design approach will be used?
The third main factor in my opinion which affects how much an elearning course costs is the learning design that will be used. For example:
- Linear. Here a good design is created in a series of linear screens. A business typically pays £3,000-£4,000 for one linear 30 screen course which has good interactions, little or no audio, and no video.
- Scenario-based course. In this learning design, more screens have to be created to take learners through a few different learning paths. You ask learners a question. Then give them, say, three choices to choose from. Each choice then has specific feedback which tells the learners the consequences of their choice. In this learning design approach, 7 screens would typically be created to teach one learning point. Whereas in a linear design, the same question might only take two screens of content (0ne question slide and one feedback slide). A business may typically pay £5,000-£6,000 for one scenario based course of 30 screen courses with little or no audio and no video.
- Game-based design. This is the most complex to design. It’s non-linear and includes designing the following:
- Rewards for progression
- Visual engagement through graphic-led design
- Having different levels to give learners level of mastery
Although it’s hard to give a specific number on the cost of this approach in an article, a game based elearning course is the most costly to create. The cost would be determined after detailed discussions with the client.
As you start to add more multimedia to any learning design approach, the cost increases.
As you can see, these factors require a lot of thought. When we start to work with a client, we undertake a detailed discussion so we can find out what the requirements are and chat through the above factors (and more) to educate the client.
In a nutshell, it is a numbers game. Think of the cost of creating an e-learning course with this formula:
Quantity of content + Types of multimedia used + Learning design approach = Cost of creating an elearning course
One final point
To deliver the elearning course, most organisations use a learning management system (LMS). An LMS is a specific platform used to host, administer, track and manage elearning courses. I won’t go into detail about LMSs in this article. But this is an additional cost you will need to consider for your overall elearning project.
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