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How Much Time Should I Allow to Develop Training from Scratch?

e-LearningThere has been a disconnect between training designers and clients for a long time.  That disconnect is centered on how much time does it really take to develop training?  The best answer is that it depends but a recent ATD article helped give some parameters to the vagueness developing e-learning content.

To start with, let’s give some definitions so we are talking about the same things.  e-Learning Industry  has assigned levels to training based upon the amount of interaction between the instructor and the participant.  Using my terms and creating analogies to face-to-face college classes, the levels break down like this:

  • Level 1: Very little interaction. This is what most people would describe as the old-style college lecture with one instructor, 200+ students and no time for questions during the class.  In a virtual context, the instructor will post the content but may never go back to see how students are doing or respond to many questions.  Several MOOCs and online training programs follow this pattern.  In the worst-case scenario, a training may be posted and not reviewed or updated for years.
  • Level 2: Some interaction.  This is more like the class where there were 20-30 students and so while the instructor generally forged ahead with the lesson for most of the class time, there was some time allowed for questions but little for discussions.  In the virtual context for this level, the instructor will respond periodically to questions but in a more general fashion.  They may adjust assignments based upon student requests and/or add material as needed.  This class is probably reviewed and updated periodically. More online training programs are trying to shift to this or a Level 3 model.
  • Level 3: Variety of interactions usually carried out asynchronously.  Comparing this level to college classes, this would be more like a lab class.  There will be a great deal of interaction both between the participants and the instructor (who may or may not be the classroom instructor) and the other participants.  This level often includes a combination of theoretical and practical learning.  In a virtual learning environment, the content will be designed to include a great deal of message board types of interactions, projects and papers sent back and forth.  The instructor may weigh in during a discussion but will give the bulk of their feedback directly to students on assignments.
  • Level 4: Many interactions between instructor and participants and between participants in a synchronous training format.  Several of my upper division classes in college were taught in almost a roundtable/forum fashion.  Everyone had input and listened to each other’s points.  Both in preparation and delivery, this is usually the most time intensive model to follow.  The college professors that I had who followed this model were extremely knowledgeable on their topic and extremely well prepared to subtly guide conversations toward a desired end.  Another factor to their success with this style of instruction was also their being able to read the participants non-verbal cues.  In an e-learning situation this class will probably include a great deal of preparatory work by both instructor and students with significant time being spend in liv chats or video conferencing for discussions.  None of the three previous levels take non-verbal into account and while this level is synchronous, reading someone across Skype or Facetime is very different then reading them face-to-face.  Again it takes a talented and well prepared instructor to succeed at this level of e-learning.

With all of that as a background, this is what the ATD survey found:

  • Companies developed more than one level of training
  • Almost half developed both level 1 and Level 2 training
  • Less than a third developed Level 3 training
  • About 12 % developed Level 4 training
  • One a sliding scale based upon the level of training, 1 hour of e-learning took between 42 and 130+ to develop.

Of course, these numbers are one survey done at one point in time and don’t account for all the variables that go into developing e-learning.  However, they do give a sense of the actual time it takes to develop good content.  Whether you are an internal developer or an external e- consultant, the ATD survey may help you explain to your boss or clients that good content takes time and beta testing to get quality e-learning.

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