One of the more common questions that I get from new eLearning developers is how much time does it take to produce published content. The answer depends upon a couple of factors. For instance, which eLearning tool are you going to use? Is it Adobe Captivate? How about TechSmith's Camtasia? Or maybe you're going to use Articulate Storyline?
Here's another factor: how many minutes of eLearning playtime are you looking to produce? Are you creating a 30-minute course? 60 minutes?
I have extensive experience using Storyline, Captivate, and Camtasia. In my experience, it will take you approximately 2 hours of labor to produce 1 minute of eLearning playtime if you use Captivate or Storyline. If you use Camtasia, your labor will go down a bit (1 hour or perhaps 1.5 hours for every 1 minute of video playtime).
The production times mentioned above do not include the following:
Writing an eLearning script or developing a storyboard
If you’re creating a software simulation, you’ll need a step-by-step recording script. If you’re creating soft skills content (lessons such as conflict resolution or onboarding), I've found that it could take between 1-2 hours to write a single minute of content.
Rehearsing the Script
Once you're written the software simulation script, you'll likely need to run through it multiple times to ensure it's accurate.
Writing an Audio Script
If you're going to include voiceover audio (and I highly suggest that you do since audio has been shown to improve the learner experience), you should create an audio script. It could easily take you 40 hours or more to prepare an audio script.
Recording the Software Simulation or Video Demo
Once you've written a script, recording screen actions in any of the eLearning tools is simple and shouldn't take more than the actions detailed in the script. For instance, if the script has you recording a 3-minute process in Microsoft Word, it should only take 3-minutes to record the process. And while recording screen actions doesn't take a lot of time or special skills, if there are a lot of simulations to record, you'll need to factor the time in your budget.
Developing Assets Externally
I mention below that you can save production time in your eLearning tool by creating as much of the course assets as possible outside of the eLearning tool. Many people create the content in PowerPoint and simply import the content into the eLearning tool. While that means there will be less content to create in the eLearning tool, don't overlook the fact that the content still needs to be created in that other tool. In my experience, creating content in PowerPoint is easy. However, it still takes time. In fact, I'd put the development time in PowerPoint at about the same development time as working within Camtasia (1-1.5 hours for every minute or presentation play time).
The production clock begins ticking after you create a blank project, open a project containing previously-recorded content, or import external content such as a PowerPoint presentation.
Production includes, but is not limited to:
- Adding/editing text content such as callouts/captions
- Adding images
- Adding animations
- Adding interactivity (Buttons, clickable hotspots, menus, etc.)
- Creating quizzes
- Publishing to an LMS or web server
- Testing the published content
- Fixing errors found during the testing process
- Republishing and retesting
Looking to save time? You can trim production times significantly by following these tips:
Create Just In Time eLearning
If creating a software demonstration in Captivate or Storyline, record the lesson and simply publish it without going from screen-to-screen and tweaking any of the timing or the text. When an eLearning developer simply records a lesson and publishes it without much post-production, I call those kind of eLearning modules "just in time eLearning." Depending upon your audience, "just in time eLearning" may be perfectly appropriate. Why spend the production time creating a highly-polished lesson if it's not necessary?
Use Microsoft PowerPoint
If creating a soft skills lesson, create the bulk of the content in Microsoft PowerPoint. All three eLearning tools mentioned above allow you to take existing PowerPoint content and quickly create eLearning out of it. In my opinion, Captivate and Storyline handle the PowerPoint content more elegantly than Camtasia, but the bottom line is that you can re-purpose existing content. Assuming you are satisfied with the original PowerPoint content, and you don't need to add additional content (beyond possibly a quiz) in the eLearning tool, the production time for converting PowerPoint to eLearning should be no more than 1 hour of production time for every minute of eLearning playtime.
If you start a project with a well-conceived and implemented template, each of your projects will have a consistent look and feel.
Depending on the Tool, Go Demo or Sim
If you use Camtasia, I suggest creating software demonstrations instead of simulations. If you add interactivity (hotspots) to a Camtasia project, you will need to post the lesson to a server to test the interactivity. That kind of back and forth simply takes too much time. However, creating software simulations in Captivate and Storyline is so quick and easy, I think it's actually faster to produce simulations over demonstrations. The pesky mouse pointer that is typically included in a demonstration always need a significant amount of production attention (you'll likely need to adjust the pointer position, pointer path, click effects, and click sounds). Since simulations don't typically include a mouse pointer, those production issues go away.
What's your experience with eLearning production times? I'd love to see hear about the eLearning tools you're using. How much time it takes you to produce each minute of eLearning. Feel free to share your thoughts below.
We've created an online tool that will help you calculate how long it can take to develop eLearning (the tool supports Captivate, Camtasia, Presenter, and more). Check out the tool on the IconLogic website.
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