When it comes to determining the level of effort (LOE) needed to develop eLearning content, I'm seeing a lack of clarity.
Generally speaking, you should budget approximately 4 hours to develop each minute of finished eLearning if you use Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline as your development tool. If you use TechSmith Camtasia or a PowerPoint plug-in (such as Presenter or iSpring Suite), you should budget approximately 2-hours to develop a single minute of eLearning.
Why the large gap in development time between Captivate/Storyline and Camtasia/PowerPonit plug-ins? Captivate and Storyline can create more interactive eLearning than the other popular tools. That enhanced interaction is great for your eLearning students but comes at a cost at twice the development time (if not more).
In my experience, the eLearning development LOE is dependent upon several factors including, but not limited to:
- The total amount of eLearning content needed (measured in minutes)
- The amount of usable, original content there is (will you need to develop a voiceover script, the level of support (subject matter experts, writers, designers, developers)
- As mentioned above, the tool to be used for the eLearning development
- The level of eLearning
I'm going to focus this article on the last item in the list above: eLearning levels. It's widely accepted that there are three eLearning levels and they're named, appropriately enough: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. And while you can google "eLearning levels" and find plenty of articles on the subject, finding two articles that agree on what the levels mean can be difficult, especially when it comes to level 3 eLearning.
Level 1: Video-based eLearning with little to no learner interaction
Level 1 eLearning would include the videos you'll see on streaming servers such as YouTube or Vimeo, and the eLearning content offered on Lynda.com. This type of eLearning allows learners to play the lesson, mute the audio, pause, and rewind, but that's about it for interactivity.
Level 1 eLearning can be created with PowerPoint or any of the eLearning development tools on the market today. This level of eLearning could include self-recorded voiceover audio and a quiz. It can also be enabled for tracking via SCORM and/or AICC LMSs.
Level 2: Interactive eLearning with higher-end visuals
Level 2 eLearning is significantly more interactive than level 1 eLearning. Content at this level often includes custom graphics (such as iconography to minimize screen clutter) and professional voiceover audio.
If created in Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, this kind of eLearning likely includes interactive buttons, hotspots/click boxes, text entry areas, branching scenarios, multiple scenes, layers, rollover effects, learner interactions (such as dials, sliders, and drag and drop interactions), and random quizzes.
Level 3: Gamification or virtual reality, worlds, or fantasy games
Level 3 eLearning is beyond the scope of the vast majority of eLearning developers. This level of eLearning involves the creation of virtual settings where learners can interact with virtual characters, pick up items, and use those items throughout the course.
If not virtual worlds or scenarios, this level of eLearning often includes intense gaming scenarios that require complex advanced actions (Adobe Captivate) or triggers (Articulate Storyline).
While tools such as Storyline and Captivate cannot easily create the virtual worlds as I've described above, they could be used to create complex games, etc. Nevertheless, the time to create those games would make them cost-prohibitive.
Fellow eLearning developers, I need your help. What are your thoughts on the levels of eLearning as I've described them above? How would you describe the eLearning levels? Would you add more levels than the three I've mentioned here?
Your figures for calculating LOE are actually very close to my own experience.
I develop the kind of Level 2 e-learning (with Adobe Captivate) that you describe. It has voiceover, closed captioning, interactivity and some animated graphics (often created using Adobe Animate and brought into the Captivate project as OAM files).
For projects that require very little animation OAMs (maybe a couple per module) I would normally tell clients to expect about one 8 hour day of developer time for every 1.5-1.75 minutes of completed content. If the level of animation complexity ramps up, then it could get down to about one minute of finished content per day.
I generally work on the 1.5 minutes per day as a ‘ballpark’ figure when clients want a rough early estimate of how long it would take me to create an e-learning course based on it being a certain length. So if the module is 30 minutes I would usually quote around 20-25 developer days to create (giving myself a one week buffer at 25 days because you usually spend the first week in lots of meetings with SME’s and stakeholders as well as creating new templates that comply with their branding etc, etc).
Obviously each developer varies in their skill level and their style of content (i.e. how complex they like to build stuff) so these calculations will vary from one developer to the next. But over the past 10 years or more I have found this method of estimating project costs and timelines to be very usable. The one downside is that it hinges on having a fairly accurate idea of how many minutes of content the client wants. Technically this is NOT the best way to work out how long a course should be. For certain types of learning where actual skills are being taught, the duration of the learning required to achieve mastery should be governed by the difficulty of the tasks being taught, not by what the client wants to spend. But for compliance courses and other times where the content is purely information-based rather than targeted at getting people to acquire a skill level, then these calculations work fairly well.
I have saved your post for reference in case I have a client that disputes my calculations.
Posted by: Rod Ward | September 30, 2020 at 10:04 PM
I agree with your assessment of the levels of interactivity in eLearning. When I'm quoting on work I find the current method of classifying how interactive a proposed elearning project ineffective. For example, if you suggest level 2 to a client they have an expectation that might not match what you have in mind. It's hard to imagine that of all elearning ever created it only fits within three very broadly defined buckets.
Posted by: CaptivateTeachr | October 17, 2020 at 05:55 PM