A question that crops up regularly for us is, ‘how much does it cost to build an online or e-learning course?’ Unfortunately, the answer to this is not as straightforward as it may seem and there are a lot of variables that can alter the response. Here I will attempt to answer this question by providing an overview of the factors that can affect the cost of building an e-learning course while highlighting my estimate for these cost factors.
Before we get into the detail, let’s separate the concepts ‘off-the-shelf’ e-learning and ‘custom made’ or ‘bespoke’ e-learning.
Off-the-shelf e-learning courses are those that are designed independently of a client and sold to a wide range of customers with little or no alteration. The e-learning course will be relatively generic in nature but will cover the key concepts of the learning topic in a way that provides in-depth content that everyone would benefit from understanding or being made aware of.
These types of courses can be extremely cost-effective as, once they have been designed, they can be sold to a variety of clients, thereby spreading the costs. So, the designer absorbs the initial costs, in the hope that they will recoup their expenditure by selling to enough customers.
Although these types of e-learning courses are pre-built, there is usually room for alterations and amendments, which can be carried out for additional fees. These alterations can be made to images, text, questions or a variety of other elements.
Typical costs: – £750 – £2,500 – The cost of the e-learning course
Alteration fees: £300+ (an average charged by us for text and image alterations is £600)
Now that we have covered the key costs for this approach, let’s take a look at the development of e-learning that is created specifically for the client.
This is usually what is meant when people ask, ‘how much does it cost to build an online or e-learning course?’ Custom-made e-learning is an e-learning course that is designed in partnership with the client and is meant as a specific learning product, just for them.
The amount of client involvement for custom-made e-learning varies and while some like to be involved from start to finish and work closely with the project, others will simply provide an overview of the requirements and then trust the designer to control the development process (including the client throughout of course). This level of involvement rarely affects the price, as the same amount of work is required from the designers whatever the arrangement. Sometimes, where additional meetings and reporting is required, it can add to the costs of the project because of the additional time this takes.
What factors affect the cost of building an e-learning course?
The key elements that affect the cost of building of an e-learning course are; the length of the course and the learning methodology, which includes the multimedia and interaction methods used. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
The length of an e-learning course
It stands to reason that the more content in a course, the more it is likely to cost. There are a couple of reasons why. Firstly, more content means more scripting by an instructional designer. They will have to collate all the learning information required and put this into a coherent structure for an e-learning course, making something that engages the learner and makes the e-learning interactive. All this writing takes time and that time costs money.
The second reason that the length of a course affects the price is that once the course has been ‘scripted’ by the instructional designer, the course designer then must build each screen into the e-learning product, create videos or include interactions, quizzes and tests etc. Although technology has moved on a long way, the process of actually ‘building’ an e-learning course is still time-consuming and requires expert knowledge.
Another factor relating to the length of an e-learning course is the review process that is required throughout. A larger e-learning course will require a longer review and more amendments, which can also add to the costs.
The learning methodology and multimedia/interaction approach
E-Learning can mean a lot of different things and although there are some standard elements that e-learning contains, there has become a variety of design approaches and multimedia methods to present content and each of these can affect the cost of developing an e-learning course. Some of these methods are…
- ‘Static’ with a linear learning path, which is more ‘content’ based
- Scenario and case study – providing examples and highlighting issues
- Branching – where learners make choices, which lead to consequences
- Storytelling – This can be individual stories, or flow throughout the e-learning
- Quiz based– challenges and testing
- Gamification – Reward and game playing. Levels and mastery
- Walkthroughs – a product or process virtual learning
- Acted scenarios – videos with live actors
- Graphic animations – videos with characters and animations
- Video teacher – classroom recordings
- Audio elements
As you can see, there are a huge variety of approaches to the design and multimedia content of an e-learning course and one course could contain one or even a range of these elements, which would alter the price considerably.
For instance, when clients require acted scenario scenes to be filmed for e-learning, there are a variety of costs that need to be factored in, such as; scripting, actor fees, director fees, film crew, location costs, editing and not to mention the time that the filming takes. There are cheaper options and alternatives, but these are some of the considerations you would need to make.
Another thing to consider is any audio elements. It is our opinion that audio should only be used where it adds value to an e-learning course. We reserve this for videos, scenario interactions, acted scenes, or where we think elements of long text would benefit from a ‘presented’ approach. Some clients ask for audio throughout the course, whereby the entire content becomes narrated. In our opinion, this rarely adds value (people can usually read much quicker than text can be spoken) and can be costly.
That’s all very well, but what is the cost of building an e-learning course!
After 1,000 words, I’ve still not clearly got to the point of costs, but hopefully, you have seen how all the different variables can affect the price, making giving specifics very difficult. However, a promise is a promise, so here’s a variety of examples for the costs of building an e-learning course.
A 30-40 slide e-learning course with text, case studies, interactions, quizzes and a final assessment with a certificate.
Typical costs: £5,000 – £6,000
A 30-40 slide e-learning course with text, audio elements, 1 x graphic animation, case studies, interactions, quizzes and a final assessment with a certificate.
Typical costs: £6,000 – £9,000
A 50-70 slide e-learning course with text, audio elements, 3 x graphic animations, case studies, interactions, quizzes and a final assessment with a certificate.
Typical costs: £10,000 – £12,000
A 2-3 minute graphic animation with audio narration and visuals – scripted and designed from start to finish.
Typical costs: circa £2,000
An 80-100 slide e-learning course with text, audio elements, graphic animations, acted scenarios, case studies, interactions, quizzes and a final assessment with a certificate.
Typical costs: £15,000 – £19,000
An 80-100 slide e-learning course with text, audio elements, graphic animations, branching scenarios, case studies, interactions, quizzes and a final assessment with a certificate.
Typical costs: £10,000 – £15,000
In each of the examples above, costs can be reduced where a client provides a large part of the content for the course in a format that requires only a light touch from an instructional designer.
As you can see, there are many variable factors that can increase or reduce the costs of creating an e-learning course, so it is always best to have a conversation regarding your specific needs. However, I hope this has given you a general idea. As a further guideline, it’s typical that our average bill for custom-made e-learning would be between £7,000 and £12,000. So, you can get an idea of the typical approach our customers are taking.
These e-learning costs are based on my experience of building learning products over the last 20 odd years and would be a fair estimation of the costs we would discuss with you if you were to approach Trainer Bubble for your learning requirements.
Looking for a company to help build an e-learning course? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 023 92 297546.
This article was written by Andrew Wood – Managing Director, Trainer Bubble Ltd.
*Please note – all estimated costs exclude any relevant taxes.