How much does one hour of eLearning cost?

It’s not uncommon for any type of educational or training course to be made up of one hour sessions. This is also the case for modern eLearning courses designed to leverage technology to assist with the learning process
Students attend these sessions, participate and do their best to retain the information being presented to them, and then once the hour is complete move on to other activities in their life.
But just how long and how much money does it take to create that one hour course? A lot more than many would think!
A study in 2010 was conducted by the Chapman Alliance that polled 249 eLearning instructors that discovered just how much time and money was going into preparing these one hour learning sessions.
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Time Spent Preparing

An interesting part of the study is that they asked participants to break down how much time they spent preparing for a basic one hour eLearning session. On average, instructors spent a total of 79.1 hours preparing into these different categories:

  • Front End Analysis: 7.88 Hours
  • Instructional Design: 10.88 Hours
  • Storyboarding: 9.03 Hours
  • Graphic Production: 8.66 Hours
  • Video Production: 3.49 Hours
  • Audio Production: 5.47 Hours
  • Authoring / Programming: 13.42 hours
  • QA Testing: 5.12 Hours
  • Project Management: 5.08 Hours
  • SME/Stakeholder Reviews: 5.59 Hours
  • Pilot Testing: 3.43 Hours
  • Other: .96 hours

It’s clear that significant time is spent preparing for an hour long eLearning session. I was most surprised to see the low time spent on Video Production. My only assumption would be is that most instructors are not using video often in their courses and thus spend less time on it.
This is especially interesting to me given the popularity of video on the internet and how often individuals turn to YouTube for Visual Instruction and to learn how things are accomplished.

How Much Does This Cost?

Spending 79.1 hours preparing for a single hour of course instruction is going to have significant costs related to it. The survey participants estimated that in total, creating a one our basic learning session costs them in total around $10k dollars. That’s a significant investment that should require organizations to be sure that these courses are re-usable to help decrease the cost impact over time.
In contrast to this, the study shows that a single hour of Instructor-Led Training costs slightly less than $6k. This is significantly less of an investment than an eLearning course.


An hour session of eLearning takes significantly more time and money than many would expect. Instructors and eLearning Authors spend hours and thousands of dollars creating the material that students quickly learn during these courses. With the time and cost requirements to create learning as high as they are, it makes the investigation of blended learning approaches an attractive option, especially if the learning courses are not being created for large scale implementation and for repeat courses.

About the author: Dan Hinckley is technology enthusiast who works with LeanForward, an elearning solutions company, and George Mason University.
Source Citation: Chapman, B. (2010). How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? [Research Study]. Published by Chapman Alliance LLC.