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How Long Does It Take To Create an Online Course?

Work doesn’t stop when you need to train your staff. It takes time for your new recruits to get onboarded, or for existing staff to learn new rules, regulations and techniques. And before all that, it takes time for you to develop training materials that cover everything that your learners need to know. 

So how long does it take to create an online course, and what can you do to make the process as efficient as possible? Let’s take a closer look.

What is the value of the course?

Ultimately, the time it takes to develop content for an online learning course depends on what you want to achieve with it. If you’re planning a short course with one or two simple do-it-yourself videos, you can probably get it done in a few days. However, if you’re developing something for onboarding or establishing standard procedures, or a course that explains complex and important concepts, it may take (and justify) eight weeks of work, or more.
When determining how much effort to dedicate to a course, remember: your time is valuable. So, you need to make the call about how much time you can or should dedicate to developing the course, based on how essential and complex the information is.

The choice is yours!

The time required to develop and design a course can vary wildly. One estimate pegs it between 25 and 500 hours of work, depending on the amount of information and detail involved in the topic. But, when creating your online course, how does this break down when it comes to the matter of hours-in versus content-out?

Well, according to a 2010 report by The Chapman Alliance, for particularly complex subject matter, and a lot of customization, it can take 82 hours of work for every one hour of learning. If there is a large amount of media production in it, this ratio can reach 125 hours to every one hour of learning! In this latter case, a 20-minute course can take around 42 hours to produce.

Save yourself some time

It can take a lot of time and effort to create content for an online course. So, what can you do make it as efficient as possible? 

Start off by determining your learning objectives: What are the key takeaways from the course, and what information is essential? Sometimes, online course developers will skip this stage and end up gathering and producing a lot of content, then try to fit whatever relevant bits they can within the course. Often, this leaves them with leftover bits of information that might be valuable for future courses — but it’s still not the most time-effective way of creating a course!
From there, you should take a look at the digital tools at your disposal, and pick the right platform for your needs, and one that offers course templates and elements that fit with your style and branding.

Next, create an outline. Plan out the entirety of the course before getting down to creating it, a process called backward design. By ensuring you know exactly what to put into the course, and where everything goes, you’ll save yourself trouble down the line – and avoid getting bogged down with unnecessary course information that is not essential to learning.

Also, by planning everything out in advance, you know exactly how everything should look as you start formatting your presentation in your course authoring software.

A post on Mesa Community College’s website suggests looking at sample courses. There is a strong community surrounding online learning, so looking at some particularly successful courses made by veterans of the craft can help you get a sense of what could work best for you. It can also help give you ideas on the kind of content, organization, and design elements you want in your course.

Picking the right tools

Once you know what material to include, there are a number of course authoring software platforms available that provide templates and useful features that allow you to format your presentation in hours – if not minutes. 

And the easier and quicker your software lets your format and post your course, the more time you can dedicate to getting your content right.

As you can see, the time it takes to create an online course can vary a fair bit. But by following a few best practices, you can create courses faster and more efficiently.

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