Five Resources for Estimating Development Time

Are you unsure of how to answer the big question: How long does it take to develop one hour of online learning?

As you might expect, there is no one answer to this complex question because there are multiple factors to consider. Fortunately, our community has several resources that can help you with an estimate.

First, Consider All the Factors

But before you jump right to those estimates, analyze your situation, environment and project and consider all the factors. Some of the factors that will influence your time estimate are:

  • Organizational need/deadline
  • Your design and development model
  • Complexity of the content
  • Number and complexity of interactions
  • Game-based, branching, linear
  • Types of media
  • Types of evaluations and assessments
  • Hardware/devices
  • Delivery system

Also, consider the learning model you will use. If you plan on straying from the typical approach, such as using Thiagi’s Four Door Model or incorporating existing content from YouTube, you will need to modify the design and development hours accordingly.


Below are some general resources you can use to do your estimating. You’ll find that using a standard measurement of developing one hour of training works well for making larger or smaller estimates. Keep in mind that most of the resources are several years old.

1. Time To Develop One Hour of Training

Although this article from ASTD is a few years old, it is still relevant. Not only does it provide the detail many are seeking, authors Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice delve into several of the contributing factors that will affect your time estimate.

2. How Long Does it Take to Create Learning?

This survey provides data it has collected from 249 organizations, representing 3,947 learning development professionals. The “time to complete” numbers are represented as ratios. Don’t miss the accompanying SlideShare presentation, which has helpful visuals.

3. How Long Does It Take to Create an E-Learning Course?

This article by Desiree Pinder discusses a variety of factors you may not think to consider, such as priority, review cycles and availability.

4. Estimating Costs and Time in Instructional Design

Donald Clark provides budgets and cost guidelines here in addition to the time estimates, which he references from an older source.

5. Why eLearning Development Ratios Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

The Dashe & Thomson’s Social Learning Blog cautions against blindly using the development ratios. They provide their own list of considerations.

If you have other solid resources, please list them below in Comments.


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  1. Peter says

    Usually, the US military has good resources. Check out the DOD documents on instructional design, for instance. But in this case, the Army has a document available on this site: Look for: 350-70-2 26 June 03 Multimedia Courseware Development Guide
    On pages 27-33 are the estimates for determining development time, especially for media-rich content.

  2. Karen Sieczka says


    Thanks for always sharing such useful resources. I had to immediately share with my ASTD Atlanta colleagues.

    I had seen Chapman’s study a couple of years ago and was shocked at how little my training development time was actually valued. No wonder I am now workingn for another company! I’m glad to see Chapman has updated his info and has some great graphics/stats to share.

  3. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Karen,
    I didn’t see Chapman’s original study but I did hear this was updated. I’m glad you moved on to a place that values your work!

  4. Cynthia Furk says

    Hi Connie Great article, as usual. We used the following book in one of my University courses for estimating time and for other project management related items. “Project management for trainers by Lou Russell.


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