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An hour of elearning?Designing Online Courses 3008 views
Often, when I'm asked to cost up elearning design and development, the concept of an "hour of instruction" comes up.
It's a term I've never been comfortable with. You'd never ask a writer to create an hour's worth of reading. You'd give them a word limit instead.
Time measurements are only suitable for passive media, like radio or television, or (in our world) screencasts, podcasts and presentations.
When you're asking people to actively engage with your medium, or to dip in and out, then time becomes irrelevant.
What could we use instead?
It's a tricky one, because good elearning is actually a combination of many different media elements:
- Video, audio, animations - measured in minutes and seconds
- Text - measured in words
- Graphics and images - measured by the number required
- Interactions, simulations, games and menus - measured by the number of touch points or branching points
- Moderation & support, such as forums, social networks, email - measured by the number of staff and the time they're expected to be monitoring & contributing to
Don't ever hire an elearning designer who wants to get paid by the word count - the end result will be awful. Perhaps we ought to consider an inverse relationship: the price increases as the word count goes down?
See also: Time to develop one hour of training (from ASTD's Learning Circuits magazine)
Paying the designer per word count is as ludicrous as measuring software developer’s productivity by LOC (number of lines of code) s/he writes.
george kyaw naing
How can we drive down this cost? Is it because of technology or because of teaching content?
george kyaw naing
I’ve been in the instructional media business for 20 years and I’ve come to accept cost per minute/per hour as the starting point for general budget discussions. As long as the range is pretty wide and you qualify the number, I think it’s as good as anything to determine feasibility.
I agree with your bullets Mark. Try to quantify anything that can be quanified. We can be most accurate when we can point to a similar course and say we can take a similar approach with this level of media, interactions, features, etc. and it will cost around x per learning experience hour.
I think Luke has it right. The “hour of elearning” is a starting point. We along with other suppllers have used the terms “simple” , “medium” and “complex” to indicate the level of treatment to help the client understand what we proposing. For each of these terms we specify the number of interactions, graphics, video etc per hour along with the type of navigation and feedback.
@David, @Luke, I take your point about the “hour of elearning” being a starting point. But it still feels wrong. It’s setting an expectation that the learners will be passive for that length of time. That’s probably not at all what anyone wants as an end result, but it’s implied and thus runs the risk of becoming embedded in the end result.
Otherwise, how will the client know whether we’ve delivered what we’ve said we’re going to deliver?
I agree with Mark that good elearning is a combination of various elements. We - driven by the market - have set basic, intermediate, advanced hour rates depicting level of interactions, nr of questions, screens etc. However, based on our experience we can more precise measure and hence rate elearning hours, specified for software design.
An estimate of learning time could help the business assess the impact of “time away from the job".
Apart from that, measures like learning time or treatment levels, are pretty meaningless because they look at inputs not outcomes. A more useful measure would be one which described the potential for the resource to address a performance gap. Again, that is problematic unless many other hard to measure variables - like motivation or the impact of other learning processes going on - are also considered.
Confidence in a learning time estimate might be increased with evidence of usability, learnability and performance improvement gained by evaluating representative user samples. Not easy to do, of course, when bidding for work
@Clive, I agree that the measures we try to use for outputs are more useful, but also far more problematic and complex than any input measures. I can’t see us bidding for work any time soon where we charge based on the output measures. ;-)
I think, for the moment, we’re stuck with input measurements. It’s just a matter of making those measurements more closely reflect the reality of what is actually to be produced.
I also agree with the bullet points in the article. They are simple enough to measure and to understand for the clients.
We need to deal with them in such a way that they see clearly we are working in their best interest. In software development, for example, we help the clients see the workload, the complexity, the time required etc — by means of feature, the task involved in a feature, the steps involved in a task and so on.
I find you article very helpful.
george kyaw naing