How Much Does it Cost to Develop an Online Course in 2021?

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SkildLabs

At an estimated 80 to 280 hours required to develop a 1-hour course, you can expect to pay roughly $5,850 USD to over $15,000 USD to get a fully polished course, in addition to the cost of your Instructional Designer (ID) and SME. 

In this rapidly evolving digital age, providing continued training and upskilling opportunities for your organization is essential. By continuing to offer endless education opportunities, you’re ensuring that your business has a competitive edge within your market. Your employees will feel like you’re investing in their personal growth, which reduces churn and attracts top-tier talent for future roles. The only problem is, there are no one size fits all training programs on the market. No two businesses are alike, so a training solution that isn’t relevant to your business can be more frustrating than beneficial to your team. This is why creating custom online learning resources is so essential. Before jumping into course creation, it’s important to understand what it will cost your organization. There are several factors that go into the price of an online course, so it’s best to answer the following questions first. 

Understanding Your Objective

Before you can develop your course, you need to have a clear objective and an understanding of your audience.

Who will be taking the course?

This will determine the format and the content of the course. Is this for new employees or people that are more established on your team? Is this for a technical role? 

How will this benefit them?

Have a clear vision of the problem this course will help your team. How will this course impact your company? How will it improve their workflow? 

What problem within your organization is this going to solve?

By understanding the problem, it will be much easier to develop a solution. Are you launching a new product or starting a new process? Are you introducing a complex new programming software and need to train your technical employees on how to use it? Do you need to release an interactive training on the appropriate procedures to follow in the event of a fire at your company? 

How will you measure success?

At the end of the day, you want to feel like providing your team with learning materials will be worth the time and effort that you’ve put into creating this course. Which metrics will you track to determine the success of your curriculum? 

Your answers to these questions will help you determine how to format the course to optimize its effectiveness within your organization. 

4 Levels of eLearning Courses

The different eLearning levels are based on the amount of interactivity your learners will have with the course. The more interactivity in the material, the more engaging it is to your learners. You can also expect an enhanced learning outcome from a more in-depth curriculum. However, with increased interactivity comes higher costs and a longer time for course creation. According to eLearning Industry and Christopher Pappas, these are the 4 levels of eLearning courses.

Level 1 – Passive eLearning

Passive eLearning cost course

This type of course requires no interactivity. The presentation is in a PowerPoint-type format that may include some simple graphics, audio, and video with a few multiple-choice or true or false questions at the end. This level effectively delivers information about new products and policies within the business. These do not require a ton of time and resources to create, making them relatively inexpensive. 

Level 2 – Limited Participation eLearning

Limited Participation eLearning course cost

This course will use drag and drop functions and similar interactive media forms to further engage your team. It blends theory and practical elements so your team can get a better understanding of how to use the new knowledge in their day-to-day work activities. This is an effective way to train employees on appropriate workplace conduct or how to proceed in the event of a fire.  

Level 3 – Moderate Interaction eLearning

Moderate Interaction eLearning course cost

This is a more personalized learning experience featuring occasional simulations, detailed branch scenarios, and more complex drag and drop functions. These courses are used to teach new practical skills. The learner is expected to have developed new abilities after completing the course. 

Level 4 – Full Immersion eLearning

Full Immersion eLearning course cost

This course is fully immersive, where your employees are constantly interacting with the material in order to progress. This level often includes simulated job exercises, interactive games, branching stories based on their decisions, and other forms of multimedia. These are meant to feel like on-the-job training. 

As the level of interactivity with the course increases, so does the time it takes to create it and the cost associated with the development. 

Cost of Creating Your Online Course

Now that you’ve determined your course objective and the level of interactivity. You can start looking at what it’s going to cost to make your eLearning dream a reality. If you don’t have an in-house team, you’ll need to look at hiring professionals outside of your business. 

Hiring Talent

Creating an online course does require a full team of individuals to come up with ideas, create the content, and develop the course. Two crucial elements to your team your Instructional Designer and your Subject Matter Expert (SME). 

Instructional Designer (ID)

The ID is responsible for developing your course curriculum. They take the subject matter that you want to teach your employees and transform it into digestible content that your team can learn from effectively. The instructional designers will be the ones designing the pacing of the course and developing it in such a way that makes it engaging for your team. They create the questions and help to determine which levels of interactivity will be most effective relative to your learning objectives. In order to create the course, they will need the appropriate learning material from your Subject Matter Expert. 

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

The SME is the person with a deep understanding of the material you’re trying to teach your employees. They can be the expert in a process, software, function, or department. Their in-depth knowledge of a particular subject or technology will be necessary for creating a course that is relevant and accurate for your employees.

The cost of these two individuals will play a significant part in the cost of your course.

(Hourly Rate of Instructional Designer * Number of Hours) + (Hourly Rate of SME * Number of Hours) = Total Cost of Online Course or Training Program

According to Salary.com, the median hourly rate for an instructional designer is $45 as of April 27, 2021. For your SME, this depends entirely on the topic, years of experience and area of expertise. According to Salary.com, the median hourly rate for an SME is an estimated $49 per hour, as of April 27, 2021. However, this value can fluctuate drastically, which makes it hard to pin point. For example, the cost of a SME in aerospace engineering or cardiology could be significantly higher than in other fields. This is simply because their skillsets are rare and difficult to obtain.

Of course, cost and required hours will depend on their experience level and the project’s complexity. You can, however, refer to this table as your baseline:

Cost Breakdown of Key Roles

Task Role Rate/Hour ($USD)
Curriculum building and guidance (to the SME), exercise development and content creation. Instructional Designer Beginner: $30 per Hour
Intermediate: $59 per Hour
Advanced: $125 per Hour
Production ready script write-up Copywriter Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced: $40 – $80 per Hour
Filming, video editing, sound mixing, color correction and effects Video Editor Beginner: $20-$45 per Hour
Intermediate: $45-$100 per Hour
Advanced: $60-$100 per Hour
Illustration and character development, overall design of course materials and resources. Graphic Designer Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced: $20-$70 per Hour
Voice over recording. Voice Over Artist Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced: $40-$100 per Hour
Source: Upwork

In addition to the roles listed, you might need support from the below:

  • Audio Editors
  • Developers (for the more interactive content creation)
  • Animators
  • LMS Specialists
  • Slide Creators

All depending on how complex and interactive your course is.

Content Delivery

The next component of your course is to choose a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS is a software that your Instructional Designer will use to develop your eLearning course, and it’s used to deliver the training to your employees. Your LMS will track your employees’ progress in the course, issue certificates upon completion and improve the overall learning experience. Due to the incredible growth and innovation in the eLearning space, a lot of LMS options have entered the market for both enterprise and small business/individual setting. They can range from $100 to $2000 a month, depending on functionality and number of licenses. To name a few:

Thinkific

Thinkific enables businesses and entrepreneurs to create, market, sell, and deliver their own online courses and training programs. The LMS has a mix of individual creators and corporate clients, who use the platform to create amazing micro-academies for their products. A notable client of theirs is Hootsuite with their Hootsuite Academy. Thinkific is also the only platform that has a app marketplace for developers.

Kajabi

Kajabi is an all-in-one business platform that helps you create and scale your knowledge business and training programs. The Kajabi LMS comes with a lot of integrations to make the learning experience of any student incredible. From e-mail automations and landing pages to advanced curriculum builder and landing page. A popular creator on the platform is Vanessa Lau with her BOSSGRAM Academy.

Docebo

Docebo leans on the academic and corporate side and has been in the market since 2005 The LMS is compatible with SCORM 1.2 and 2004 as well as Tin Can. The LMS has the ability to centralize and organize courses, distribute and manage online and instructor-led courses, track certifications and measure results with dashboards and custom analytics. In addition, Docebo is powered by AI, automatically tagging learning content and making it easier to find.

Adobe Captivate Prime

Adobe has produced a lot of eLearning and Design tools over the years, but there main LMS product is called Adobe Captivate Prime. The LMS gives you complete control to deliver personalized learning experiences to your employees, customers and partners. You can also take advantage of AI-based recommendations to deliver a hyper-personalized learner home page experience.

Start Your Project: Determine Your Course or Training Program Cost

If this all seems a little overwhelming, it’s because it often can be. You have the best intentions by wanting to create an eLearning experience for your team, but there are a lot of moving parts required to get it done. The cost of your Learning Management Software, your Designer, SME, and freelancers, can really add up. This is why so many organizations start building their course but never end up completing it. The last thing you want is to spend time and money on eLearning material that you don’t end up using. 

At SkildLabs, we offered a tailored one-stop-shop approach, so your course is designed with your business objectives in mind. We take the time to understand the outcomes you hope to achieve with your eLearning and then work to develop a curriculum that is designed with the appropriate level of interactivity based on your needs. From the first brainstorming session all the way to implementation, SkildLabs is there every step of the way. Our partnership doesn’t end after the implementation of your course either. We want to ensure that the program we’ve created delivers the outcome you expected. We’ll continue to fine-tune the material until the curriculum is perfect. 

Creating an eLearning course doesn’t have to be complicated. Book a consultation with us today to discuss your project and provide you with an accurate estimate. 

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