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Factors to Consider when Assessing the Cost of Custom eLearning Content Development

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In this article, I will go over the factors that come into play when determining the overall cost of custom eLearning content, regardless of whether you are in the private education or corporate training sector, so that you can get an accurate idea of how much of your budget you may want to set aside for your upcoming online learning project.

How to Determine the Cost of Custom eLearning Content Development

Designing custom eLearning content allows you to develop learners’ skill sets and expand their knowledge base. However, both learning professionals and companies who want to outsource their eLearning must consider the costs of custom eLearning content development, in order to gauge whether outsourcing is really worth the investment in terms of dollars and human resources. While no two eLearning course costs are alike, since development hours, content requirements, and the core objectives vary, there are still a number of investment considerations that most projects have in common.

1. Inclusion of basic eLearning design elements

The first cost consideration that you will want to keep in mind is the basic eLearning design elements that you'll be including in your eLearning course. Graphics, multimedia presentations, content creation, and tests are all examples of basic eLearning course elements. As is the case with all aspects of eLearning design, more difficult tasks will take more out of your budget. For example, if you are integrating content that is relatively simple and straightforward, such as stock images or minimally edited graphics, then this will cost less than let’s say a custom video creation or editing. Here are just a few other design elements that might factor into the cost of your custom eLearning content development:

  • PowerPoint presentations and slide shows.
  • Custom illustrations and personalized graphics.
  • Animated graphics and 3D animation.
  • Custom narratives and sound effects (including background music).

Remember that this does not cover interactive elements, which will be discussed in the next section. These are just the most basic aspects of your eLearning course design that deal with content delivery and simple user assessment tools. You will need to account for the creation of these elements as well as their integration into the eLearning course design. For example, you may need to hire a content creator/subject matter expert to write the actual text, and then contract an Instructional Designer to integrate that text into the layout of the module, in case of outsourcing.

2. Interactivity of your eLearning course

The next step in the cost calculation process is to gauge how much interactivity you require into your eLearning course. Are you going to use a variety of interactive multimedia elements? Will there be integrating exercises and scenarios that encourage the learners to utilize their newly acquired skill sets? Again, the level of interaction will greatly determine your overall investment. Here are just a few of the questions that you'll want to consider when determining your custom eLearning content development costs:

  • Will you be including linear content, decision-based content, or interactive scenarios? 
    Scenario based content generally comes with a higher price tag, given that more time will have to be spent on branching content and designing activities.
  • Are you going to include assessments that are text-based, or more interactive ones? 
    Custom quizzes and tests are often more costly, while text-only tests (such as multiple choice or true/false) generally require fewer resources, which make them less expensive.
  • Are you going with a standard template or fully customized navigation? 
    Dynamic pages will take a larger chunk from your budget, but may provide an enhanced learning experience. On the other hand, standard templates may not be as engaging, but are going to cost less. 

3. Development hours -including Instructional Designers and Subject Matter Experts

Given that you'll want to ensure that your eLearning course is professionally designed and that it contains high quality content, you will also need to account for development hours. Generally, this is divided into two main categories: Instructional Designers and Subject Matter Experts. The following considerations will help you to determine how much you will have to spend in terms of development hours:

  • Is your content ready to be input into the learning management system, or will you require a subject matter expert to create the content beforehand? 
    If you already have your content polished and perfected, then you won't have to spend as much on this aspect of the eLearning course. However, if you still need high quality content, then you will probably need to hire a subject matter expert, so that you can offer informative and meaningful content to your learners.
  • Do you already have storyboard, lessons, and tests in place, or is the eLearning course still in its initial planning stages? 
    If you have your eLearning courses already plotted out and in a format that can be easily adapted for your LMS, then you will typically spend less money on this element of your eLearning course design. On the other hand, if your eLearning course is still in the research phase (i.e. it has not yet been adapted for instructor-led training), then you will have to devote more resources to this step.
  • How complex is your subject matter? 
    Will you require a subject matter expert who is highly experienced (and more expensive), or do you acquire enough knowledge and experience about the subject yourself to serve as the subject matter expert for the project?
  • Have you already developed your outline and core curriculum? 
    If you only have notes for the eLearning course at this point, then you can expect to pay more than if you had a finalized curriculum and an in depth eLearning course outline.
  • How long will the project be ongoing? 
    The length of production time and unexpected delays can also add to the cost of custom eLearning content development. For example, if you encounter a glitch mid-way through the project or a subject matter expert states that the coursework may need more fine tuning, this can lead to a higher cost. 

Ultimately, creating custom eLearning courses can be a significant investment. However, when you consider the benefits that are associated with a personalized eLearning course or training module, then the rewards tend to far outweigh the financial costs.