How To Estimate Your eLearning Course Length
At one time or another, each one of us has been made to endure a course or a lecture that seemed to last for hours. Not only are such courses/lectures frustrating, thanks to their nightmarish length, but they don't really encourage learner excitement or motivation. At a certain point, the learner’s mind tends to switch off and grows tired of the experience, which means that he/she is no longer receptive to new information. The same is also true for lengthy eLearning courses. The key to eLearning success is achieving a perfect balance of learner engagement and knowledge absorption by creating an eLearning course that's just the right length.
- Get an accurate gauge of exactly how much content you need to include.
Speaking with a subject matter expert is often the most effective way to determine what content must be included, and what pieces of information can be left out. Getting a clear idea of what content needs to be added into the eLearning course will allow you to gauge how many screens you'll need to include, as well as how you are going to deliver the content. For example, one sub-topic may be ideally suited for plain text, while another may require detailed imagery, slide shows, or virtual scenarios. This means that you'll probably have to gather all of the information you're going to need to give to the learner, and then map out where each piece of data fits into the “puzzle”. Creating a story board gives you the opportunity to set aside enough space and time for each lesson or activity, so that your eLearning course length estimate will be as accurate as possible. Developing a detailed overview of the eLearning course ahead of time will also give you the opportunity to consider the number of slides you'll be using, which is a one of the most crucial steps in creating your eLearning Course estimate.
- Consider the amount and complexity of the interactive elements.
The complexity of the various interactive elements you'll be including has a significant impact upon the length of your eLearning course. For example, if you are designing an interactive game, you need to account for the fact that some learners may need more time to complete each level, while others may breeze right through it. You'll also want to consider how many interactive elements you'll be integrating. This will enable you to determine if there may be too many, which can make your course too lengthy, or too few, which may take away from learner engagement and motivation.
- Are you going to integrate video and audio elements?
Video and audio elements have a specific run time, which should also be factored into your eLearning course length estimate. If you are integrating multimedia such as video or audio narratives, or even music, into your eLearning course, then keep in mind that they can significantly extend the length. Also, learners may choose to pause the multimedia, which would make it even longer. As such, when creating your estimate, always leave a bit of room for slower playbacks or pauses, and be sure to include the most important video and audio elements into your development plan before adding in the ones that can be omitted, just in case you may need to cut down on the length at some point later.
- Research your eLearning audience to know what information they need.
In order to determine how much information to include, and how to deliver that information, you'll first need to have an idea of what your audience already knows. Are they tech-savvy? Do they already have experience within their industry, or are they newcomers? What is their educational background? What prior experience do they have? These are all questions that, when answered, will enable you to include information that is relevant and valuable for your learning audience, rather than teaching them about concepts that they already know. Conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups to research your learners and figure out what knowledge they are expecting to acquire, as this will help you when estimating eLearning course length for any deliverable.
- Pay close attention to navigability.
Navigability must always factor in when you're determining your eLearning course’s length. ELearning courses that are challenging to navigate, such as those that do not contain legible “next” buttons, are going to be lengthier. This is why it's all-important to ensure that your eLearning course features simple and straightforward navigation. Buttons should be in plain sight, and every link should be valid. Making an aesthetically pleasant eLearning course is important, but be cautious. To elaborate navigation icons just for the sake of aesthetic will only cause unneeded stress and frustration to the learners and can make your eLearning course go well over its expected length.
- Leave some room in the estimate for the unexpected.
Last, but certainly not least, always leave room in your estimate for slides, multimedia elements, or another component that may go over the length you've calculated. There are simply some aspects of your eLearning course design that won't go according to plan. Maybe you'll have to extend a video to include an extra piece of content, or add in a few extra slides that you thought were unnecessary, but now realize are essential. Leave some space to account for the unexpected, so that you can save yourself a headache further down the line.
To sum up, the eLearning course length can't be too long or too short...it has to be just right. By using these tips for how to estimate eLearning course length, you can create a solid development time line for your next eLearning deliverable, and ensure that your eLearning course is both educational and engaging.
Want to know more about estimating development time for your next deliverable? The article Estimating an eLearning Course Development Time highlights 5 important factors that you'll want to consider when determining how much time you'll need to complete your eLearning course or online training event.