What’s The Real Cost of Your Elearning? (New Research)

We are on a mission to promote learning design techniques that work. In this series of articles, we share insights from the data we’ve collected from thousands of elearning projects, to help boost your elearning strategy. Here, we help you calculate the real cost of your elearning, whether you produce it in-house or outsource it, and provide two free tools to help you calculate your ROI.

alarm clock - elearning time

There are two ways of looking at the cost of elearning:

1. Market value: How much is your vendor charging you? Or, how much are you charging for your learning product?
Elearning pricing models are typically calculated on the length of the learning – some production agencies will charge up to $2000 per minute of learning. If you are selling your content then you may apply a similar calculation. Is this based on accurate assumptions? Is quantity where the value is?

2. Internal resource time take to produce it: Whether you produce full solutions in-house, or just project manage it, how much it is costing?Are you fully capturing the internal time it takes to produce your digital learning projects – from sponsors and subject matters through to designers, testers and project managers? Our data shows us that to produce a page of digital learning takes 2 hours of people’s time. How does that investment relate to the number of people that will benefit from it?

3. Employee productivity: How much time are you taking people away from their day job?
In an organization with 25,000 staff, if you calculate the learning time incorrectly by just 3 minutes per learner then you will be losing the business 166 days in lost time – it had better be worth it!

So, are you paying (or charging) over the odds for your learning? Let’s break this question into three parts; market value, cost of elearning development and the cost of learning itself.

Market value of elearning

Historically, the industry rule of thumb is that 1 minute of learning is the equivalent of 1 page of content. The data we have collected from over 65,000 projects and 3 million learners challenges this assumption!

In fact, the average ‘page’ of content takes 44 seconds to complete. So, a 15-minute elearning experience should contain 20 ‘pages, not 15’*. Are you or your learner being short-changed!?

*With a shift to longer scrolling pages, the time per page is likely to be longer, (although our data takes these types of projects into account too).

Elearning pricing models that are based on learner time can drive the wrong behaviors i.e. longer learning experiences to justify the investment. Surely the most valuable elearning is that which consumes as little time as possible to deliver measurable and long-lasting results?

Cost of developing elearning

If we take a look at how long it takes to create a piece of elearning then our data shows that (in Elucidat) it takes 2 hours per page of content, on average. So, to create a 15 minute (or 20 page) learning experience you may need to invest around 40 hours. How does that cost compare to outsourcing it? How does that investment relate to the number of people that will benefit from it?

As we see more and more micro learning entering the marketplace, tools like Elucidat can be used to support learning resources delivered directly from the subject matter expert. What could you bottle up in your organization in just 2 hours which could benefit others across your organization?

Cost of learning itself

Time is money and when it comes to elearning this is no exception. All too often we have witnessed elearning projects that have been given made-up ‘learning times’ which are a long way off from reality.

Set realistic expectations for the learner. If you are asking them to allocate 10 minutes for your learning content but you soon realize it actually takes them 20 minutes then ensure future learners have allocated enough time for it and/or adapt the content.

Always think about the learner when you are capturing the needs for your project. What is their working pattern? How much time will they have allocated to this? If you use their time effectively then they are more likely to come back for more!

What now?

Do some analysis on your own elearning content.

Ask yourself:
  • Is my elearning really a good use of a person’s time?
  • Is it making a measurable impact on our business goals?
  • How long does it really take to complete?
  • Could the experience be shorter (whilst being more effective)?
  • Am I getting value back from our time investment?
  • Does ‘cost to produce’ justify the ‘time to learn’?

Download our free People-Centred Learning Guide and 25 point checklist to help you with this.

Calculate your ROI

Now sure how your production time measures up against the audience your elearning reaches?

Try our free online elearning ROI calculator.

What do you think?

How long should the average elearning experience should be?


This blog is part of our Insights series.

Since Elucidat launched in 2014 and has reached 3 million learners in over 40 languages, with 64,483 pieces of elearning. This means we have collected a lot of data! 

We are on a mission to promote learning design techniques and processes that work. In this series of articles, we will share insights into the data we have collected and reflect on what this might mean for effective digital learning strategies.

Find out what the data in Elucidat says in our next article:  The elearning attention span: How long should your project be?

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