Benchmarking how long it takes to prepare online and face to face training

Hi everyone,


I wonder if anyone else has done any work trying to analyse and average how long they spend trying to produce good quality training solutions? If you have, and have any data, we'd be really pleased to hear from you. We're specifically looking for how long it takes to develop the following:


  • outsourced e-learning modules - the finished article might be either 30 mins in length or 60 mins
  • in-house e-learning modules - again, finished article might be either 30 mins in length or 60 mins
  • webinars (live) - finished article 60 mins in length
  • webinars (recorded) - finished article 60 mins long
  • podcasts - finished article 10 mins long
  • face to face workshop - 1 day (both a new course from a scratch and prepping for one you've run before)
  • face to face workshop - 2 days (as above) 
  • survey monkey quiz  - 20 questions


Would be great to hear from anyone who's tried to log this -is there anyone out there from a consultancy where there are standards for this kind of thing?


Ruth Webster

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Hi Ruth,


Great questions!  But how long is a piece of string ;-) 


Seriously though, whilst the amount of time to develop anything can vary wildly.  As a starter, you may want to take a look at this old forum discussion which certainly has some pertinent metrics (as long as you read all the posts)


One of the key drivers to the 'how long' question will be determined by your people, their ability and the complexity of the content.


I hope the above is of some use, but please do come back with other questions when you've had a chance to digest the above.



Hi Johnathon


Thanks for this and the useful links. I take your point about all the variables etc. I did find one link which attempted, based on research done in 2009, to lay out minimum and maximum amounts of time that could be expended on various things. However, not sure I quite believe their findings - 40 hours to develop 1 hour of classroom based training? Maybe that's why some l and d practiftioners have such a poor reputation!



Hello again Ruth,


It's interesting that you feel 40 hours development time for one hour in the classroom is too much.  My challenge would be, how much time do you think it should take?


I'll return to my original post when I said 'It depends on the content.'  Granted that a 'simple' hello and welcome and introduce yourself doesn't take that long to complete but what about all the other 'stuff?'  Let me give a real-world example.


A couple of years ago a client asked me to develop a number of video-based scenarios for a one day course.  I mention this because the total allowable course time for the scenarios and all the associated learning was one hour.  But it took me (and a whole team) literally hundreds of hours to develop.  Whilst not an exhaustive list we had to:


  • conduct the analysis into which 12 scenarios would deliver real value
  • we then had to storyboard and write the scenarios
  • they then had to be checked for accuracy and acceptability
  • we then had to go through the Supply Chain process to identify potential video companies that could carry out the filming for us.  This involved the writing of specifications, reading pitches, conducting interviews and undertaking contractual negotiations.  Part of this included agreeing finances and ensuring that the clients finance system was 'loaded' with the budget, Purchase Order details and so on
  • we then had to arrange for all the filming to take place - including locations, travel, accommodation, actors and so on.  As we were filming on highly secure locations we also had to go through vetting and arrange for secure escorts at the site (plus so much more).
  • finally we got to do the filming.  To put this into perspective, filming a scenario that would run for about 90 seconds when complete could take us in excess of half a day to film
  • then we had to download the film into an edit suite and colour balance and sound balance all the material before we could begin editing
  • the editing itself took a number of days; accuracy was paramount and we had to get this right
  • once the scenarios were finished we had to get them approved etc.
  • then we had to fit them into the delivery system, liaise with the IT folks etc.


. . . I guess you see where I'm going here . .


The results were brilliant.  We had 12 scenarios which made a one-hour classroom session both highly interactive and real.  Whilst the development time was way, way, way in excess of 40 hours, the resultant material was delivered to over 7,000 people and is still in use today.  As an L&D practitioner my client was thrilled; and my reputation was secure.


So, with all that said, I return to my original statement 'It all depends on the content.'


As before, I hope this helps but please do come back with further questions.



In-house for a 20 minute elearning module we alot 3 months if our instructional designer has to write it. That is for a high quality module, including graphics, professional sound, and programmed in Flash. If there is a series of modules, the combined time is extended by a week or two per additional module. If it is on a software system, that is not afinished project, add a month or two to the writing process. I have had to do too many projects on brand new software where I had to learn to use the software without a manual or anything else.

Thanks guys for both these posts. Helpful and thought provoking. I can accept that if the "product" has been used with 7000 people and is still in use years on and it's for a dispersed workforce (e.g global), the time invested was well worth it, so the crucial question for L and D managers has to be about the cost / benefit analysis of what you are developing. Sounds like a quality product there Johnathon. Kevin, thanks for the ball park figure. This tallies with something that I heard recently at the L and SG Conference - 3 months to develop one of the short games used as part of someone's Induction to the US equivalent of the MoD, I think.

Hi again Ruth,


Benchmarking the amount of time needed to develop learning materials is a minefield of variables (as you can now probably see).  As well as the content; the capabilities and experience of your development teams will make a massive effort to your input time.


Take a moment to watch a Formula 1 pitstop on YouTube.  A good one is less than four seconds.  Is that therefore the benchmark?  Well yes, if you are in Formula 1, have a well-drilled team and millions of pounds of equipment.  If on the other hand you or I took a group of our friends and 'had a go' the results would be rather different! 


Turning back to L&D, I once ran an e-learning team where our record for developing a one-hour course from scratch (design, storyboard, prototype, scripting, graphics, programming, testing etc.) took less than 140 man hours.  Whilst very impressive from a benchmarking point of view, the hard truth is that it took us two years of practice and advanced programming to get to that level.


Reflecting on your original question, what's the real driver for getting a 'benchmark' for materials development?  Does it really matter that much to your organisation if you take 10 days to develop an effective classroom course rather than 8?  Is time/money/people the real organisational constraint, or does the organisation want effective leaning materials even if thay take a little longer or cost a little more?


It would be good to understand the background to these issues.



Hi:  In my experience, in terms of classroom material, (not e-learning), I usually use a ratio of 5:1 for new material - that is five hours development for one hour of delivery. That is, of course, if the trainer already knows the subject and is just required to produce a scheme of work, lesson plan, handouts, (maybe) PowerPoint.  Hope that helps.

Hi Ruth

I came across the attached some time ago that may be of help


Hi Bob,


This is a very useful piece of research.  Many thanks for sharing it.



We tended to use 8:1 ratio so 8 hours 'design' time to create a 1 hour face to face solution. As our capability has improved around using different tools and media we've looked to develop this further.


We've tried to be more specific to help us forecast resource against projects and try and rate any design in to low / medium / complex design requirements - this is determined during needs analysis but may also change depending on the capability of the designer available and timescales involved.


We then put some estimations based on previous experience around face to face, e-learning, intranet based, interactive PDF, video, audio etc


Concur with all comments below , some key points raised by Jonathan - it all depends on what you want the end product to look like and how well you understand what it is the learners need to differently at the end of the intervention.


Every solution needs to be determined on its own merits and there are so many variables I don't think you can have a benchmark that is steadfast as you need the ability to flex both design and time accordingly.

Useful thoughts everyone, thanks for taking the time to engage.


The reason for having some kind of benchmarking is to support realistic project planning so that we aren't expected to deliver a priority, quality product for all staff next month which actually will take much longer to design. And I think it also helps managers support and manage the people who are developing the training. But yes, it does matter how long it actually takes to do this, particularly at the current time when organisations are cutting back on staff and training! We are at a double pinch point and need to be mindful of that. Of course I accept that, like any project, time scales need to change to allow for changing circumstances etc balanced with the quality of what you'll get if you dont have as much time to develop something etc. All that said,  it's more about getting a sense of how long something might take from a point of view of not really knowing about the e-learning aspects. As a designer and deliverer of face to face training, working in the Civil Service many years ago, we were allocated about 5 days to develop a 1 day new course, and I wanted to just check if that measure had changed.

Hi Ruth,


If you take a look at the research cited by Bob you'll find some very useful numbers.  I've taken the liberty of extracting some for you pertinent to your original question.

  • F2F workshop could be from 22:1 to 82:1 development time.  Even allowing for the 'average' time and assuming that a one-day course ran for seven hours you'd therefore be looking at 301 hours of effort (43.1 * 7).  Assuming a 35 hour effective week, that's 8.6 weeks of effort - rather more than your expected 5:1 development ratio
  • Assuming a webinar is the same as an 'average' classroom course but delivered online then your one-hour webinar could take just over 43 hours to develop (1.2 weeks)
  • The recording of your webinar should be automatically undertaken by the delivery software and is therefore essentially 'free'
  • Assuming a podcast required more effort (asuming it is audio-only) you could be looking at a 82:1 ratio, so your ten minute podcast could initilly take almost two days to develop
  • Your in-house e-learning modules could take between 49:1 to 716:1 to develop.  Assuming a finished duration of 60 minutes you could therefore (on these figures) be looking at between 1.4 to 20 weks to develop
  • And finally the Survey Monkey quiz.  I can't really help here as so much depends on the validity you want from the results and the level of analysis you need to undertke.  I can tell you that recently a 15 question survey took about 20 to 30 hours to complete.  This covered research, writing questions, programming, communications and detailed analysis.


Hope all this helps a little more.





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