Training your staff is a significant time commitment. When new employees are onboarded or existing staff sets out to learn new rules, regulations and techniques, you can bet the learning won’t happen overnight. More importantly, before any learning can begin, it also takes time to develop training materials that will cover all your students need to know.

So, exactly how long does it take to create an online course, and how can you make the process the most efficient? Let’s have a closer look.

What is the value of the course?

The time it takes to develop content for an online learning course depends on what you want to achieve with it. If you are creating a basic course with one or two simple videos, you can probably have it done in a few short days. However, if you are developing something for onboarding or establishing procedures, or any course that contains complex and important concepts, it may take up to eight weeks of work or more.

Always remember time is valuable. Before getting started, be sure to identify how much time you can or should dedicate to developing the course based on how essential or complex the information is.

It comes down to you

The time required to develop and design a course can vary substantially. One estimate pegs it between 25 and 500 hours of work, depending on the amount of information and detail involved in the topic. So, how does this break down when it comes to the matter of hours-in versus content-out when creating your course?

According to a 2010 report by The Chapman Alliance, for particularly complex subject matter, and a heavy amount of customization, it can take 82 hours of work for every one hour of learning. If there is a large amount of media production, this ratio can reach 125 hours to every one hour of learning! In this latter case, a 20-minute course can take around 42 hours to produce.

Save time and define

As you can see, creating content for an online course can take a lot of time and effort. So, what can you do make it as efficient as possible?

First, determine your learning objectives: What are the key takeaways from the course, and what information is essential? Sometimes, online course developers will skip this stage and, instead, gather and produce a lot of content that they then try to stuff into whatever relevant parts of the course they can find. This often leaves leftover bits of information that might be valuable for future courses — but it’s definitely not the most time-effective way of creating a course!

You should also take a look at the digital tools in your toolkit, and pick the right platform for your needs – one that offers course templates and elements that fit with your style and your branding.

Next, create an outline. Plan the entirety of the course before creating it – a process called backward design. By ensuring you know exactly what to put into the course, and where everything goes, you’ll save yourself issues down the line – and avoid getting bogged down with unnecessary course information that is not essential to learning.

Also, by planning everything out in advance, you know exactly how everything should look as you start formatting your presentation in your course authoring software.

There is a strong community for online learning, and looking at sample courses is a good way to get a sense of what will work best for your needs. It can also give ideas on content, organization and design elements you might want.

Choose the right tools

Once you’ve decided what material to include, there are a number of course authoring software platforms available that provide templates and useful features that allow you to format your presentation in hours – if not minutes.

And the easier and quicker your software lets your format and post your course, the more time you can dedicate to getting your content right.

The time it takes to create an online course can vary greatly. But by following a few best practices, you can create courses smarter, faster and more efficiently.