One of the major problems that baffle project managers/planners in the present day e-learning scenario is that of estimating time and resource effort in developing e-learning courseware. Though estimation techniques may vary depending on the type of training being produced (ILT, CBT or WBT), the basic objective is to precisely calculate the time needed in designing courseware and appropriately dividing this time between the design and development phases without compromising on quality. However, there is always room for uncertainty. An estimate will never be accurate else it wouldn’t be an estimate.
Nowadays companies devise their personal estimation ratios for ease. For example, according to Langevin Leaning Services follow 25-60 to 1 ratio when designing ILT, i.e. 25-60 days of effort and time required for designing a one-day instruction; and 75-500 to 1 ratio for a one hour WBT/CBT tutorial, i.e. 75-500 hours of design time for a 1 hour course. However, these ratios cannot be generally applied to all courses.
Estimation may depend on various factors mentioned as under:
Scope of technical complexity in a project
It is important to ascertain whether making a course technically advanced within the financial scope of the project. It is advisable to discuss these points during project kick-offs. There may be times when as a vender, an e-learning firm may want to deliver a course with a number of animations but what actually a client may want is plain instruction with minimal interactivity. This is an important aspect, because the more the complexity in the course, more time and resources (ids and developers) will be required for a company to be able to deliver quality product in time.
Need for documentation and learner base analysis (if required)
Some clients leave it to the designers to ascertain what kind of instruction will best suit their employees/learners. To minimize error in such a situation, a lot of analysis and documentation is required on the part of the vender firm and hence requires additional time and effort.
Type and complexity of content
Instructional designers are not required to be domain experts, therefore it is mandatory for them to first go through raw content, understand it and then chunk it into logical learning objects. The time required to go this will vary according to the content being dealt with. For example, the treatment of a simple course on spreading awareness about a new company policy among the employees will be way different from a medically heavy course no diabetes meant for medical representatives.
Availability of resources
Two resources can finish a project in half the time compared with the efforts of only one resource. Further, the estimation of effort and time for those two resources may also vary.
It is important to determine the treatment of a course first. There may be content that can be best explained via an animation or without a simulation the course may not be able to fulfill its objective.
All these factors not only hold true for the instructional design team but also for other teams involved in courseware production. Estimates should always be made for small tasks in a phase and then all should be clubbed up. This compilation from various departments gives a much clearer picture of how much time a project is going to be completed in. Lastly, it’s important to take the human factor into consideration and understand that no two resources will yield the same work in the same time and even their efforts are bound to vary.