How Long Does It Take To Create An Online Course? - Online Course How

How Long Does It Take To Create An Online Course?

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I get asked this a lot, and I totally understand why. Before I made our first online course, I had no idea how long it would take and if we would have enough time to do it.

So, how long does it take to create an online course?

Depending on the length and detail of the course, it can take anywhere between 25 – 500 hours to create an online course. For a mini course with just 4 or 5 videos you could create it in a couple of days. An in-depth flagship course with multiple modules and lessons could take 8 weeks or more to complete.

These numbers just provide a ballpark figure to give you some context.

How long it will actually take you to make your course depends on lots of different factors which I’ll discuss in more detail below.

Let’s start by taking a look at the main work involved in creating an online course.

The 4 Main Stages To Creating An Online Course:

Towards the bottom of this article I’ll give you 2 examples for how long each stage might take for a short and an in-depth online course, but for now let’s just get familiar with the main stages involved:

1) Initial Online Course Research

During this phase you will be researching your niche and deciding on your course topic. You might also decide which online course platform you want to use and you’ll probably want to either take a course on online course creation or at least watch some free training on it to get prepared.

2) Mapping Out Your Course Outline

Your next step will be to create an outline of your online course. This will ensure that you include all the relevant info in your course and that there’s a coherent structure to it for your students too. It can also help in breaking down what otherwise can seem like a huge task into smaller bite-size sections to work on.

3) Creating Your Online Course

Now you get stuck in and make the course content. For most people this will involve making a number of videos according to your course outline, but it may also include additional resources like pdfs, spreadsheets and written info to support the video lessons.

4) Getting Your Course Set Up Online

Finally, after you’ve created all the course materials, you need to get it all set up online. Depending on your budget and tech experience you may decide to do this yourself using an online course platform like Teachable or Kajabi (who make it pretty simple for anyone to do), or you may hire a freelancer to do it for you. Either way, you need to get your course content set up and ready for people to learn from.

There are further stages involved with launching your online course and also ongoing efforts for marketing and selling it too – read my in-depth articles on these topics for further guidance.

Factors That Influence How Long It Will Take To Create An Online Course

So now you have an idea of the work involved, let’s look at some of the main factors which can influence how long your course might take to make.

1: How Big Is The Course?

This will have the biggest impact on how long it takes you to create your online course because the size and depth of the course directly correlates with the amount of time it takes to make it.

…the size and depth of the course directly correlates with the amount of time it takes to make it.

  • A starter course might be just 5 – 20 lessons and cover a smaller aspect of a wider topic, or it may cover it at a beginner’s level of detail. A typical price to sell a starter course might be $50 – $200
  • A flagship course might be 20 – 100 lessons and cover all aspects of a topic in lots of depth with plenty of additional resources and maybe a community aspect to the programme too. It could sell for $200 – $2000+

If you are creating a Flagship course it’s going to take you a lot longer at each of the 4 stages of course creation, but particularly during the stage where you’re creating the course content.

Every lesson will take a certain amount of time to plan, film, edit and create accompanying resources for. And the more lessons you need to make the longer it will take.

On the other hand, if you’re creating a starter course you could keep it really simple and get it done relatively quick.

This is what I recommend you do if you’ve never created a course before. It enables you to get started and see some success without it being such a big mountain to climb.

You can always come back and add to the course material later, or even make a more in-depth flagship course later on.

2: Will You Do All The Work Yourself?

This also has a big impact.

If you plan to do all the research, planning, course materials, film, edit and set up a course website yourself, it’s going to take a lot longer than if you outsource some steps of the process to others.

And not just because you’ve got to do more work; you’ll be doing things you’ve never done before which requires doing lots of research and learning new skills.

This can take considerable time and if you have the budget it can be much quicker to hire a freelancer who has experience, will work faster, and likely do a better job than you too.

These are the tasks I would hire for (in this order):

  1. Editing videos – this can take ages even when you know what you’re doing.
  2. Filming your videos – for a starter course you can just do it yourself on a phone, but for a flagship course selling at a high price, you need high quality video which can take time to learn to do yourself.
  3. Setting up your course website – with user-friendly course platforms, anyone could do this themselves but it does take time to set everything up for this

Read my article: How Much Does It Cost To Create An Online Course? for more info on the different costs associated with course creation.

3: Do You Have Any Relevant Skills?

Camera filming someone making an online course

Have you done much filming, editing or website design before?

If so, it’s going to be quicker for you to make your course than someone who hasn’t got this experience and doesn’t have the budget to hire help.

It’s not a problem if you don’t have experience with these skills as you can definitely learn how to do each them yourself with a bit of effort and motivation

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I’d never done any of these things before we made our first online course and, because we were bootstrapping everything at the time, we did it all ourselves as we went along.

I’ve heard the same from many other course creators so don’t let this put you off – just understand it means it will take longer to get to the finish line.

4: How Much Time Do You Have To Work On Your Course?

The more time per day or week that you can spend working on this, the quicker your course will get made.

Aside from the obvious reason that the more time you work on it, the quicker it gets done – its’ also true for these following important reasons:

  1. You’ll develop momentum which helps with the motivation needed to complete the job (lots of people start and then never finish because they lose the motivation)
  2. You’ll get ‘in the zone’ of course creation and this helps you do everything quicker than if you have to keep switching back focus from other work.

Now I totally understand that most people are not going to be able to work full time on creating their online course.

We’ve all got existing work, family and life commitments that are going to most likely prevent that.

But if you can somehow block out large chunks of time where you can work on creating your course, it’s going to be a much quicker and more enjoyable process.

You’ll be able to keep focused on each step as you work through it, and see progress much quicker too.

If that’s not possible for you due to already having a full-time job, don’t worry – it’s absolutely possible to make your course by working on it one hour at a time.

Plenty of people do it like this, it just takes longer than if you take a week off work and focus 100% on it.

Example Timelines

So, we’ve looked at what kind of factors influence the time is takes to create an online course, but I wanted to give you a couple of examples to help you estimate it in more detail.

Bear in mind these are just rough estimates to give you a ballpark figure.

Example 1: A Short Course With 10 Video Lessons

In this example, I’m going to show you the bare minimum time that could be spent to make a basic online course.

I’m assuming that the person making it already has some idea of what they want to teach and that the lessons are all quite short (less than 10 minutes).

Consider it a minimum viable product which could be built upon over time after feedback from students.

Estimated Time input for each stage of course creation

  1. Initial research (3 hours)
  2. Outline of course (2 hours)
  3. Creating Your course (15 hours)
  4. Setting it all up online (5 hours)

Total time = 25 hours (approx. 3 x 8 hour days)

Example 2: A Flagship Course With 50 Video Lessons

For this example, we’re looking at an in-depth course covering a topic in a lot of depth. There will be high quality videos, additional resources and some serious research, planning and outline before the course creation begins.

Estimated Time input for each stage of course creation

  1. Initial research (5 hours)
  2. Outline of course (10 hours)
  3. Creating Your course (250 hours)
  4. Setting it all up online (50 hours)

Total time = 315 hours (approx. 39 x 8 hour days)

Related Questions

How long should my e-learning course be?

The length of an e-learning course depends on what is being taught and how in-depth the training is. There is no set length that online course needs to be. Some short courses may be just 20-30 minutes, whereas some in depth courses may be many hours of lessons. No one wants to watch hours of filler content, so make your course as short as possible whilst delivering all the relevant information.

How many hours are required to create one hour of e-learning?

It can take between 2 – 100 hours to create each hour of online course content. It depends on how familiar you are with the content being taught, the process of creating course content and resources and the subject matter itself. Some people do minimal preparation and just shoot from the top of their head. Others script everything out in advance and do multiple takes then edit heavily to create the finished lesson.

How long does it take to create a curriculum?

The length of time it takes to create a curriculum will depend on the individual, and it can differ from person to person. It can take anywhere from 5 – 150 hours to create each hour of online content.

Some people are more experienced and therefore comfortable jumping straight in with very little preparation, as they’re able to remember a lot of the curriculum off the top of their head. 

However, others prefer to script out every single word in advance. They may also do multiple takes and then complete a lot of editing to create their finished curriculum. The more time that you can spare and the more hours you put into your curriculum creation, the faster it’ll get finished.

For example, a short course with just 10 video lessons will probably take around 25 hours to complete. 

How much does it cost to create an online course?

On a small budget, you can develop a professional-looking online course for $350 to $1,000. Equipment, the software, hosting, and promotion can all have an impact on the cost. ​Having a budget for producing your course is critical in the first place.

However, effectively pricing your course is as important as ensuring that you can swiftly recover those expenses.

Even if you’re not an expert on the subject or if it’s something that anyone with enough effort could Google and learn for themselves. Your time and abilities are priceless. Don’t undervalue your content or yourself!

This is why advertising and marketing are so important, as you’ll need to build an audience before you sell any courses. You can do this by promoting it using a YouTube channel, a mailing list, or offering some other form of content (but it must be free!). 

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About the Author Jacob M.

Jacob has a background in finance and engineering. Outside of his day job, he is a lifelong learner, who enjoys reading, taking online courses, and writing about what he's learned.

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