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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 selling your course but that’s a whole other topic!
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.
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.
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.
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):
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
Total time = 25 hours (approx. 3 x 8 hour days)
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
Total time = 315 hours (approx. 39 x 8 hour days)
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.
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