Do Not Underestimate the Online Learning Investment
February 11, 2014 Editor 0
When considering the cost of flying a person to Africa (plus hotel and living expenses) to conduct a training, the return on investment for online learning seems clear. However, it is important to understand the upfront cost and time you need to invest.
While a face-to-face training with an experienced trainer can take up to 10 hours to prepare and deliver one hour of training, it is estimated that online learning takes from 50-125 hours to produce one hour of learning, depending on the complexity of the interactions. Why?
The elements that go into developing an online learning course include:
- Translation of each element to the online environment by subject matter experts and instructional designers
- Content design/redesign
- Graphic design supports
- Video/audio capturing and editing
- Project management, including metrics and testing oversight
- User, browser, 508 compliance testing
- Maintenance of content, software and hardware that delivers it.
This increased cost is because of the need to build into the system the flexibility that a live human offers to meet the learners’ needs. Building into your design a lot of user testing is critical, since you don’t have a live facilitator to visually gauge how the materials are being understood (or when students’ eyes glaze over).
You also need to make sure the entire course delivery has been tested on similar technology and infrastructure that the students will use. For example:
- Will they be sharing a computer in a public location or on a tablet they own?
- Will everyone have the same brand/operating system? Will bandwidth be an issue?
- Your course may be fine if one person is taking it, but 30 – or 300 students in the same computer lab may cause issues.
- Are there restrictions on downloading or installing extensions or accessing certain pages on the internet?
- Do you need to follow accessibility requirements such as American Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 508 compliance?
Even when enough effort has been put into design of the online learning materials, it still needs to be reviewed and updated. Content can go out of date quickly. Technology invariably needs to be updated. We often recommend an annual re-evaluation of the content based on user feedback and performance metrics with a full redesign every three years.
If that sounds like a lot, revisit that live trainer costs – you may find it looks a lot different now.
Adapted from Potential Pitfalls of Online Learning from Sonjara
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