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How much does it cost to create an online course?

How much does it cost to develop an online course?

It is hard to argue that the eLearning market is not one of the fastest-growing markets today. In 2020, the size of that market exceeded $250 billion, and this is just the beginning. Every year the audience of online learning is growing, and more and more educational institutions and experts from various industries are thinking about how to develop an online course. However, the idea rests on the issue of price. This article will measure how much it costs to create an online course in 2021, what factors affect the price, and compare how it has changed since 2020. Without further ado, let’s get started.

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

How much does it cost to develop an online course?

Online Course Development Price According to Researchers

In 2010, the Chapman Alliance did in-depth research and found that it can cost around $10,000 to produce one hour of educational content. Why exactly "around"? It's effortless. The more features you want to add and the more dynamic and interactive your course needs to be, the more significant the final price will be. However, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, and these data are far from relevant. In our detailed analysis, we will provide you with the following:

  • New information as of August 2021 will show the numbers of developing an online course from scratch.

  • A detailed analysis of all development elements and a breakdown into the roles of participants in the course creation.

All subsequent information was collected from open sources and is also the result of a compilation of our experience in tailoring custom online learning solutions.

Cost to Develop an Online Course - It’s all About the Chosen Model

To begin with, it is worth clarifying that the values of the final development price tag largely depend on which educational design model you choose. To avoid confusion, in our estimate, we will consider only one model named ADDIE. This model is the most common way how to develop an online course and is an abbreviation where:

  • “A” is for Analysis. At the analysis stage, you should carefully study the market that you will enter and your competitors. This will help you develop a unique solution that will stand out from the background and provide a personalized experience for each client.

  • “D” is for Design. The design phase deals with working out the appearance of your teaching material.

  • “D” is for Development.The primary and most crucial stage during which you develop educational material (write text, create assignments, presentations, and much more)

  • “I” is for Implementation.All the finished material is added to the LMS at this stage, structured into an online course. In addition, during this stage, the first tests of the online course are passed to eliminate bugs and mistakes in learning material.

  • “E” is for Evaluation. The final stage in which the analyst comes into play. You carefully monitor the success of the course and compare the indicators with the set objectives and goals.

Creating a course is almost impossible without a team of specialists who will take on specific tasks.

  • SME or Subject Matter Expert - A specialist in the field in which your course will provide training material. They are engaged in research, text writing, lecture notes, and much more.

  • The instructional design team- Graphic designers, cameramen, video editors, and others.

  • Project Manager - Course owner who oversees all aspects of course development and overall progress.

  • Technical staff specialists- A group of people responsible for the technical part of the course creation (QA engineers, DevOps specialists, content managers, and others).

Now for a final note. In this article, we will consider all the stages of the ADDIE model except the final Evaluation, since this stage depends on the type of course, the niche it occupies, the LMS system on which it is based, and much more. As a prime example, we created an hour-long abstract course that consists of the video material, text content, visual content (charts, graphs, and much more). 

Let’s dive in.

Stage #1. Analysis and its Cost

How to develop an online course and make it right? Start with analysis. You hardly want your course to go unnoticed and hang like a dead weight. That is why it is essential to conduct an analysis stage that will help clarify the feasibility of creating a course from an economic and social perspective. The analysis stage includes the following aspects:

  • Target audience research

  • Analysis of competition in the selected niche

  • Analysis of available and preferred ways of promotion

Further, along with the text, we will mainly present all the information in tables since they allow us to display important information and the pricing policy of developing an online course as clearly as possible. Prices for the services of certain specialists will be taken from open recruitment sites such as Upwork, SalaryExpert.com, Indeed.com, and others. Now, let's move on to the price of the analysis stage.

Team roles Involvement stages Time, hrs Hourly rate, $ Overall check, $
Course owner All Individual Individual Individual
Marketing specialists Analysis 30-40 30-75 900-3000

Once the analysis stage is set and done, it’s time to proceed to the design sequence.

Stage #2. Design Cost

Phase name Specialists involved Time, hrs Upwork rates,$ Contractors’ rates,$ Experts’ rates,$ Overall check,$
Consultations with SME SME 10-15 Individual Individual Individual Individual
Psycholinguist 10-15 30-40 30-40 65+ 300-975
Lecturer 10-15 25-40 30-45 60+ 300-900
PM 10-15 30-55 30-75 75+ 300-1125
Instructional designer 10-15 33-50 15-80 85+ 150-1275
Designing visual content Lecturer 24-36 25-40 25-45 60+ 600-2160
Instructional designer 24-36 33-50 15-80 85+ 360-3060
Graphic designer 24-36 23-50 25-60 70+ 600-2520
Designing practical tasks Lecturer 6-8 25-40 30-45 60+ 150-480
Instructional designer 6-8 33-50 15-75 85+ 90-680

Note: How to develop an online course and save some resources? You must have a well-organized “face-to-face training content” rich in various media materials, visual content, and more. This content will help you quickly create a course storyboard for subsequent structuring, addition, alteration, and other integral operations of online course development.

Stage #3. Development Price

Phase name Specialists involved Time, hrs Upwork rates,$ Contractors’ rates,$ Experts’ rates,$ Overall check,$
Writing notes Lecturer 10-20 25-40 30-45 60+ 300-1200
Instructional designer 10-20 33-50 15-80 85+ 150-1700
Psycholinguist 10-20 30-40 30-40 65+ 300-1300
Video guideline design Graphic designer 15-20 23-50 25-60 70+ 345-1400
Video editor 15-20 20-50 25-40 60+ 375-1200
Shooting videos Lecturer 3-5 25-40 30-45 55+ 75-275
Video operator 3-5 20-75 25-50 80+ 60-400
Director 3-5 70-85 70-85 90+ 210-450
Intro design Graphic designer 20-30 23-50 25-60 70+ 460-2100
Video editor 20-30 20-50 25-40 60+ 400-1800
Editing videos Video editor 16-20 20-50 25-40 60+ 320-1200

Stage #4. Implementation Price

So, all the training material is ready, and now is the time to add it to your chosen LMS. However, this is not just a process of "pouring" content into the system. It is necessary to fully transform it into a ready-made course using the LMS tools. In addition, it is vital to ensure the maximum quality of the finished course, so proofreading and error checking is critical.

Phase name Specialists involved Time, hrs Upwork rates,$ Contractors’ rates,$ Experts’ rates,$ Overall check,$
Course upload Content manager 2-3 35-60 35-60 65+ 105-195
Content manager 30-40 35-60 35-60 65+ 1050-2600
QA PM 30-40 30-55 30-75 75+ 900-3000
Course owner 30-40 Individual Individual Individual Individual
Course creation monitoring Course owner 2-3 (daily) Individual Individual Individual Individual
Project management PM 2-3 (daily) 30-55 30-75 75+ 60-225

Also, do not forget that the LMS setup is also included in the final check.

Team member Hours Hourly rate, $ Overall check,$
DevOps 50-80 50-75 2500-6000
QA 15-50 40-50 600-2500

Note: All of the above roles can be combined to one degree or another in one specialist, for example, a video operator and a video editor in one person. In addition, the development phases can also be combined. These two facts can reduce the cost of development stages by 30%.

Wrapping Up

Technology and trends in online course development force the eLearning industry to keep up with the times and stay up-to-date. Additionally, the most successful courses require constant revision and improvement to correspond to today's realities. That is why even after the final release, you will face the additional costs for various course improvements. Now, let's look at the final estimate of each development participant and the total cost of creating an online course.

Team roles Involvement stages Time, hrs Rate,$ Final paycheck,$
Course owner All Individual Individual Individual
SME Design Individual Individual Individual
PM All 40-55 30-75 1200-4125
Instructional designer Design, development 50-79 15-85 750-6715
Marketer Analysis 30-40 30-75 900-3000
Lecturer Design, development 53-84 25-60 1325-5040
Psycholinguist Design, development 20-35 30-65 600-2275
Graphic designer Design, development 59-86 23-70 1357-6020
Director Development 3-5 70-90 210-450
Video operator Development 3-5 20-80 60-400
Video editor Development 51-110 20-60 1020-5500
Content manager Implementation 32-43 35-65 1120-2795
Overall cost,$       8542 - 36320

Now, let’s sum all our calculations and notes:

  • In 2021, 1 hour of learning content can take around 100 - 160 hours to create

  • In 2021, 1 hour of learning content can cost about $8,542 - $36,320 ($22,431 on average).

In the table below, you can see how numbers evolve during the last couple of years. We observe a rapid increase in costs for 1-hour complete learning content during the 2017-2020 years.

Year 1 hour of eLearning content costs, $
2021 8,542 - 36,320 (22,431 on average)
2020 8,150 - 36,205 (22,178 on average)
2019 7,830 - 37,365 (22,598 on average)
2017 7,140 - 35,550 (21,345 on average)

Changes in online course creation rates: 2021/2020

Role Min rate increase/decrease Max rate increase/decrease
Marketer +50% -20%
PM 0% +7%
Content manager +16% -23%
Graphic designer -9% -14%
Instructional designer -33% +41%
Lecturer +25% +9%
Psycholinguist +50% +9%
Video editor -20% 0%
Video operator 0% +14%
Director +75% -18%
SME Individual Individual

Note: Online course development is a multi-stage and complex process, and it is impossible to know the price in advance thoroughly. There are too many variables in the final price tag equation that affect pricing. To get a complete and accurate estimate, you should contact the experts in online course creation and book a demo to tell all the details about your upcoming project.

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