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How Long Does It Take to Develop Training?

Good question. Some say it takes 40 hours of development time, from assignment to delivery, for 1 hour of instructor-led training. More for web-based or other mediated delivery.

Here’s the thing, though:

It Depends

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Even if you track your hours carefully, the level of effort and the time involved for this or that project will vary according to a host of factors. Here are some variables to consider:


  • Instructional designer(s). Do you have one? How experienced overall? How experienced with this audience/subject matter?
  • Subject-matter experts. Again, do you have one? Do you have access? Are they able to explain what they know? Are they willing to share what they know? If not, how will you gather content information?
  • Trainer/facilitator. Familiar with the content? Can a subject-matter expert assist? Able to facilitate the necessary practice and give feedback? Will you have to train them?
  • Client(s). Are your clients supportive? How available are they? Are their expectations clear? What is the likelihood of scope creep during the project? Do they have a tendency to micro-manage? How many review cycles will you have?
  • Learners. Do your learners all have about the same amount of prior knowledge about the content? What about their attitudes toward the training? Will they be interested or will you have to work harder to gain their attention? How much support will they need to learn this material?


  • Familiar or brand new to the development team? (See factors for “People.”)
  • Simple or complex? Easy to explain or demonstrate? Easy to set up practice sessions? Must learners have a lot of prior knowledge? (You can’t teach long division to students who don’t know how to multiply or subtract.)
  • Availability. Are there materials (presentations, documentation) that exist already that you can adopt or modify for the training?
  • Length of training. Is it just an hour? Is it a week or more? If you’re only making one hour or half a day of instruction, the ratios for development will likely be higher. If it’s a week or more, lower. Usually.

Delivery System

  • Live. The fastest development times can be when working with an instructor who is also a subject-matter expert who will deliver the course live (whether in a classroom or over the telephone or Web).
  • Memorex. Making recordings? Creating web-based or mobile training? Someone convinced you to make an educational game? Add lots of time and money.


  • Just the basics. No one expects fancy graphics and special touches. Plain practice (vs. elaborate set-ups) is okay. Obviously, this goes faster.
  • Cadillac. If there’s an expectation for fancy materials, add time. A complex, orchestrated event? Add time.
  • Process and red tape. Some organizations just love to throw in extra meetings or hoops. Add time for that. Is working with drafts toward a pilot and then making revisions okay? Or must everything be perfect from the start? Will your client require multiple alphas and betas (try-outs) with numerous revision cycles? If so, add lots of time.


So, you can see that there are a lot of factors, some of which interact with each other. It’s helpful to track how long projects take and then to make adjustments for new projects with different variables. Use a spreadsheet to make estimates, and add extra time for “crystal ball” situations that you cannot foresee today. Also, consider the available time between now and your deadline. You might have to make your best estimate and then reduce it because of deadline and resource constraints.


Article | Kapp & Defelice (2009). Time to Develop One Hour of Training

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