Part I: Course development – The costs of going slow

By: Donna Weber, Springboard Solutions

Are you bogged down with long development cycles? Do your courses come out weeks or even months after your product updates? Do you cover only a fraction of your product or platform features and functions in the classes you deliver? Rather than plodding along with a slow and reduced course output, it’s time to achieve greater impact through simplification. When you do, you create on demand and instructor-led courses that go live with product releases, enable customers on your entire product, and most importantly improve product adoption and customer retention.

When I talk to the folks developing courses at companies I work with, I find they usually work overtime to push each course to go live. They spend long hours learning the nuances of their product to teach it effectively. They go for high production value that eats up precious time. They use course development tools with bells and whistles but long ramp up cycles. All these add up to slow course development times and customers who don’t know how to use your product. 

Both customers and teams pay a heavy price

These challenges don’t just overwhelm you and your teams, they impact your customers and your company as well. The customers of one company I work with told me the classes they take are too high level to really help them. They learn the basic features and functions but not real-life scenarios. I learned from the customers at another company that content is out of date and unhelpful. The result of both of these situations is that customers rely on expensive experts on the Customer Success, Consulting, and Support teams to guide them whenever they hit a roadblock. If they aren’t reaching out, you better worry whether they use your product at all.  Either the cost to support customers is eating into your margins, or you are in trouble because customers who don’t use your product are churning.  

The development to delivery ratio

Have you ever wondered how long it actually takes you to create a single course? It’s worth knowing your development to delivery ratio to uncover inefficiencies and improve your output. What does this ratio mean? The ratio relates to the amount of time you invest in the development of a course compared to course time (one course unit). You can measure this in minutes, hours, or days, depending on what’s relevant for the courses you develop. For example, short videos might be by the minute. Long hands-on instructor-led classes are more likely in days. Most commonly, teams measure the ratio in hours. Keep in mind that both numbers in the ratio should always be the same unit of time, regardless of which one you choose. 

At one company I worked with, we uncovered it took them 200 hours to develop one hour of eLearning. Their development to delivery ratio was 200:1. Another company’s ratio was 150:1. Both these companies spend three to five times longer than the industry standard, which is a 40 – 100:1 ratio, depending on the course delivery method. These teams end up generating just a few hours of eLearning content each quarter! No one wins when your output is that small.

It’s important you know your development to delivery ratio. Start by keeping tabs on every hour you spend creating content to find out what your ratio is. You might create a spreadsheet dedicated to this, or keep pen and paper close at hand when you work on a new course. See a simple example for how to track course development time below and calculate your ratio below. If you track how long it takes you to learn the topic, design the course, and then develop the course, you can also uncover bottlenecks and specific areas of improvement. 

Example: Tracking the time it takes to create your courses

In next week’s blog post, I’ll explain how you can simplify and accelerate your course development in order to achieve a greater impact.

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