How much time does it take to build a 20 minute training?
It’s seems like a simple straightforward question, doesn’t it? Think again.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Someone: I think we need about a 20 minute long session/video/deliverable/thing. Is next week good? It shouldn’t take much time to build a 20 minute training, right?
You: Uhhhhhh, what?
And then you all laugh and laugh.
Jokes aside, creation and curation takes serious time. A LOT of time. It takes thought and trying things and changing things and rethinking things and then trying things again.
But many times, there is an unrealistic expectation about what is involved in making that 20 minute training. I can’t tell you how many times people expect 2 hours or less of working time to build a 20 minute training, or even an hour training for that matter . Which is just adorable. And just so very wrong.
Quite often, building a 20 minute training takes very literal hunting and gathering of the information you need (and sometimes hunting down the people you need), which takes a whole lot longer than 2 hours!
Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice actually conducted a study in 2003 and again in 2009 to gauge just how long training professionals spend creating different instructional materials. I’ll reference this study quite a bit, but you can find an ATD article on it here.
So what amount of work goes into a quick 20 minutes and why does it take so long? This list of questions to ask will help you manage your time and create something great.
- 20 Minutes of what?
- What does success look like?
- What are the key messages?
- Who has the information I need?
- What other requirements are involved?
20 Minutes of What?
Twenty minutes of live training vs. 20 minutes of interactive e-learning vs. 20 minutes of video creation each yield VERY different preparation and curation time to build a 20 minute training.
The time involved in the curation of content depends on many, many factors. One 20 minute training can equate into a wide range of working hours that is totally dependent on what you’re trying to make.
Creating a live training might require a presentation of some kind to be viewed by the learner, but interaction is done through the training facilitator with a little less pressure on the images and assets to be engaging on their own.
Kapp and Defelice’s study estimates an hour of live instruction equates into between 43 and 185 hours of work. No need to blink again. You read that right.
Additionally, 20 minutes of an e-learning course or video production requires the interactivity to be in the course itself, which requires much more effort on the part of the builder, you.
Gathering information, picking the right assets, writing scripts, recording audio or video, losing sleep, finding more hours in the day, making a blood sacrifice to finish on time… well, maybe not that last one… can become all-consuming tasks.
Kapp and Defelice found that a one-hour e-learning course can range anywhere between 73 hours for low interaction and 214 hours for high interaction. That’s still a hefty amount of work to devote to one sweet, little hour–or even 20 minutes.
What does success look like?
This question deals with the evaluation measures for those who attend, complete, or accept the course. Here’s more questions to consider:
- Are there quizzes that the learner must complete?
- What score is considered successful?
- Is this a measure of behavior change?
- How will you measure the change in behavior?
- Will there be a survey for learners to complete?
- When will the course be reviewed for relevance?
If your head is swirling when it comes to evaluation, please don’t fret! I talk a lot about this in my Instructional Design Lab Course and I’ve got some great strategies to help you wade through it all and not be overwhelmed by evaluation procedures.
Depending on what success metrics you plan to use or incorporate, this adds another layer to the creation process. And more working time.
What are the key messages?
Some companies or groups require that your training have specific messages or predetermined elements. Knowing this beforehand can save you a LOT of headaches later.
Early in my career, I didn’t ask this or dive deep into what effect this would have on the success of a course. I got to the first review (after many hours of work) and was told, “This needs to have x in it for legal purposes.”
Annnnnd the time clock starts over. Where do I submit my blood sacrifice to meet the deadline? Is that in HR or the mail room? Is there a form I need to fill out? Ugh.
Also, knowing the key messages will help you decide how to chunk the important stuff and work on engagement strategies.Twenty (20) minutes of an e-learning course with audio will lose learners quickly if you don’t add something to keep their attention.
Cognitive Load Theory suggests we all start to wander off mentally about the 5 minute mark, but if 20 minutes is your requirement, you might need to get creative to keep them engaged.
Who has the information I need?
If you need to reach out to a SME to gather information, this alone could take a week… or more! People have busy schedules and your training probably won’t top the list for high priority items (unless they requested the training).
If you’re the SME, you still need time to gather the necessary information in order to put it in the right order. Many times, we think we have it all in our heads, but pulling it out in a way that makes sense to others is a whole other story.
Even when writing this post, the articulation and delivery is the part that is tough and always takes much longer than I think it will. Organization of your own thoughts often serves as a critical piece in the planning process.
What other requirements are involved?
So what else could go into the build of a 20-minute training? Well, I can’t give you a clear answer on that, BUT I can tell you that planning for potential “other” things is something I always try to do.
Whether it’s stuck in your reviewer’s inbox for a week, swirling in several rounds of edits, audio that needs to be re-recorded halfway through, new requirements out of nowhere, or a deadly cloud malfunction (all have happened to me), you can usually bet that a snag is bound to rear its ugly head.
Any potential snag will eat up your build time. And then, for no other reason than unicorn magic, the heavens will open and the flow is just there. Everything clicks. Everything falls into place.
People answer emails, they show up to your meetings, you are immediately inspired, there are very little edits, and that training just builds itself.
This is NOT the build time you should plan for when budgeting time. Because, unfortunately, this is just not a thing all the time. Even the most experienced, the most skilled, and the most influential training professionals run into roadblocks. But I will give you an insider tip:
What makes those training professionals the most experienced, the most skilled, and the most influential is not that they make a perfect training in 2 hours every time. It’s that they know how to realistically plan the time that works for them and account for any potential variables.
The perfectly built training is out there and sometimes it will happen to you, but I’d hate to feed you a load of perfect bull here. It’s just not realistic. Be pleasantly surprised when it happens, but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t always replicate the unicorn magic.
If you’re new to the game, experience in planning build time comes with–get ready for a cliche–TIME. And hopefully not a blood sacrifice.
My Facebook page is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.