The Math Behind Agile Learning Design

Time is the most precious resource when building courses. The longer the time needed to build and deliver a course, the greater the risk to the organization.

Aside from hours lost to productivity in the L&D department, learners are prevented from using their acquired knowledge and skills in their jobs for the benefit of the organization — thereby reducing the efficacy of the overall learning initiative.

Over time, several organizations have sought to quantify the time needed to develop learning. Dr. Karl Kapp first asked the question in 2003, and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) has continued to examine this metric as innovations in authoring tools and simulated learning started to permeate the market.

“It became clear that L&D professionals needed new answers to this fundamental question,” notes Robyn Defelice, who worked with Dr. Kapp and the ATD to expand the understanding of developmental hours and common challenges practitioners face when producing training.

To develop one hour of e-learning training that has an intermediate level of interactivity on the part of the learner (in which the training requests that the learner make multiple responses to instructional cues), the ATD reports that between 71 to 130 hours of development time are needed, depending on the complexity of the course, type of development tool, and whether templates or models are used. 

A simple, 4-hour course would then require between 284 and 520 hours to produce.

If these numbers seem bloated, another organization also sought to answer the question about the hours of development time needed to design learning. For what it calls Level 2 interactive e-learning, the Chapman Alliance found that it takes between 127 to 267 hours of development time.  

While shaving off or adding a few hours here or there may not seem like much in the long run — especially when that course is to be rolled out to dozens if not hundreds or thousands of employees — it is precisely the scaling issue that makes rapid course development all the more important. If those employees need that training to do their jobs better — handle more service calls or build products faster, for example — then productivity and the bottom line suffer.

Once the course is live, there is still work to be done by the L&D team. There needs to be an agile process in place for which making content updates and iterations are easy, so as not to delay or inhibit the learning initiative.


Off-the-shelf (OTS) courses are cheaper and faster to deliver to learners. But as the clock is ticking on relevance — and as knowledge becomes vital to the success of your employees and overall organization — OTS and ‘one-size-fits-all’ courses simply cannot meet objectives and specific professional needs. 

By embracing newer ideologies like a Learning Design Systems (LDS), anyone can learn how to design training content – rapidly and at scale – that satisfies your learners, the instructional design team, and the organization as a whole. 

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The Math Behind Agile Learning Design