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D4L Foundation Module

Instructional Design for Online Learning: Techniques and Pedagogy

Time Constraints and Requirements

Additional Insights from Personal Experience: Time Constraints and Requirements

NOTE: Diane Kovacs shares the following from her upcoming book on instructional design. We thought we should mention this as she references the book in the first paragraph. 

Bryan Chapman's ratios are also eye opening. 33/34 hours to create a single hour of instructor-led online instruction, or converting a Power Point presentation into online instruction, is believable. Other options take even more time. Keep in mind that we're talking about creating one hour of time spent by the learner pursuing the online instruction. I don't mean to scare you off by sharing this report at the very beginning of the book. I just feel we that we hear too many unsubstantiated claims about Web-based instruction or other form of online learning being cheaper to create etc. and it really isn't. If we include economies of scale, that is the number of learners we can reach with it, building maintenance, and travel expenses then it may be somewhat less expensive than face-to-face instruction. In fact, preparation of online instruction almost always requires more time and effort than face-to-face instruction. Ongoing support of learners engaging in online instruction also requires significant teacher time investment.

The time it takes to take face-to-face instruction, PowerPoint presentations, and materials to an e-learning environment, converting instructional material that is already created, is 33 hours per one hour of training. I think that’s a little low, actually. I estimate 80 hours to one from my experience in converting paper and slides (film) instructional materials and face-to-face classroom communications to online learning. Online instruction developed as online instruction from the beginning, that is where you start by designing your instruction then establishing your instructional materials and communications within a learning management system, including presentation of information, audio and/or video recordings of lectures and other resources, developing test questions, and setting up communications between teachers and learners, has a ratio of 220 hours of design and development to create one hour of instruction.

Developing software and video based instructional materials, such as simulations, interactive video, video game based learning, and similar requires substantially more time to design and develop, and it requires professional expertise in video production and editing and software development and programming. The kinds of online learning in which the software and video programming has to provide all the feedback and response and interactivity that a live teacher, an actual teacher, would provide is even more costly in terms of time and required expertise. Chapman’s estimates range from 345 hours to one for shorter discrete software and/or video instructional pieces to 750 hours to one for complete online simulations. In fact, most such undertakings are team-based rather than individual instructional designers and teachers. Such courseware projects usually involve a team of instructional designers, graphic artists, software developers and programmers, content experts, publishers, marketing professionals, and teachers.

Online learning does require more time to design and develop, but don't underestimate how much time it takes to design and develop face-to-face, instructor-led training, including the time spent designing instruction and creating instructional materials of all sorts. Good instruction takes time to develop, even with a good formal instructional design plan, and even if you’re using somebody else’s work and you’re adapting it. I can tell you from my professional experience that sometimes it actually takes longer to adapt instruction designed by another teacher than it would take to redesign the instruction and create new instructional materials from scratch. In one case, I was given the complete instructional materials - blog, open source journal, and LMS files - for a fabulous course on the open access movement, by the original instructional designer and teacher, Elyssa Kroski. Her materials were wonderful and the instructional design was well thought out and the course was evaluated very highly by previous students. However, technologies and available tools had changed since the initial course was created. I decided to update and re-use as much of her original excellent materials as possible, but there were so many technology and content changes that over the course of the semester I recreated almost everything and had to find new tools to facilitate the learning activities and learner participation. I still re-use the excellent interview recordings that the original teacher created as well as her lecture notes. I had to re-record my own versions of the lectures of course. In other cases, I’ve received course materials, and even completely set-up courses on LMS, designed by other teachers that were not useful or re-usable, and I had no choice but to re-design and re-create almost everything. I hope if anyone inherits my instructional designs and materials, that they will find them useful and usable.

The first instructional design for librarians course I developed was called "Designing and Implementing Web-based instruction" and took 80 hours to design and pull-together for face-to-face instruction in 1999. I re-used instructional materials from three other previously created courses (How to be an Online Learner, Designing a Successful World Wide Web page for Marketing, Education and Employment , and Designing Websites for Web-based Teaching) to create the course. This was a face-to-face Web-supported course for the Cleveland Area Metropolitan Libraries. The original face-to-face course was presented over three weeks in three six-hour days. It included some Web page construction activities as well as time during class to do readings and reports. One full day each Topic we met face-to-face for hands-on activities, discussions, and lecture.

To convert the course to fully online instruction with three two-hour long synchronous meetings - one each topic (originally using Diversity University MOO and then WebCT) my records show 120 hours for converting all instructional materials to fully Web-based. When I removed the synchronous communications requirement an additional 80 hours was spent converting my lecture and discussion questions to fully Web-based and e-mail formats. For many years, I continued to postal mail a printed workbook to learners.

Another type of example: One of my first clients was the National Society for Histotechnology. Their continuing education teacher is excellent. She had years of experience and travelling to present their required continuing education courses. For one half-day face-to-face course - "Controlling Procedures" - she travelled with about 160 color slides plus one of those paper flip charts. My task was to teach and assist her to convert this one-half day course to Web-based instruction. I worked with her to complete the following basic conversion tasks: Putting in writing all the lecture and discussion questions that she had always done as oral lecture. The conversion from oral to written lecture took her about 2 weeks, say 60 hrs. It took me about 40 hrs to put the narrative into organized sequenced accessible Web pages, choose the slides and have them scanned and altered to fit Web format and also high enough resolution to be useful in this type of instruction. This required nearly 120 hrs total time for the teacher to choose the slides, the photographer to scan them in using a special slide scanner, and I scaled them and altered them for the Web. Considering whether the course could be 100 percent online self-paced or if online meetings were important. An initial potential learner survey discovered all potential learners wanted the online live interaction. Planning for the online live interactions and instruction the learners took another 20-40 hrs per group depending on the class size. Given that this was a group of learners with almost no computer experience, this time might be less if we were working with learners with computer skills in place. Our materials had to be 100 percent accessible as this group is multinational and not highly skilled in computer technology. This meant testing our site using a variety of browsers and connection types. Testing and usability testing with sample learners took another 20 hours.

This project is administered by the South Central Regional Library Council with funding from the Institue for Museum and Library Services.