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development formula for CBT


I am putting together a justification for developing a CBT course for one of our pieces of software which is sold externally. I need to estimate the development time. Does anyone have a formula which will give such an estimate?
alison hollingworth

5 Responses

  1. It depends…
    It depends on the complexity of both the software you are trying to train users on, and the complexity of the CBT solution you intend to deliver. If the solution is likely to contain large amounts of original graphics and animation, the formula will increase. We produced CBTs for some complex pieces of Laboratory software, and estimated the formula to be about 200 developer hours to produce 1 hour of CBT!! The return on this investment was negligible (salesmen often gave the stuff away), and the difficulties associated with maintenance (two full time authors taken away from project work) led us to abandon the project. We estimated that a team of 5 may have been enough to maintain the 4 CBTs we produced. Think carefully about the complexity of the solution, and be very strict about how it is sold, or your investment may disappear into the void.

  2. Development Formula for CBT
    Dear Alison

    You will find development ratios of between 200 and 400:1 widely quoted.

    i.e. it might allegedly take anywhere between 200 and 400 hours to produce one finished hour of CBT.

    Before quoting any development ratio in your report I would urge you to consider the following points:

    1) Have the Learning Objectives which your course will seek to address already been defined? If not does the formula you are quoting account for the extra effort associated with this?

    2) Do any re-useable course materials and media assets already exist? Cross-check that you know where are these materials and assets are and what format they are in. Remember to adjust the development ratio accordingly.

    4) Are you expecting a mechanistic technical conversion of these assets or a genuine redesign of each component by an instructional designer to suit the characteristics of the new media employed? Which of these does your formula assume?

    4) What volume of content is “an hour” of CBT actually supposed to represent in the context of your course?

    5) What level of media richness and interactivity do you expect in your CBT?

    6) Who will be carrying out the work and how experienced are they in the use of the relevant tools and technology?

    7) What productivity enhancement tools are in use by the development team?

    I could go on!

    Feel free to email me for some more specific advice:

    [email protected]


    Adrian Snook

  3. Development Heuristics
    Hi Alison,

    Adrian is giving you some excellent advice. Before you estimate, you will need to do quite a bit of research.

    I can send you an extract from my own course development methodology on estimating development effort. If you are interested, please let me have your e-mail address and I’ll send it to you.



    ([email protected], mobile 0788 079 0815)

  4. Just a thought
    How popular is your software and how much does it retail for?

    There is potential to partner with a company to develop the CBT for you and they keep all the profits.

    It could be a real win-win situation. You customers have access to CBT, you have no development costs apart from your own time.

    The development company have a ready made market for their CBT product which will be endorsed by you.

    [email protected]

  5. CBT
    It depends…is a useful comment. It depends so much on product you are using, knowledge of the development staff, quality of your curriculum design team, quality of any outside vendors you are working with to create the product…and on and on and on.

    My experience suggests that in the past when working with outside vendors to develop the content, I was SME, the company quoted 360:1. So an 8 hour CBT took 360 days. It did with the tedious process put into place between our company and the vendor. Another issue I had was that the Vendor decided my SM Expertise was often wrong and they’d include what they thought correct. So at every review itteration I’d have to go through the entire content again.

    So some changes were made. Rigourous rules on who is responsible for what, SME for content, VENDOR for development. Black and white.
    With improved review procedures I manged to use this model to get development down to a 60:1!


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