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Training Design ratios


What training design ratios are currently being used out there? With time pressures and cost challenges a constant have the development ratios being used to price or scope development pieces been impacted.
I am keen to get a fresh view on this to inform some investigations.

e.g. 10 design days to 1 F2F day, 15 design days to 1 hour of Paper based Learning, 50 design days to 1 hour of e learning.

lee archer

9 Responses

  1. Training Design ratio’s
    Dear Lee

    The standard best-practice guidance given by The Training Foundation regarding timescales for Analysis and Design is summarised below:

    Tutor Led Training Project Summary Estimates

    Small Project (Less than 1 day course)

    Analysis: 1-5 days
    Design: 5-10 days

    Medium Project (1-4 day course)

    Analysis: 5-10 days
    Design: 10-25 days

    Large project (5 days course +)

    Analysis: 10-20 days
    Design: 25 days +

    Costs can then be calculated using your base day rate to give an approximate cost.

    Please bear in mind that these guidelines relate to conventional tutor-led modes of training only. Designing e-learning courses is a far more complex and time consuming undertaking.

    e-Learning development is a huge subject so please feel free to get in touch if you want more detail.

    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes

  2. Where are you starting from

    Adrian’s stats look familiar and I might presume that they are for a NEW project. If however you have already got a bank of core material, then your preparation time (not analysis) will likely go down.

    Our own manager development programme took eons to prepare, but (coming from an IT background) we use a modular approach to topics, exercises, tasks and concepts, e.g. how many times do you need to write about the concept of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or perhaps an execise on communication? Also everything we write for this programme is in a common prearranged format, reducing the time it takes for make the material presentable.

    The net result is that this successful programme still needs a number of days to determine what the client needs, it then only takes a minimal amount of time to collate, update, amend and add to should the need arise.

    Interestingly, my colleage commented yesterday whilst working on some material she is delivering, but did not write, that it was taking her as long to prepare. Work that one out.

    Hope this helps and if you want any further thoughts, bung me an email.


  3. more detail
    the basis for this Q is that I must now manage the design ratios for a team of designers, following learning consultancy and customer agreement to a proposal.

    I have always used generic ratios, but wish to refine these. I am investigating through internal MI ratios and time spent developing new products.

    My plan is to have in place ratios for
    – new & part new build
    – based upon level of complexity
    – ratios for F2F, Distance Learning, E, CBT, etc
    – ratios to reflect additional elements, such as logistics, Project management, Research, etc

    I also aim (and this is a big aim!) to put in place ratio guidelines for TNA & evaluation activities (this is a wish so far!)

    These can then be put in place and evolved as they are used in practice. They are required to better inform scheduling, capacity issues, costs. They may also be used to identify areas of development…….

  4. Think outside the box
    My very successful experiences with accelerated learning (Dave Meier’s Handbook of Accelerated Learning – get it from Amazon) turn some of these ratios on their heads. Typically 1 hr of prep to deliver an 8 hr workshop. Why? Because the focus is not on creating content – the learners do that. The focus is on creating an environment that stimulates and encourages learning about the topic. Recently we delivered a very practical workshop on strcutured problem solving, lasting 1 day. The design work took about 75 mins, though admitedly we already knew our subject, but this was a new course. The feedback was excellent, and the client is now busy saving a bundle of cash as a result of designing out most of the opportunities for making mistakes from their call centre operations.

    Ultimately, it takes as long as it takes, and I would use the ratios only as a guestimate for charging purposes.

  5. Training Design Ratios

    “There seem to be as many ways to calculate design and development time as there are designers.”

    -Rapid Instructional Design (Piskurich)

    A useful resource for any training designer, it goes beyond the generalities offered in Meier’s Accelerated Learning Handbook to address a number of practical considerations, including those you’ve identified. This is not meant to ‘put down’ AL which has many enthusiasts – it’s a tool in my own toolkit – but rather to offer a view that it’s perhaps best applied in facilitative learning situations, where clients’ expectations of supporting content are lower.

    Returning to design ratios, I’d support Piskurich’s suggestion that end user delivery method is a key variable, and add to it that any team or manager serious about delivering design projects “fast and right” should consider environmental factors and resource constraints that may inhibit effective performance.

    The added discipline of a project management approach may also be worth considering:

    As a result of this, and by tracking similar projects, I can more accurately forecast design and development time, driving this to the low end of the development: delivery ratios discussed in this thread.

    Peter Mayes mentioned the value of templates in speeding the design process. If you aren’t already familiar with them, some handy resources in this area are available from:


    There is, at some stage, the ethical question of whether you’re in the business of providing truly customized products that meet your customers’ needs, or just repurposing content with cosmetic changes and calling it customized.

    For those doing volume design work, software may offer additional efficiencies.

    I realise you may already be familiar with some of these suggestions, but I hope some of them will be useful to you. The usual disclaimers apply.

    Good luck with your project. I hope you will share with us some “what’s worked” lessons learned as they develop.


    Scott G. Welch

  6. I think it depends
    While I agree that everyone who has contributed so far has made valid points, I’d still say that it depends on the kind of training you offer.

    AL is great if you’re teaching soft-skills etc. that allow the group to tackle a problem “outside of their experience” and I’d agree design can take as little as an hour for a one day course.

    But if you teach systems such as specialist software packages you may not have the luxury of anything other than a formal course. Depending on the complexity of the system familiarising yourself with it to write the course might take 1 day – 3 months, and then if you’re required to map out the functionality for a user manual and design a course that can take from 1 day – 3 months too.

    Re-use of material between courses can cut this down massively as I well know working for a software house a lot of our products have a core functionality which I can just rip out of a previous course and install in seconds. My first 1 day course tooke 2 weeks to design, write, and analyse needs etc. My second 1 day course took less than 2 days, and a train the trainer course for one of these packages is a 4 day course that took less than a day to write.

    I’m not sure that formal ratios will add value unless all the training you do is similar common sense may be your best guide. If it’s for billing purposes tacking an additional day or two on top is not a bad idea either, you can always refund if you don’t use it.

  7. Ratios are always inaccurate
    I understand the desire to have ratios, but in reality any aggregate “industry norm” is of no value except in large-corporation budgeting exercises that aggregate plans for hundreds of courses. There is simply no such thing as a development ratio that is universally applicable to a particular training solution. I have often had this argument with organizations that tout such norms here in the US – the E-learning Guild, the E-learning Consortium and others occasionally trot out another dubious study to sell to an eager market. Even within broad categories (small course, new material) you are at the mercy of dozens of variables. I’d love to know what the standard deviations are for the “standard best-practice guidance” of The Training Foundation, and how on earth they came up with their numbers.

    If you have to have rules of thumb, your past experience and personal judgment are more likely to give you a representative set of norms than any industry guideline. Even so, unless you are repeating a very similar development process for very similar subject matter using very similar learning models to teach very similar learning objectives to a very similar target audience in a very similar environment, you are at best guestimating.

    People are always asking me how many hours it takes to design and develop an hour of e-learning, and they really don’t want to be told “it depends”. If they insist on “ballparking”, you can narrow it down to broad rules of thumb, but only after establishing what exactly it is that they are talking about. “Design and develop” can mean anything from starting from scratch on teaching the functionality of a new software tool, to repurposing existing soft-skills modules; from doing the whole TNA-to-finished-courseware-and-LMS to merely coding an already-determined solution; from quick-and-dirty courses to high production-value media-rich courses to socially-networked experience-sharing activities. Sadly, the only truly reliable way to estimate a project is to do a project plan, having first scoped out the strategy, objectives, broad design and so on.

    I have to agree with Martin and Nik – the most effective courses (my focus is usually soft skills, both classroom and e-learning) are often very fast to design and build, because they leverage the power of networking participants’ experience. Some of the most successful learning experiences I have designed have taken only a few hours to architect and a day or two to put together – but because they are not “normal courses” have often taken months to get approved through the client’s decision making process! Getting consensus on the vision is often my biggest single cost of design. And no standard industry ratio seems to take that into account.

  8. Thanks
    Thanks for all your views!
    Lots of food for thought. I will share my outputs in the near future.

  9. A breath of sanity
    My hats off to Godfrey Parkin for offering a breath of sanity to this discussion. I recognize the desire to establish reasonable planning guidelines for deveoping training. I face this regularly with my clients who want a project scoped before they are even sure what they want to accomplish.

    Godfrey’s advice is spot on. Only by getting answers to the kind of questions he suggests are you likely to devine a reasonable estimate of effort involved.

    Bob Rice
    Frameworx Learning


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