How much is this e-learning going to cost me?

There is a great lesson here for instructional designers, and one that took me awhile to master.  The single largest cost in the development of e-learning is the design and development of rich media assets like custom-animation, music or video.  It’s always challenging working with a new client who is jumping ahead and asking me to “ballpark estimate” the cost of the project. 

About halfway down this article, you’ll find the following:

"Unlike some other online-education services, which offer back-of-the-auditorium access to university lectures, Craftsy spends upward of $15,000 to develop and film each class."

The way to handle this with your clients is to give them options.  I tell our clients, “I am going to let you drive the costs of this project based on your choice of instructional strategy.”  In other words, on the low side- you can have this very basic way of communicating your content with some degree of interactivity, little to no voice-over, and plenty of iStock photography and imagery.  On the medium-budget range, our graphics department will develop most if not all of the look and feel of the course; you’ll get a custom UI, the entire course voiced over by a professional voice actor, and a good degree of interactivity.  And finally, on the high-side, we will go with all of the bells and whistles including the development of custom graphics, animation and video, and a very high degree of learner engagement and interactivity.  The key is to give them the option of how much to spend, to achieve the quality of courseware they desire without sacrificing the instructional design. 

E-learning development costs.

In my opinion, the advancement of tools like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate has brought down the time and expense of authoring to the point where course authoring is no longer the largest expense in a project.  While I certainly do not compromise on the integrity of the instructional materials, many clients come into projects with very unrealistic expectations of what cost drivers are for their training projects. 

I ask you, how many clients afford you the luxury of a $15,000 multimedia development budget?  Please comment.