How long does it take to create an online course?

August 13, 2021
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Creating an online course is a big decision. It can be daunting to figure out where to start and how long it will take to develop an online course.

I'll answer some of your most pressing questions: How long does it take to create an online course? What are the factors that go into production time? And how quickly can you expect to get up and running?

Generally, it takes anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks to create an online course. Mini-courses can take around 10 hours to produce while a beginner course can take about 100 hours. A high-quality flagship course can take up to a month to put together.

Let’s break these numbers down so you can estimate how long it will take to create an online course.

Questions to Ask Before Creating an Online Course

Woman in Brown Shirt Wondering What Type of Course to Create

Before we begin, ask yourself the following questions. Knowing the answers will make the process of creating an online course smoother. 

What type of online course should I create?

There are a variety of ways to present online course material. You can offer a range of text-based courses, video-based courses, and interactive websites. The type of course impacts your production time.

An email course takes less time to make than a video course. For an email course, you only need to edit the copy. But for a video course, you'll need to outline, script, record, edit, and produce videos.

Decide on the type of course you want to create before you calculate your production time.

How complex is the course going to be?

Next, consider how complex your online course is going to be. The more complicated the course is, the longer it will take to produce.

Some types of courses will naturally require more time. For example, if you're creating a course that features animations, you'll need to devote resources to creating them.

Similarly, any audio or video content will add more production hours to your schedule. Multimedia courses that combine materials like text with audio or video will require even more time.

How much information should I include in an online course?

Some courses are more digestible than others. 

For niche topics like Pinterest marketing strategies, it might take a student only an hour or so to get information. Other topics like coding languages may need to be taken over days or weeks.

How well do I know the information?

Finally, how well do you know the material you want to teach?

Are you an expert in the field? Can you recite it without the need for scripts or notes? Then your production time will be relatively quick.

If you need to do more research, takes notes, or write a script, include that in your schedule.

It's OK to research important information. Make sure your students are getting the right info. But keep in mind to include research time in your estimate.

How much research time does an online course need?

Person in Brown Suit Researching on Laptop at a Table

It can take anywhere from 1 hour to a couple of days to research information for your online course. It mostly depends on your expertise in the topic.

Research adds to your production time. And while it may be easy to research some topics, others take more time and effort. For a medical online course, for example, you should research terms and concepts to ensure accuracy.

Doing research upfront will save you time in the long run. Don’t be afraid to take your time in this stage. It will pay off in the end!

Creating an Outline for Your Online Course

Woman in Yellow Sweater Writing Course Outline in a Notebook

Before you write your lessons, outline the content. This will help the flow of your lessons easy for students to follow.

Creating an outline and course structure can take you anywhere from 1-8 hours. Think about how you want the course to be laid out and what should be included.

Having a plan in place will make course creation easier. Trying to figure out information on the fly will only lengthen the development time. Without an outline, your course may be disjointed and confusing.

Take time to structure the course. A thought-out course structure will keep students engaged. In the long run, it will help them remember what they have learned. 

You should also include in your outline any resources, assets, or supplemental information.

Address this issue before you begin recording. It will give you a good idea of how long it will take to make an online course.

Production Time

Woman Editing Video on Laptop with DSLR Camera and Coffee on Table

Production is the most time-consuming aspect of online course creation. You should take your time to create a believable, interactive, and visually appealing online course.

Production times depend on the complexity of your video lectures. Your experience with production equipment and software also makes a difference. A one-hour video lesson can take between 2-20 hours to produce. 

It can take hours of recording, editing, and exporting video content to make a great quality online course.

In this phase, you'll decide which type of video recordings to use and how to set up your camera. You also need to budget set-up time for equipment like microphones. 

Editing requires close attention and careful tweaking to produce a high-quality product. Exporting a video and publishing it to a platform takes a lot of time, too.

How much effort should I put into my online course?

If you want high-quality and interactive videos, then invest time in the production phase. If all that matters is getting the content out quickly, go with a simpler text-based course.

Production time is the biggest chunk of your time budget. Once you've settled on your course type, you can estimate how long it will take you to create your online course.

Publishing Time

Man in Pink Shirt with Beard and Glasses Uploading Course to Platform

The time to publish an online course can be considerable. Make sure to add it to your calculation when creating your schedule.

Uploading a course to a hosting platform and preparing it to sell might take between 4 hours to a couple of days. You must make sure your media is working properly.

The publishing phase is more than just uploading to a site. You need to prepare interesting images and a strong copy to accompany your video course. It is common for beginners to rush this phase and end up with a low-quality product.

After gathering your materials, upload them to the hosting platform. Fill out descriptions and titles for the lectures. Then, add images, resources, or files. You'll also need to set up things like a payment processor. If you plan on using an email sequence, you’ll do it at this stage, too.

Estimated Times for Types of Online Courses

Now you know what to consider when calculating how long it takes to create an online course. Here are some more detailed examples.

Just to recap, these are the general estimates for each phase of production:

  • Research: 1 to 48 Hours
  • Outline/Structure: 1 to 8 Hours
  • Production: 2 to 20 Hours (Per Video)
  • Publishing: 4 to 48 Hours

Free or Mini Course

Let's look at an example of a simple mini-course. This type of course can be used as a free lead magnet. Production of a 5-Day email sequence can look like this:

  • Research: 2 Hours
  • Outline/Structure: 2 Hours
  • Production: 4 Hours
  • Publishing: 2 Hours

In total, it takes about 10 hours to complete. Especially if the topic is simple, it will be quick to put together. For this course, you only need to write and edit 5 emails. To publish, just upload to an email hosting platform. 

Beginner Course

A beginner course typically includes 20 videos and resources. This course isn't advanced, but it still takes time to research, prep, and produce. Since it's a paid product, you should spend more time to ensure quality.

  • Research: 4 Hours
  • Outline/Structure: 6 Hours
  • Production: 80 Hours
  • Publishing: 8 Hours

Because a video course is more involved, it might take about 98 hours to complete. You’ll spend more time researching than you would for a mini-course. 

Outlining is important here. You don’t want to be several videos in when you realize you forgot to cover an important topic.

Each video will take about 4 hours to produce. Expect to spend 2 weeks making videos. Finally, uploading the longer videos and writing good copy adds 8 more hours to this project.

Advanced Course

An advanced course may be your flagship course. It consists of about 50 videos and resources. Because the ticket price is high, make sure that the quality is there.

  • Research: 16 Hours
  • Outline/Structure: 8 Hours
  • Production: 400 Hours
  • Publishing: 12 Hours

For this type of course, more time should be allotted to research. And you’ll also want to have a more detailed outline and structure. This will help your course flow smoothly. 

With 50 videos to create, most of your time will be spent crafting each video for the highest quality. You’ll then spend about 12 hours uploading your materials to the hosting platform.

Obviously, times may vary. But hopefully, this gives you an idea of how long it might take to create different types of courses.

Tips to Speed Up the Online Course Creation Process

Woman with Glasses Taking Notes While Working at Her Desk

There are some ways you can speed up the process of creating an online course.

Stick to a Schedule

Sticking to a schedule can help you create an online course quickly. When you follow a schedule, it's easier to see the entire process. You can determine what's going well and what needs improvement.

Get a planner and write down how long it might take you to complete each step. This will help you to stay on track and know when it's time for your next task!

If you go over your budgeted time, it's OK. Just adjust your schedule. After you go through the process once, you'll have a better idea of how long each phase takes for your next course.

Use Templates and Assets

One way to save time is to use templates and assets. 

Nowadays, course creators use pre-made graphic and video clips from sites like Pexels. 

This might not work with every type of course. A downside is it may make your course feel a little less unique. But depending on the subject, these assets can really help!

I use images, graphics, videos, presentation slides, and scripts for my online courses. If you can find a template or asset that works for your topic, you should consider using it.

Use Shortcut Keys When Editing

One of the best tricks I learned for video editing is to use shortcut keys. Shortcut keys are key combinations that, when pressed, perform a specific function.

For example: To insert text in Final Cut Pro, press the letter "T" on your keyboard. This will bring up an editing window where you can type what you want to say.

Shortcuts slim down production time because you’ll spend less time clicking around.

You can find shortcuts in the menu of your software or on their website, so make use of them!

Batch Processing

Batch processing content means that you'll be working on multiple videos at the same time.

This can speed up your production process. While one video is editing or exporting, you can prepare the next one. 

Instead of scripting a video, recording it, editing it, and then publishing it, I batch process by major phases. I script all the videos at one time, then record them all together, then edit them, and then publish them.

When you batch tasks, you get into a rhythm. If you have to script, record, edit, and publish one video, and then start over, it takes you out of the flow.

But if you script a video, then script the next, then script the next, you get into a faster rhythm. This is the same for recording, editing, and publishing.

Outsource Tasks

The best thing you can do to speed up the process of creating an online course is to outsource tasks.

Other than teaching the subject matter, most tasks can be outsourced.

You can have someone help you with research, guide you on how to outline your course, edit and produce the videos, and even upload to the platform.

When I hired someone to edit and publish my videos, I saved a lot of time. Since it's one of the longest stages—and something I don't necessarily have to do myself—I found it's the best use of my money.

My free time allows me to make even more content.

It will take some time to find the right candidates to do the work. But once you build your team, you can scale your online course business!

Create Your Online Course

Creating an online course can seem like a difficult and daunting task. It doesn't have to be. With the right tools and strategies, creating courses will take less time than you imagined.

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