How to Calculate eLearning Content Development Cost

When you first decide to create an eLearning course, you have to take a closer look at your budget and see if it is feasible to do so. But you can’t evaluate your budget if you haven’t calculated the cost of online course development. 


The exact figures you will come up with will vary based on your course, resources, goals, and other factors. That being said, the steps for determining the cost are the same. Keep the following key factors in mind, and you will be on your way to calculating your eLearning content development cost. 


Understand Hard vs. Soft Dollars


Before getting into the cost of online course development, you must understand two types of costs. First, there’s the cost in terms of direct money that you spend. Second is the cost of resources you spend, with time being the most notable. 


Hard dollars refer to the actual dollars that you spend. This includes the services and items you pay for. Soft dollars will mostly involve your time. Remember that this is the time that you spend as an individual and the time spent by each member of your team. 


Do not underestimate the importance of soft dollars. The phrase “time is money” applies here. While you can find ways to earn more money, we all have a finite amount of time. This makes soft dollars even more crucial than hard dollars. 


Think about the value of soft dollars in terms of your hourly wage or potential delays to launch. If your eLearning course is something you plan to sell, it will take longer to see returns if you spend more time on the course upfront. 


The important takeaway here is to consider both hard and soft dollars.

The Three Pillars of the Cost


Whether you are talking about hard or soft dollars, there are three main pillars or aspects that will contribute to the cost of online course development. 


  1. Content development cost.
  2. Technology cost. 
  3. Distribution cost. 


Distribution is the Most Important


It is a common mistake to allocate 40% of your budget to each content development and technology and leave just 20% for distribution.

In reality, you should aim more for 25% each for the first two and 50% for distribution. 


Remember that no matter how well-designed and useful your eLearning program is, it is useless if people do not know it exists.

You need to be able to reach people with your program and get them to use it. 


Where to Cut Costs?


If the distribution pillar requires the largest portion of your budget, then can you cut costs in the other two pillars? Yes. 


Content Development – programs with a high eLearning content development cost tend to require considerable effort in perfecting the content itself. But that is not necessary. Your goal is to provide value and education to your learners. As long as the content is learner-focused and useful, it is good. Keep that in mind, and you should be able to reduce costs in this aspect. 


Technology – While you definitely need to use the technology of some sort to host your eLearning platform and share it with learners, this can be more affordable than you think. You just need to find a piece of technology that you and your learners both already have access to. You can keep costs low by keeping this aspect as simple as possible. 




When calculating the cost of online course development, keep both hard dollars and soft dollars in mind. The latter refers to the value of your time spent. You will need to spend mainly on creating content, the technology for the program, and distribution. Of these, allocate the most funds to distribution.

Want to create a successful eLearning Program?

Watch our free masterclass and we'll show you how to build an eLearning Program in less than 90 days and save $10,000 in the process.

+ receive exclusive content direct to your inbox every week.