Activity Based Costing Can Be Used With Job-Based And Process-Based How Long Does it Take to Design and Develop a Training Activity?

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How Long Does it Take to Design and Develop a Training Activity?

This is a question I get asked often in the one or two training forums I visit occasionally. Unfortunately, the question falls into the category of the unknowable, just like the question, “How long is a piece of string?” Equally unfortunate is that respondents give answers that are wild guesses; have ranged from 40 hours to one hour of training and various nominal percentages over the past six months.

As human beings, we like to put everything into quantifiable or qualitative boxes…neat little boxes with convenient, known dimensions. We can feel safe and secure with quantities or qualities that we can understand and control. Of course, it is true that we also face the practical need to allocate costs to activities and therefore we need to know how long these activities take. We need to know how much we should pay a specialist to develop a program. At best, there is always a large element of guesswork. Guesswork occurs due to the large number of variables that come together in any instructional design activity. For example, how much content must be covered to achieve the learning outcomes of the programme? What is the expected take-up rate from the proposed audience? How will it be delivered (classroom delivery interventions are less labor intensive than, for example, e-learning projects)?

Not only are there the structural variables, there are also variables related to the instructional designer or design team. People with extensive content knowledge in a specific area can produce step-by-step instructions much more readily than someone with less extensive knowledge. It is often necessary to identify one or more subject matter experts to tell instructional designers how content knowledge, skills or attitudes are being applied in the workplace.

My experience has been that while it is nearly impossible to determine precisely how long it will take to develop a training business (one of substance), there are a few ways an estimate can be made more reliable. Some of the following methods might help.

Based on past experience, calculate costs on averages or work on maximums. That is, if it took an average of 10 hours to design a range of educational programs, it’s a reasonable proposition that it would take about 10 hours to design something similar. When estimating, it’s always better to err on the side of higher cost. Therefore, instead of using average times for development, if you use maxima, your calculations may have some lag. If I was looking at the average, I’d choose the maximum duration from the list of programs used to calculate the average and use that.

You can also allocate hours and then design the instructions to fit the time available. This can be risky, but it’s not as unprofessional as it might seem at first glance. Suppose, for example, that an hour has been allocated for all members of an organization to receive an update on occupational health and safety issues. Perhaps a suitable delivery strategy would be to do a ‘show and tell’ with a flyer provided at the end for further consolidation. I’ve always felt that “chalk and talk” methods of presentation are not “training” because they lack a form of evaluation; we do not know whether the participants learned what was meant. However, at times, this kind of presentation can be helpful, and it’s hard to argue that people don’t leave with knowledge they didn’t have when they arrived.

A third method is to ask someone who has completed a similar project how long it took. This can be a rough guide, but it’s often more helpful than guessing with no real reason to do so.

As a training manager, when estimating my annual budget I’ve included a bulk figure for development if I’ve done it separately, or I’ve included a load in my training delivery costs of, say, 25%. The mass development figure was a maximum I had calculated on previous design activities. Usually my team spent too much on one activity and underspent on the next and when the budget was depleted, we could choose to cancel other planned training activities and redirect funds, not develop any further activities for the year or present a business houses to our finance department for additional funds.

The message in this article therefore is not to blindly follow the hours, percentages or other information that people tout about in training forums, often with such a belief that it is “standard”, “industry accepted” or whatever. Do your research and arrive at estimates that fit the sets of variables that exist in your internal and external environments.

A properly thought out training proposal (or scheme) can be of great help in estimating development costs because it focuses on the facts, e.g. target audience, learning outcomes, length of training, method of delivery and much more. other. This is the data that informs your instructional design team. An added bonus is that if your training proposal is approved by a funding delegate, your design and development estimate is more likely to be approved as well.

Published May 2005. Copyright Robin Henry 2005

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