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    What is the cost of developing e-learning? Try our calculator

    By Matt Jenner, on 22 July 2015

    Q: What is the cost of developing e-learning?

    A: It depends

    Arghthis answer is not good enough. 

    E-Learning is a big industry, so why does the cost of making ‘some’ feel so mysterious? Increasingly the question of ‘how much will this cost?’ is cropping up. This is a perfectly valid question and one that really demands a better answer than the one above. For too long the response of ‘it depends’ comes up, or something about a piece of string. This isn’t cutting it so after some research (there isn’t much out there) we created an E-Learning Costing Calculator so you can start putting in some numbers and start to see some cold, hard, financials. Hurray?

    Go – play with what we’ve created

    Access E-Learning Costing Calculator on Google Sheets 

    Warning: multiple users will obviously see one another’s calculations but I couldn’t find a better way of doing this while also retaining Alpha status for testing. Ideas welcome in the comments below…

    Images / captures (of the above sheet)

    Main tool, questions and numbers input:

    E-Learning Costing Calculator

    Cost and recovery

    E-Learning Costing Calculator - financials

    Charts for the boss

    Charts for the boss

     

    Breakdown by role

    Breakdown by role

    Approximations!

    If you spend any time in the sheet you’ll notice there are some approximations going on in there (quite a few). It doesn’t produce an exact answer (because it really does depend). I think we’ve been asking the wrong question. We still need to ask – what data do we have to suggest how much e-learning might cost? How can we generalise and remain detailed enough to find ballparks? How close can we get to accuracy? and finally, What are we missing to increase accuracy?

    Disclaimer: so far all the work on this comes from smaller, shorter courses (CPD, continuing education). Moocs and fully accredited courses are slightly different. The biggest problem is to add in some economy of scale (more on this in Maths).

    Seeking improvement

    Firstly – I want people to roadtest this spreadsheet. So please contact me and we can collaborate in Google Sheets (for now). I’m confident we could get a little closer to understanding why and it involves maths, early solutions and more questions.

    Maths

    Bryan Chapman, Chief Learning Strategist for Chapman Alliance asked in 2010 how long does it take to create e-learning:


    Bryan surveyed 4000 learning development professionals and obtained data (US-based) on CPD and short courses. He created a series of development hour timeframes based on teaching approaches of f2f and three-level e-learning (basic, intermediate and advanced). For each approach he discovered the number of development hours required to create one hour of ‘e-learning’ (vague as it depends on your teaching approach). These numbers were the primary driver to start calculating an idea of costing, and the questions to ask.

    This is the only data found. There’s corporations offering consultancy, and sure they have their ROI models (of course, it’s business). There’s bloggers and co. with their ideas and comments – but nothing with much evidence, especially when compared to Bryan’s work.

    Economy of scale / new vs old

    One problem with all this is that all costs tend to follow the rules of economies of scale. Producing one of anything tends to be proportionally more expensive than 10, then 100, and so on. Logically one hour of e-learning would cost a fair whack – say £15k. But the second should be cheaper, say £10k. Then from here you should see some sliding scales of efficiency. This isn’t so easy to build, so I omitted it in the sheet (for now). Idea welcome on this part.

    New content is probably not the same cost as reusing old. Converting old content vs producing new content both come with different costs. To try and not complicate things it’s best to avoid this question for now, but see a sliding scale could help here – but I don’t know how to calculate the cost of conversion and comparing it to the cost of creation – so it’s lumped in together (for now).

    Solutions

    Running a few generalisations – the data from the Chapman Alliance can be used to start calculating the cost of courses. By taking some known courses, and their approximate costs, we simulated with some UCL courses how much they cost. During a project (UCLeXtend) we had provided some seeding resource to prime the new platform and provide examples to the wider community of what’s possible. Due to the transparency of these courses we could also see how much they all cost, and whether any calculations made were accurate. Sometimes the numbers hurt (never making a profit in this corner…) they also looked kinda accurate.

    This motivated the creation of an E-Learning Costing Calculator – which we’re now crowdsourcing people’s opinions on to improve.

    Questions

    Armed with one data source (dangerous, I know) I looked to break it back down and discover if it could be reverse-engineered to build a calculator for everyday use. The idea was to ask broad questions within the calculation to then align with the data from the Chapman Alliance’s research. I think there are more questions to ask, but how to also generalise for calculating answers?

    See also

    UCL recently become friends with the IOE. A tool they have is the Course Resource Appraisal Modeller  -it’s much more detailed than this and I think it goes a long way to answering some of the questions I have posed. It also takes a fair amount of time and information to complete it. I can see the validity of both, or (better) one feeding into the other / merging. What do you think? Have you used CRAM? 

    An Example Module in the IOE CRAM tool

    http://web.lkldev.ioe.ac.uk/bernard/cram/launch.html

     

    What’s next?

    Please comment on this, in the sheet or in this post (or Twitter). I feel a bit stuck on this now, so feedback is essential to move forward.

     

    The future of Moodle is well within our grasp

    By Matt Jenner, on 17 September 2012

    Moodle is open source software and is used by millions of people around the world. Open source allows anyone to tinker with the code; adding new things, changing existing & ultimately deciding which direction their Moodle heads in. Many of these changes are shared within the Moodle community for others to freely use – this leads to the core software being developed, extended and reformed in many directions. Keeping a steer on this is Moodle HQ, a group of 20 ‘core’ developers and, tightly connected, many global developers, testers, documentation writers, really helpfulers (people who help the community on Moodle.org with problems) and many others. What’s sometimes lacking with Moodle is the input, or link to education research including academics, learners, administrators, developers, testers, researchers and everyone else.

    1st Moodle Research Conference

    Blogging from Crete – Greece, this post attempts to summarise two days of the 1st Moodle Research Conference. The conference was the first iteration of an event unlike other established Moodle, or educational meet-ups. Sold as “a unique event dedicated to the research and development (R&D) on learning and teaching carried out with Moodle”. What that actually meant evolved right though the two days as the conference delegates shared, talked and discovered the direction Moodle is heading in.

    The international conference had around 70 delegates from 22 countries. There were 23 presentations showcasing developments, case studies, new tools, learning designs, learning analytics and addressing challenging issues and introducing new ideas; all for Moodle. Additionally there were seven posters, three meals, one panel discussion and one keynote – from Martin Dougiamas, the man who invented Moodle. If that wasn’t enough, we were also in the Creta Maris – a somewhat splendid and slightly distracting conference venue with the Mediterranean Sea lapping at our feet, the sun beating down and wild cats meowing for scraps of lunch.

    The aim of the conference, at least from my perspective, was to see how educational research was influencing Moodle development. After all, we have this tool which is designed around teaching and learning but it also continual evolves. To ensure it changes along with established understanding of how people learn and what affordances technologies can offer, we must ensure a cyclic loop exists, with each feeding in the other. Or, at least that’s the idea.

    User-centred design

    Often is the case that developers say they wish to just get on with developing and that theorists are too theoretical (with their heads in the clouds). The crux of the issue seems to be that established and ratified theory must influence design, design must influence development and developers must do the same.

    User centred design (SAP, 2012)

    One argument against Moodle is that it’s not intuitive, this may be most strongly felt by academics as they mutter that Moodle doesn’t quite map onto teaching, takes too much time and isn’t always an environment which encourages alternative approaches to learning and teaching. Instead, and this is something I’m happy to agree with, Moodle is technology, this is akin to something ‘that doesn’t work yet’. If Moodle ‘worked’ we wouldn’t need so many people helping with it, it’d just ‘work’. To keep things simple, I don’t remember the last time I explained how a chair works, which was once a technology itself.

    Moodle is over 10 years old now, and along the way many innovative additions have come to the software. But, also over the years sometimes developments have not always been linked to the research and, unfortunately the emergent disconnect between designers, practitioners, theorists and everyone in the middle appears. This has resulted in both innovation and disruption. Moodle development is the output of highly skilled and passionate people all contributing towards something they want to improve. What’s being addressed here is slightly more complex, with so many developments it’s often hard to see where the edges are. Further, developments are not necessarily tied together, and we end up being back outside the cyclic process shown above.

    While there is plenty of time to disseminate the talks in the conference, I felt this blog post was better positioned to give a higher level view into what’s happening with Moodle. The simple fact is the web is evolving very quickly, start-ups can build, destroy and rebuild with minimal fear of reprise. This could be because they promote agility in their staff and in their product, or because they are nowhere near as established as something like Moodle where agility can have a negative impact for a large community of users.

    What is Moodle now

    Essentially a lot of Moodle is internally facing, tools are developed to be a part of the ecosystem of Moodle.

    What will Moodle become?

    This is harder to describe, but the value of tools external to Moodle are immensely useful. Linking intelligently to these is important, and focusing on strengthening the internal tools make sense, rather than necessarily diversifying them by adding many more. This is just one view, the route is still to be defined. The important thing is to consider Moodle as the base, the developments focus around educational developments and the wider tools linked in, rather than reinvented.

    The next direction?

    What’s most important is that the developments are fed back from users; that’s all types identified. The next few years are going to be important for Moodle, for UCL and the wider community. At some point will come the dreaded system review, comparison and evaluation. It will have to stand up against the changing landscape of tools and environments for online learning and teaching. By concentrating its developments around the best understanding of relevant pedagogical research, it’ll hopefully retain Moodle’s strength, improve the system for everyone and keep Moodle aligned as one of the world’s best learning management systems.

    Well, that’s the current plan. 

    References

    SAP (2012).  Principles of UI Development, SAP Community Network. Last accessed 17th September 2012 from http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/BBA/Principles+of+UI+Development

    E-Learning Development Grant (ELDG) scheme – 4 years of successful bids!

    By , on 14 April 2011

    2010_ELDG Berlingieri reportFor the past four years we’ve been given the support of the Office of the Vice Provost to ask UCL staff:

    “Would you like to develop the use of e-learning in your teaching?

    Do you have innovative ideas but need support putting them into practice?”

    It’s been those who’ve responded to this call with creativity, vision, and sometimes strong pragmatism that we’ve then worked with as part of UCL’s E-Learning Development Grant (ELDG) scheme.

    This gives funds to further knowledge and experience of e-learning within UCL. It’s previously been used to:

    • support the development of resources
    • evaluation and technology reviews
    • promote innovating teaching methods
    • or even visiting external institutions for inspiration and to compare practice

    A strong part of the ELDG process is to share and learn from these experiences so each year we ask successful bids to report back so that other members of the community can build on them. These reports now span four years in total and will definitely be of interest to applicants for 2011-12 funding or staff looking for inspiration to draw on.  Though many projects are still ongoing it’s been great to review the reports for completed projects so far,  now up on the page for: ELDG Reports Successful bids from previous years

    Though there are more to come, reports from the 2010-11 session have been more detailed than previously. It’s also been the first to encourage video report/presentations, which’ve been particularly engaging and informative and will now probably be a continuing feature of the scheme.

    This year the Office of the Vice Provost (Academic and International) has made available £40,000 to fund ELDG projects, more than ever before. However, this coming academic year is also the culmination of UCL’s efforts to have all taught modules on Moodle to a ‘baseline’ standard. Of course, many modules already on Moodle have been there for some time and have gone well beyond baseline use. Recognising this and encouraging an enhanced use of Moodle is therefore a strong strand in this year’s grants and proposals  including innovative uses of Moodle or combinations with other UCL integrated technologies  are eagerly anticipated.  (See ELDG Themes and inspiration page)

    For those thinking of applying for an ELDG grant the deadline is fast approaching (April 28th!) so we suggest looking over these previous years’ successful bids and themes and ideas page to get some ideas, reading criteria for application and then applying.

    Last year we received over 40 applications so we look forward to seeing what this new year brings in terms of new practice, ideas and innovation!

    If you have any questions do feel free to contact us.

    We’re looking at you, Moodle 2

    By Matt Jenner, on 7 April 2011

    Moodle 2 logo (c) Moodle.orgAnyone who is as fanatical about Moodle as we are (or maybe just me) will know that the latest and greatest version was released late last year. It was hailed as ‘the answer’ to many of the requests of vast community of users and that of the technical developers too. It’s safe to say that as much as we love Moodle, some parts are a little funny-looking to say the least. One thing to note is that Moodle 2 might not look much different to Moodle 1 (although we’re planning a facelift!) If you know Moodle already you will pick up Moodle 2 in no time. The thing about Moodle is that it’s designed for education, although sometimes it’s hard to see past its pedagogical principles when all you want to do is upload a file and share it quickly!

    Well, thankfully the 13-odd steps it takes to upload a file have changed, and these changes are coming to Moodle 2. A list of notable changes is below, but this is only the beginning. UCL is taking a good look at Moodle 2 and the opportunity to work with the UCL community to make this upgrade a chance to sit back and think about what Moodle offers UCL, what we can change, what needs promotion and what need attention. We will be publishing more details on this in the coming months, and asking if your department would like a roadshow where we come over and spend some time talking about e-learning with Moodle, hearing your thoughts, showing some exciting new stuff and generally making sure we are listening to everyone to make Moodle better than ever before.  Just get in contact with us if you’re interested – contact details here.

    New features coming to Moodle 2:

    Major new features

    • Repository support
    • Portfolio support
    • Course completion, prerequisites & conditional activities
    • Cohorts
    • Web services support
    • New blocks

    Major improvements to existing core features

    • Blocks
    • Blogs
    • Comments
    • Enrolment plugins
    • File handling
    • Filters 2.0
    • HTML editor
    • Messaging
    • My Moodle page
    • Navigation
    • Ratings
    • Roles and permissions
    • RSS feeds
    • Themes
    • Translation system
    • User profile pages

    Major improvements to activity modules

    • Lesson
    • Quiz module and question bank
    • Resource
    • SCORM
    • Wiki
    • Workshop

    We understand there is a lot in this list, and please forgive us for not knowing everything about all the new features instantly. For now if you are really keen you’ll need to check the official Moodle 2 Release Notes from Moodle.org – in time we will be publishing more details about these new features and how they’ll sit within UCL Moodle.

    We’re quite excited, we hope you will be too.

    Moodle@UCL – Development Planning for 2011

    By Matt Jenner, on 10 March 2011

    Last year we trialled a Moodle Development Plan. The idea was simple, there’s so much Moodle can do we felt that listing down all the changes coming would help people to see a ‘roadmap’ of what’s in store for Moodle and the next year. It proved to be successful so this year we have written another one.

    Moodle Development Plan 2011

    You’ll see each development which is currently in progress and an expected review date – ideally this would be completion date, but being realistic, sometimes things take a while to get done. We welcome any comments and ideas for Moodle developments from the UCL community, and beyond.

    Next year our development plan is likely to contain only one item: Moodle 2.0 – and we will be giving out much more detail on this very soon.