Estimating Part 4 – Oddball Training and Documentation Projects


Every project is unique. It has its own set of challenges and requirements. To become a pro at estimating your documentation and training projects, you need to know how to account for these unique challenges.

First, make sure you understand the basics of estimating. Properly identifying what is included within the scope of a standard training or documentation project is key to creating an accurate estimate. Refer to my post Estimating Formulas for Documentation and Training.

Typically the oddball projects include additions to a standard project or they are only a portion of a standard project.

NOTE: If there is an addition to a project that is outside of your area of expertise, for example audio recording and editing, I strongly advise that you partner with someone who specializes in that area until you develop the necessary skills. It is difficult to accurately estimate a project that accounts for inexperience.

eLearning Storyboards

Occasionally, a client has in-house or alternative resource for programming an eLearning course, but they require an instructional designer to create the storyboard. Following are the considerations and calculations I use to estimate storyboards. I always round the seat time up to the nearest 20 minute increment. For example, if the seat time for a course is 35 minutes, I estimate for 40 minutes.

Type Storyboard Includes Estimate
Standard Storyboard

(Usually created using Microsoft Word and is text based.)

Onscreen text
Audio script
Programming instructions
Screen visual description
Client review
20 minutes seat time = 15 hours development

40 minutes seat time = 30 hours development

60 minutes seat time = 45 hours development

Visual Storyboard

(Usually created using Microsoft PowerPoint and is graphic and text based. This takes more time in the storyboard phase, but it saves time in the programming phase.)

Screen visual such as graphics and text placement
Onscreen text
Audio script
Programming instructions
Client review
20 minutes seat time = 30 hours development

40 minutes seat time = 60 hours development

60 minutes seat time = 90 hours development

Level 3 eLearning

(Usually requires more information gathering and development time outside the standard seat time.)

Scenario-based assessments
Game-like interactions
Client review
Add 10% – 20% to the seat time estimate depending on the complexity.

Blended Learning

Blended learning consists of a course with classroom and eLearning components. To estimate a blended learning class, you need to identify the seat time for classroom and eLearning separately. Complete your estimate for each and then add them together. Refer to Estimating Formulas for Documentation and Training for the basic classroom and eLearning estimates.

For example, a two-day training course has nine hours of seat time for classroom training and four hours of seat time for level 2 eLearning. (NOTE: Typically a one-day classroom course is six hours seat time to leave time for breaks and lunch in an eight hour day.) Your estimate will look like this:

Classroom training                   9 hours seat time X     40 hours to develop =    360 hours
Level 2 eLearning training     4 hours seat time X     226 hours to develop =    904 hours
Total                                                                                                                    =   1264 hours

Job Aids

A job aid may be a supplement to classroom or eLearning training. It reinforces training and provides the learner with quick access to important information. Other names for a job aid are quick reference, post card, take away, instruction card, memory jogger, etc.  Often a job aid uses graphics and concise text.

There are three levels I use for estimating the development time for a job aid.

Type Job Aid Includes Development Time
Repurposed Content Job Aid

(Content already created in the training like a PowerPoint slide or a page from the Participant Guide.)

Reformatting the content


Client review

2 hours per page
Standard Job Aid

(Developed from scratch)

Developing the layout and text
Adding visuals
Client review
8 hours per page
Creative Job Aid

(It takes the form of something other than a standard size postcard or page.)

Creating formatting or visuals such as a pyramid, infographic, cube, pocket card, flipbook, etc.
Client review
Add 10% – 20% to standard job aid time depending on the complexity of the formatting.

After determining the development time for your oddball project, use the dependency calculator provided in Estimating Part 2 – Using a Dependency Calculator to account for other estimate dependencies such as subject matter expert availability and product stability.