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How much does elearning cost?

Blog posts | 15.01.2019

Sally Tutill

Nurture Marketing Specialist at Kineo AU

The myth

In line with a healthy culture of continuous learning and improvement, elearning offers a multitude of benefits including heightened employee engagement, retention and business growth. However, elearning can be deemed to be expensive – not only to produce, yet also to consume it as a learner. Also, effective learning solutions are not one size-fits-all, so it’s important to understand the type of elearning development costs, and how to determine what is needed from your learning.

Establish your learning needs to align an appropriate level of spend

Ensure your training and business objectives are clear and have key stakeholder buy-in. If employees are spending significant time away for the learning, consider that long-term behavioural changes need to show measurable impact to justify the short-term investment. Think about the cost of how a person’s time is calculated and evaluate “time to learn” in the overall picture. 

Your organisation’s learning requirements, internal systems and the complexity of the learning content required will affect the cost. 

Breaking down cost considerations

The cost of workplace elearning is a sum of three parts: direct, indirect and opportunity.

  • Direct - costs consist of learning content development, purchase or licensing of related course materials. Costs vary with the volume of learners too, where discounts are typically applied for many ‘seats’.
  • Indirect - costs include the wages and benefits paid to learners while they are learning, as well as the overhead costs related to both the direct and indirect costs. 
  • Opportunity - cost consists of the lost productivity that occurs when employees are away from their work to learn. 

While elearning is known for its cost effectiveness compared to its traditional counterpart, developing bespoke/tailored elearning can be costly. An earlier article on the cost and value of digital learning guides the reader further on scope, complexity, time, quality of finished product and value.

Fit for your purpose

Costs are irrelevant once the learning needs and goals have been analysed. Cost-effectiveness is what ultimately matters. 
A cheap solution that does not produce the intended result is a waste of investment.
As a guide, library or off-the-shelf courses, especially those that are of a high quality and endorsed by industry, often offer a subscription model.  This provides access to all core courses or themed course bundles for a small monthly per user fee from as little as $7.  

Some ballpark costs 

The cost of elearning can vary with so many options available, price ranges can vary drastically from as little as a single one-off purchase of $30-$50, single user, single use - up to thousands of dollars for many users with a much lower unit cost. 
Choose a learning provider that works with you to find the most affordable solution.  Address your core needs, without the additional whistles and bells that you’ll either not use or not benefit from. 
Here’s a few cost scenarios of pre-built course modules with the disclaimer that there are many many variables.  Make enquiries after establishing your needs as adjustments can be made to meet your specific needs.

  • A training manager requires compliance training for 5 front desk employees in a medical centre, likes of Manual Handling, Injury Prevention. There is no learning management system and the training will need to be refreshed bi-annually. The per user cost is approx. $7 – simply plug-in to the learning portal and play. It can be a quick and easy fix of a few hundred dollars for a single use compliance training with the option to be notified when the renewal looms.  Note that it is cheapest of all to take out a longer period subscription, i.e. for 3 years if training incidents occur annually.
  • A HR manager in local government dept with 250 users requiring a one-off training; $75 approx per user. 
  • 4000 learners want complete access to the full course library of over 100 titles to assist not only with compliance and safety, also ongoing professional development.  Course materials are continuously updated and the company has its own learning portal that the courses can be added to. Cost per user is $6 per month on a subscription or annually between $35 and $75 per user depending on volume discount that can be applied.

Less is always more:

Look for the best type of elearning that will deliver the richest learning experience in the shortest time.  Confirm your needs from a learner and technical perspective and ensure you have the tools to clearly measure impact to validate the cost. 


Sally Tutill

Nurture Marketing Specialist at Kineo AU

Since the year immemorial Sally has exercised an avid passion for creativity with words, images and Pilates.  She is most content in the workplace when crafting enticing messages that inspire and engage.