How Many Hours Does It Take to Create an Online Course: A Detailed Guide

Online Course Platforms


Marcelo Beilin  (Updated Jun 1, 2023 )

Before we get started, keep in mind that this question isn't just about numbers. It's about understanding what goes into creating an online course, managing your expectations, and mapping out the journey ahead.

It's about taking that first, informed step towards becoming a beacon of knowledge in a world that's hungry for learning.

That's why we're here today. We're here to explore, to unravel, and to demystify the process of creating an online course.

We're here to give you a roadmap, to equip you with the insights you need, and to ensure that when you take that first step, you stride forward with confidence.

Let's dive in!

Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation at no additional cost to you to support this site that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my 10+ years of online business experience consulting for clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that offer the best return for your investment (for more details, read my Affiliate Disclosure). 

Key Components of an Online Course

Creating an online course is a bit like baking a cake. You can't just toss some flour and eggs in a bowl and expect a delicious dessert. It requires the right ingredients, mixed in the right order, and baked at just the right temperature.

Similarly, an online course is a layered process that requires a strategic blend of several key components:

1. Content Creation

Think of this as the flour in your course creation cake — it's the base of everything. This is where you'll be spending a good chunk of your time, diving deep into your subject matter and crafting engaging, informative content.

You'll need to identify what your target learners want to know, and then break that down into bite-sized, digestible chunks. It's not just about dumping information, though. It's about creating content that's engaging, interactive, and learner-friendly.

You might use a blend of videos, written content, quizzes, and interactive elements to keep your learners engaged and invested.

2. Course Design and Structure

This is the equivalent of the baking soda in your cake — it helps everything rise and come together. It's not just about making things look pretty, although that's part of it. It's about ensuring your course is easy to follow and logically structured.

You want your learners to move smoothly from one lesson to the next, building on their knowledge as they go. This requires careful planning and organization.

You'll need to map out your course, create a logical flow of information, and ensure each lesson aligns with your course objectives.

3. Testing and Feedback

This is like taste-testing your cake. You wouldn't serve a cake without making sure it's tasty, would you? Similarly, you want to be sure your course delivers value, and that's where testing and feedback come in.

This involves testing your course yourself, getting feedback from a select group of learners, and making necessary tweaks and improvements. It's an iterative process, and one that can significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of your course.

4. Marketing and Sales

This is the icing on the cake — it's what makes people want to consume your course. If a course is created in the digital forest and no one is around to see it, does it make a sale? Spoiler alert: it doesn't. Marketing and sales are crucial.

This involves identifying your target audience, creating compelling marketing messages, and using a variety of marketing strategies to get your course in front of potential learners.

You might leverage social media, email marketing, content marketing, or even paid advertising to generate buzz and attract learners.

Each of these components is crucial in the course creation process, and each will require a significant investment of your time and effort.

But don't be daunted. With careful planning, a clear strategy, and a dash of creativity, you can create a course that's not just informative, but truly transformative.

Time Investments for Creating an Online Course

Time Investments for Creating an Online Course

It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to the nitty-gritty: How much time will you need to invest in each component of your online course?

Let's break it down:

1. Research and Planning

This is your foundation, and every sturdy structure needs a solid base. Expect to spend anywhere from 10-50 hours here.

It's a wide range, but that's because the time investment here is highly dependent on a few factors. Your expertise in the subject matter and the complexity of the topic will play a significant part.

If you're a seasoned pro in the topic, you might need less time to gather your thoughts and materials. If it's a complex subject, you'll need more time to break it down into digestible lessons.

This stage involves identifying your target learners, understanding their needs, mapping out your course structure, and gathering any materials or resources you'll need.

2. Content Creation

Now, this is where you'll be spending a hearty chunk of your time. Depending on the length and depth of your course, you could be looking at anywhere from 30-200 hours.

This is the stage where you'll be writing scripts for your lessons, creating slides or other visual aids, recording videos or audio, and creating any supplemental materials like worksheets or quizzes.

It's a big job, but remember, this is the heart of your course. The time you invest here is the time that will directly impact your learners' experience and success.

3. Course Design and Structure

You know that feeling when you walk into a well-organized room? Everything's easy to find, everything makes sense, and you can navigate the space with ease.

That's what you want your course to feel like. Don't underestimate this step. It can take up to 20-40 hours to get the structure and design just right.

This includes organizing your course into logical sections or modules, ensuring your lessons flow smoothly from one to the next, and adding any design elements that enhance the learning experience.

4. Testing and Feedback

You wouldn't launch a rocket without checking the engines, would you? Similarly, you wouldn't release your course into the world without making sure it works as intended.

This stage is worth at least 5-15 hours of your time. You need to be sure the course works and delivers the value you promise.

This might involve a soft launch with a select group of learners, gathering feedback, and making any necessary tweaks or improvements.

5. Marketing and Sales

Last but definitely not least, you'll need to get the word out about your amazing course. Depending on your marketing strategy, another 15-50 hours can be spent here.

This involves identifying your target audience, crafting compelling marketing messages, planning and executing your marketing strategies, and making sales.

Whether you're leveraging social media, email marketing, content marketing, or paid advertising, this stage is crucial in attracting learners and driving enrollments.

Remember, these are estimated time investments. Your mileage may vary depending on your expertise, the complexity of your course, your proficiency in course creation, and your marketing savvy. But with this roadmap in hand, you're well-equipped to plan your course creation journey.

Factors That Affect the Time Required to Create an Online Course

Like cooking a gourmet meal, creating an online course isn't a one-size-fits-all process. The time it takes can vary considerably based on a multitude of factors.

Let's delve into some of these variables:

Subject Matter Expertise:

Your level of expertise in the course topic is a major determinant of the time it'll take to create the course.

If you're well-versed in the subject, you'll spend less time on research and more time on course development.

But if you're still getting your feet wet, expect to spend a good chunk of time doing research and gathering information.

Course Length and Complexity:

Course Length and Complexity

The length and complexity of your course also play a significant role. A short, introductory course will take less time to create than an in-depth, comprehensive course.

If you're covering a complex subject that requires detailed explanations and examples, you'll need to invest more time in content creation.

Design Skills:

Your proficiency in design will affect how much time you need to dedicate to the course design and structure.

If you're a whiz at graphic design and have experience with course creation platforms, you'll breeze through this step.

If not, you might need to spend extra time learning the ropes or even consider spending some $$ and outsourcing this step.

Marketing Acumen:

How much time you spend on marketing largely depends on your existing marketing skills and knowledge.

If you're already a marketing maestro, you'll likely spend less time devising and implementing your marketing strategy.

But if marketing isn't your strong suit, you may need to invest more time learning effective marketing tactics or enlist professional help.

Learning Curve:

If this is your first rodeo with online course creation, expect a learning curve. You'll likely spend more time on each step simply because it's new territory. But don't worry, as you gain experience, the process will become faster and smoother.

Quality of Content:

The quality of content you aim to deliver will also determine the time investment.

A high-quality course with well-researched content, professional visuals, interactive elements, and well-structured modules will require more time to create than a basic course with minimal features.

Resources at Your Disposal:

The resources you have — like pre-existing content, an assistant, or a graphic designer—can greatly reduce the time it takes to create a course.

If you're starting from scratch, it's going to take more time than if you have relevant resources or help on hand.

Technology Familiarity:

Your familiarity with course creation technology and tools will impact the time it takes to create your course.

If you're comfortable using these tools, you'll save time. If not, there may be a learning curve that could require additional time.

So, while the ballpark figures provided earlier give you a rough idea of the time required, consider these factors for a more tailored estimate.

Your online course creation journey is unique to you, and understanding these variables can help you better plan and manage your time.

Tips to Expedite the Course Creation Process

So, you're keen on creating your online course without it taking an eternity? Don't worry, I've got your back.

Here are some hot tips to expedite the process:

  1. Leverage Your Existing Content: Got a blog? Videos? Podcasts? Use them! It's a smart way to save time and reinforce your personal brand.

  2. Start with a Detailed Outline: A well-thought-out outline isn't just a time-saver—it's a sanity saver, too. It'll keep you focused and ensure your course flows logically.

  3. Use Tools and Software: There's no shortage of tools out there to help you create a killer online course. From design software to course platforms, these tools can save you oodles of time.

  4. Don't Aim for Perfection: Your course doesn't have to be perfect—it just has to deliver value. Don't waste time nitpicking every tiny detail. Remember, you can always improve and update your course based on feedback from your learners.

In Conclusion

The journey of creating an online course is akin to embarking on a thrilling road trip. There are plans to be made, routes to be charted, and perhaps even a few roadblocks to navigate. But the destination, oh, the destination is truly worth it.

Answering the question of how many hours it takes to create an online course is no easy task because it hinges on myriad factors: your level of expertise, the complexity of the course, your proficiency in course design, and your marketing savvy all play a role in shaping the time it takes to bring your course to life.

However, if we were to ballpark it, you're looking at anywhere between 80 to 350 hours. Yes, that's a substantial chunk of time. But remember, this isn't time spent — it's time invested.

Each hour you pour into your online course is an hour spent fostering knowledge, sparking curiosity, and contributing to a world that's ever-eager to learn. It's an hour spent building your brand, expanding your reach, and possibly even creating an additional income stream.

Creating an online course is more than just a task on your to-do list — it's an opportunity. An opportunity to make a difference, to share your passion, and to leave a digital footprint in your field of expertise.

So, don't let the numbers intimidate you. Instead, embrace them. Use them as a guide, a roadmap for your journey. And remember, every journey begins with a single step. Your step.

Marcelo Headshot

About the author

Marcelo Beilin is a Digital Marketing Consultant and blogger who helps clients take their traffic and online revenue to the next level.

He also helps readers find the perfect tools to earn online income at

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