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“That should be easy to change, right?” 

“It costs that much to make a 15-minute course?”

“After the final review, the vice president wants us to go in a different direction. So…we need to go back to the drawing board.”

You’ve probably heard the phrases above, or something similar, during your eLearning career. You may have heard them more than once. Hopefully reading them didn’t give you flashbacks or heartburn.

The root of these common client issues is a lack of understanding about what’s involved in the creative process of creating eLearning content. Their misunderstanding isn’t intentional or malicious. It’s just a symptom of not knowing everything it takes to make eLearning come alive.

So what do you need in order to address this lack of understanding from difficult eLearning customers?


One of my managers used to say, “People don’t know what they don’t know.” I hated hearing that phrase—because it was true. I knew I couldn’t expect people to understand the time it took for us to develop learning content if I hadn’t educated them about everything involved.

If your clients have unreasonable expectations, it’s up to you to educate them about what’s involved behind the scenes:

  • Invite them to sit with you and watch for a while as you develop eLearning content.
  • Make a brief video tutorial that illustrates all of the required clicks, drags, and coding it takes to make a “simple revision” to an eLearning course.
  • Give them access to a “sandbox” where they can try to develop some content on their own.

By educating your clients you provide a valuable “insider’s perspective” that helps them understand how unreasonable their requests might be.


Another way to help your customers and clients understand what you do is by illustrating your design process using something that’s familiar to them. For example, many people understand the amount of work required to create a movie. (It took eight months just to film Star Wars: The Force Awakens!) Refer movie production examples when you’re talking about your eLearning course:

  • If we need to replace the characters in the eLearning course, it’s similar to removing and replacing an actor from every scene in which they appear.
  • Changing the voiceover that we’ve already recorded is like altering the script an actress uses for her lines. We’ll need to get a revised and approved new script, schedule and record the voice talent, and then match the audio to the appropriate scenes.


You know your process. You know the time it takes to get the work done. Document the specifics so you can provide clients with a “cheat sheet” for development timing when a project begins. This resource will help them understand—from the beginning—the amount of time and effort required to make an eLearning course. For example, a cheat sheet might include information about the time it takes you to:

  • Create the course structure
  • Develop graphics
  • Build an activity
  • Film, edit and incorporate video
  • Make various types of revisions

While it can be frustrating to negotiate with difficult eLearning customers, it’s part of the job. But when you’re prepared with education, relevant illustrations and helpful documentation, it makes navigating those conversations much easier.

LizSheffieldBioLiz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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