This post is in response to a request from elearningtyro. I hope you find it useful.
What is seat time?
Seat time is variously described as:
* Amount to time a learner spends to read through each page within the course (Does that include all the related tools and supplementary document? Does the learner need to read every glossary term? What if the learner already knows the terms?)
* Amount of time taken by a learner to click every link within the course (What if the learner clicks the link but does not read it? )
* Amount of time a learner takes to complete the course
How is it calculated?
One of the ways I know (If you know any other, please feel free to leave a comment):
A sample from the target audience is selected to complete the course. The time taken by each is recorded. Seat time is the percentile time that approximately 80 percent of the learners take to complete the course.
When was it used?
In early elearning days, seat time was taken as a metric to charge the clients. However, there were some issues in using this approach. For one, different learners have different learning speeds. Additionally, complex interactions take longer to produce and need more resources even though it takes lesser time to read or review these sections. For example, simulations or game-based learning. Finally, usage of multimedia for example, sound, video animation make elearning more expensive to produce. As a result, today most elearning companies charge their clients on the effort taken to develop the course or curriculum rather than the seat time. Different companies have different methods and standards to calculate this effort.