Guest post by Moira de Roche.
My response goes something like this: As a woman, who loves clothes, Utopia would be having a personal tailor who designed and made all my clothes. They would fit perfectly, be in the right fabric and color, suit my taste and style, but still be at the cutting edge of fashion. But because I’m a simple working girl, I have to buy prêt-a-porter (off-the-shelf) and keep the custom made for the special occasion. For most women, the only time they get a specially made dress is for that BIG day – the wedding! Of course, when I’m feeling creative, I can run something up on my sewing machine, but usually I just don’t have the time. I might be inclined to make a costume for Halloween – this would be quick because I’d probably only wear it once or twice, and so the finishes don’t have to be perfect.
The thought processes for deciding whether to build or buy eLearning, and how much you should be willing to spend, are very similar. You must decide whether you should license some generic courses – with or without customization; do some rapid eLearning development; or engage a content development specialist company to create intensive eLearning full of simulations with top quality graphics and so on.
No company has an unlimited budget, so here’s what you need to consider:
- Is the subject matter unique to your organization or is it a topic that is an issue in all businesses? Product knowledge and the information you disseminate in an induction program are unique; time management and leadership training, for example, is pretty much the same for all organizations.
- How often will the course be used and by how many people? The induction program will be used when on-boarding all new hires, so will probably have a large audience on an ongoing basis, whilst new product training might only be used by the sales team.
- What is the “shelf life” of the course? If it is limited, then you should not be spending a lot of money.
- Are simulations an essential part of the learning design?
If your organization is relatively new to eLearning, bear in mind that it is very important to have a critical mass of eLearning when you launch. If you don’t have enough material for your learners to be getting on with, you never really build the new habit that is an essential part of moving into the wonderful world of self-paced learning. So start off with a high percentage of off-the-shelf courseware: you can reduce this once you have developed materials.
For those courses that you need to develop in-hours, then you need a rapid authoring tool such as QuickLessons – which I would recommend. The tool enables you to produce rich, engaging learning content, in about one third of the time it would normally take to develop an equivalent module – with a commensurate reduction in cost! The structure of the course is built in, and you have ready-made templates to use – in addition to saving time, this ensures that you don’t need to use specialist resources to design templates, etc.
If you need to engage a custom development company, make sure the firm you engage is experienced in Instructional Design. I become concerned when companies engage web development companies for this purpose – they might have expert graphic design skills and even be good at writing content, but have no knowledge of Instructional Design.
One other thing you should bear in mind. If you need to create systems training e.g. for users of the ERP system, you can license a tool which is specially designed to “capture” simulations, or outsource the development. However, modules on these topics often change quite frequently as systems are maintained and updated. So in my view, a better option is to license a virtual classroom tool which allows you to share applications, record the session, and even edit it later. The recorded session can be used as an eLearning course, but it’s quick and easy to edit, or even re-record as necessary.
So in summary, if you are looking for topics that are common across businesses, buy! If this is not the case, then you need to “build” – go for the do-it-yourself option using QuickLessons, unless you have a very good reason not to!