Assuming eLearning is the best approach to meet your particular training requirement, the next decision is whether you need a generic off-the-shelf course or something custom-built for your organisation.
Consider off-the-shelf content for compliance training, general business skills, and mainstream software training. If you think an off-the-shelf package will do the job, there are a large number of generic eLearning content vendors to choose from. You may not find exactly what you’re after, however you can sometimes have off-the-shelf courses customised to fit your requirements.
If it is custom-built bespoke content you need then how do you decide whether to build it in-house or outsource it? First seek answers to the following questions:
- Is there anyone within your organisation already producing eLearning content?
- If so, when can they build your course i.e. is there a waiting list?
- Who else internally could build the course? Do they have the skills, time and inclination to get the job done?
If you intend to take the DIY approach, what skills do you need to author eLearning?
Core skills include:
- Excellent written Plain English skills (see the Plain English Campaign website)
- A basic understanding of instructional design
- A high degree of computer literacy
- Being a fast learner
- Good communication skills
- The ability to manipulate graphics
- Proficiency in PowerPoint
Additional useful skills include:
- Sound recording and editing
- Shooting and editing photos
- Shooting and editing video
- Adobe Flash skills
There are now a number of ‘rapid’ e learning unternehmen authoring tools that enable ‘anyone’ to author eLearning content. And yes, this is true. But only in the same way that word processing software enables anyone to write a book. Don’t get me wrong; some of these tools are great and you can produce excellent content with them. However there is a lot more to it than buying the software and reading the manual.
In an ideal world these tools allow your subject matter experts (SMEs) to create eLearning content in a matter of days. In this nirvana they will put aside their tiresome day-to-day responsibilities and enthusiastically author wonderful, engaging eLearning content. The Learning and Development department look on with paternal pride as another beautifully formed eLearning course is born and released to an avid and expectant organisation.
In truth some SMEs will have the inclination, skills and time to produce high quality eLearning, however many will not. Authoring eLearning takes time and thought. It is a creative process. The higher the level of creativity, computer skill and understanding of instructional design an author has, the faster effective content can be built. The value of instructional design is that it speeds up the development process.
Now I’ve used the term
Now I’ve used the term a few times already, but hands up if you know what ‘instructional design’ is. Hmmn, thought so, not many of you. For a start it is an awful and confusing title, a hangover from the military origins of eLearning. Think of it as training or learning design. Instructional design can make the difference between a course meeting the training need for which it was designed or being an enormous waste of time and resources. And I don’t just mean development time and cost, consider the time-cost to the business of users going through the course and learning nothing.
So, what do you need to know about instructional design to build adequate eLearning content? Actually, not that much. Hark, do I hear my instructional design brethren beating down my door about to tar and feather me? Let me quickly add: building truly effective eLearning content requires a deeper understanding of instructional design, coupled with real-world experience. I’m passionate about good instructional design and demystifying it for those new to eLearning. I’ll tackle this in another article in this series.
In the meantime the best piece of advice I can give you before you author your first course is to put yourself in your learner’s shoes. Would you sit through an hour of narrated PowerPoint slides and actually learn anything? Would you read 12000 words on legal compliance from a computer screen? Guess what, neither will your learners.
Choose to outsource development
If you choose to outsource development to a third party go with someone established and reputable. You can outsource the whole lot to an offshore company if you choose, and good luck to you. My experience of this approach is mixed. If you go for a company that is cheap, what you save in development cost you lose in the time it takes to specify your requirements and in ongoing project management. If you work with better, more established companies you have fewer headaches but you do pay more for their professionalism.
In practice most organisations do a bit of both: they develop some content in-house, and outsource the larger, or more high-profile projects, or when their internal team hits capacity. The best bespoke eLearning providers will work with you as an extension of your internal team, and typically will have offshore developers too. This means you get the best of both worlds – great customer service and content at a good price. By working collaboratively with your bespoke eLearning provider you can up-skill and improve your internal team too.
When outsourcing e learning unternehmen development to a third party, consider the standard of course you want. To use the analogy of buying a car: do you want a sports car that will get you there fast with style and finesse, but at a higher cost? Do you want a family saloon – safe, dependable, but not very exciting? Or will a cheap old banger do to get you from A to B? Most people want a sports car for the price of a banger. Who can blame them? I would too!
Whether you choose to buy, DIY or outsource your eLearning content development, one thing is for sure – there’s never been a better time to do it.