E-learning, as we all know, is the use of an electronic medium like a computer, mobile, tablets etc to deliver learning. Planning and implementing e-learning at organisations whether buying off the shelf e-learning or custom content development requires careful short-term planning as well as a long-term vision. A failure at the planning stage or implementation stage of e-learning can have huge implications on the organizational learning curve and its resources.
But planning and implementation of e-learning is not as simple as it sounds!
According to the Brandon Hall Report, “53% of the respondents say that the inability to customize their content is a significant challenge to implementing the learning strategy, so off-the-shelf material can’t always solve the problem.” Which is why many organisations prefer to look for reliable vendor partners, who have the required skill sets and expertise for custom content development.
Before we dive into a deeper discussion, it is always important to understand what are the key reasons for the organisations to choose custom content development over off the shelf e-learning.
•Custom content development originates from the organisation’s content i.e.the content made for the organization by the organization and hence completely addresses the organization’s learning style and requirements.
•Custom content development involves a participation from the organisation’s stakeholders and is likely to have more chances of success.
Now the question arises is whether organizations should look at setting up a team in-house for custom content development or look for vendor partners who can provide turnkey e-learning solutions. As an e-learning vendor, my business interest is definitely in the latter but I will present a fair view of both the approaches.
The business environment of today is highly competitive and dynamic in nature and hence it becomes very important for the organisations to reduce the cost and invest in the core business competencies. Hence most organisations prefer to outsource custom content development because having an in-house content development team can often be very tough and a costly affair to maintain too. However if an organization has custom content development requirement frequently (like an ongoing basis) it makes business sense to have a small in-house team which can address basic requirements and vendor partners to fulfill specialized requirements like gamification of learning, microlearning, simulations, e-learning animations etc.
So let’s quickly have a look at the benefits of custom content development through vendor partners.
Greater Cost Savings
Undoubtedly yes, cost saving is the primary reason for considering custom content development through vendor partners as it can help in reducing the fixed costs. For example, by hiring a vendor partner for e-learning there is no requirement to hire and maintain an in-house team of e-learning developers and spend on recurring expenses like salary and other miscellaneous charges. By outsourcing the organisation simply enters into an agreement with the vendors at an agreed price
Quality and Innovation
An e-learning vendor is sure to deliver better quality e-learning content. With the core business and expertise of the organisation in developing high quality and innovative e-learning contents, one can expect amazing results from the vendor, provided the chosen e-learning vendor has a good track record and maintain good clientele
Enhanced Focus on Strategic Functions
Custom content development through vendor partners helps the organization to shift their greater focus to the core and strategic functions of the business which is otherwise not possible by maintaining an in-house team as the organisation has to allocate and spend extra resources.
While we have seen the benefits of custom content development through vendor partners, here is a checklist that can be followed while working with the vendor partners for custom content development..
1.Check if your e-learning vendor is capable to do it?
Post an e-learning requirement and you are sure to receive a lot of responses from several e-learning organisations and individuals like freelancers promising to deliver high quality e-learning content. But how do you evaluate their capability to fulfill your requirement.
Here are some recommended steps that you can follow.
a)Visit and review their website– Check the vendor website, as a well-designed website can tell you a lot about the organisation and its approach.
b)Check the portfolio page– A reputed e-learning company should necessarily maintain a portfolio page that displays the e-learning sample works. Explore the samples to understand the quality and expertise of the vendor in terms of design and development etc.
c) Inquire and understand the development process
Can the organization develop the learning content from scratch?
What is their instructional design approach?
What are the tools and the technology used?
The organization needs to evaluate and understand the development process of the vendor. Make sure that it meets your objectives.
d)Check the clientele list
It is always recommended to explore and ask your vendors for their client list. You can also request them to give you the names of companies that are from the same industry as yours.
e) Support and assistance
While choosing a partner for custom content development or the e-learning requirements, ensure that they have a good support system to support the clients.
For example, How can you reach them? Do they have a valid telephone number listed on the website?
How soon will be your queries addressed and resolved?
What are the other modes of support offered?
Inquire how long the vendors have been in the business. For example, an e-learning vendor with a minimum of 4-5 years experience in churning out amazing e-learning modules can ensure the guarantee the credibility of the organisation.
While cost advantage is a primary factor to be considered while outsourcing e-learning, It is not always recommended to chose the vendor with the cheapest quote. In my opinion, it is always best to evaluate cost with the quality of the content and then choose the best.
4.Plan for the future
Remember that there is always a cost associated by switching the vendors. Hence it is very important to choose a vendor who can continue to fulfill even your future e-learning requirements
While this is not an exhaustive checklist, following it can definitely help you to choose an e-learning vendor partner to custom develop e-learning content in an efficient and effective way.