6 Factors To Consider When You Choose Between Catalog eLearning Courses And Custom eLearning Courses
The oldest eLearning dilemma: custom or off the shelf? Sometimes it is difficult to decide. Both customized and pre-built eLearning courses have benefits and drawbacks, and unless your selection process is not carefully planned, you might end up with a product that may neither suit your needs, nor the ones of your eLearning audience. In this article, I'll share 6 top tips that will make your decision making process as easy as it gets.
- Decide whether you need custom or catalog eLearning courses.
The first thing you need to do, when deciding which type of eLearning course is right for you, is make sure that you know exactly what custom and catalog eLearning courses can offer you, as well as what they can’t. Some of the advantages of custom eLearning courses are that they can meet your audience’s unique needs, they do not require user licenses, they can be easily modified and you have complete ownership of the product. On the other hand, they are usually quite expensive, they take long to create, and they require high design and development skills. With respect to catalog eLearning courses, keep in mind that they are ready to use, they are relatively cheap and they require very few internal resources. In addition they are ideal for providing generic eLearning content. On the other hand, catalogue eLearning courses haven´t been designed to meet the unique needs of your organization, so they do not address specific goals of yours and, therefore, you might always run the risk they might provide you with irrelevant information. Your final decision on whether to opt for custom or catalog eLearning courses should be based on the particular needs of your organization and your available budget.
- Have a clear idea of expectations and desired results of the eLearning course.
Before you start looking for a custom eLearning course provider, it’s important to have a clear sense of what you hope to achieve with the custom or catalog eLearning course. Prior to conducting your search for the best catalog eLearning course you should identify your learning or performance goals and objectives. Which skills do your learners need to develop? What key pieces of information do they need to take away from the eLearning experience? Formulate a list of learning objectives, goals, and desired outcomes, so that you can find the vendor that is going to offer you an end result that doesn’t fall short of expectations. Discuss these with any potential providers to check if they have a ready-made eLearning course that meets your requirements or if they can accommodate any special requests that you may have in order to develop a custom one. This will also give you an opportunity to get a more accurate quote, as they will be aware of any and all elements you need to include in your custom eLearning course design.
- Understand the needs of your audience.
This is particularly crucial; before you deliver any eLearning experience, whether customized or pre-built, you must know your eLearning audience. If not, you cannot be sure whether the decision you are making is right or not. Analyze your audience by taking into account their ages, their backgrounds, their learning needs, their learning abilities, and their attitudes toward eLearning. Find out as much as possible about their background, expectations and how much they already know about the subject matter. By doing so, you have the chance to choose an eLearning course that meets their needs, without being redundant or too challenging. Furthermore, you should not just assume that every member of your audience is tech-savvy or net-savvy. Learners have their own technical requirements or limitations, as well as their own learning preferences. Determine if it has the features and activities your learners need. If there is a confusing mixture of different preferences, needs and prerequisites, you will need to make sure that either you decide to develop a custom eLearning course or to choose a ready-made eLearning course from catalog, all of your learners will be able to relate to it and to acquire the knowledge you are offering them. While some catalog eLearning courses are solely content-based, others may include an abundance of interactive eLements. When assigning the development of a custom eLearning course or choosing the ideal eLearning course from a catalog, you will need to decide which features it must have and what specific eLearning activities you think might best suit your audience. Would they benefit from an eLearning course that includes a wide range of branching scenarios and simulations, or should you opt for an eLearning course that contains more text and visual presentations? Participate in the online course yourself to see if the layout and instructional design is in-line with your goals, and to determine if its individual components are suitable for all members of your audience.
- Choose eLearning courses that are effective.
No matter what your decision, both custom and catalog eLearning courses must be effective, and thus, they must offer your audience an immersive and impactful eLearning experience. But what does “effective” mean? It goes without saying: engaging, meaningful, memorable, and motivating. Whether you choose a custom or a catalog eLearning course, you need to make sure that it engages your learners by making them feel they can relate to it and that their learning has practical application in real life; after all, it is quite difficult for one to be interested in something that is not relevant to their personal or professional lives. Furthermore, whatever type of eLearning course you choose, it must be designed to help your audience to retain the knowledge you are offering; otherwise, the entire eLearning experience will be useless. Finally, it needs to motivate them to learn, develop their skill sets, modify their behaviors, or improve their performance. Having these factors in mind when deciding whether to choose between custom and catalog eLearning courses, the decision process will be much easier for you.
- Choose eLearning courses that are easy to use.
Accessibility is a very important factor that you should take into consideration when choosing the right eLearning course, whether custom or catalog. In order for your learners to be able to participate in your eLearning course anytime and anywhere, it needs to be mobile and tablet friendly. The easier it is for your audience to access your online course, the more likely it is for them to engage in their eLearning experience. Furthermore, make sure that your eLearning course is concise, updated, it downloads quickly, and its navigation system is simple and functional; you don’t want your learners to waste their valuable time trying to figure out how to navigate within your eLearning course and platform.
- Choose the right eLearning course provider.
Finding the eLearning provider to develop or help you to select from catalog the ideal eLearning course for your audience does not have to involve costly trial-and-error. Whether you choose a custom or a catalog eLearning course, have a close look at what your provider is able to offer you. Do they have a reputation for handling customer concerns promptly and professionally? Do they have a reliable customer support system? Can you immediately find them if a problem occurs? Ask about the support services they provide, as well as whether such services are included in their fee or additional costs are involved. In addition, check the list of vendors available and take advice from other customers who have used their eLearning products, whether customized or off the shelf and research each vendor’s experience and qualifications. Interview providers on your short list and look for online reviews from past clients to gauge their experience levels. This can help you to determine if they have the specific qualifications you are looking for, as well as, if they have worked on similar eLearning projects in the past. Take a look at their eLearning portfolio and ask if they have online examples they can show you. If you believe that the vendor has the necessary skills or experience to take on your project, you may want to request that they design a sample of the eLearning course, or a thorough outline and layout that gives you a clear indication of what they have in mind for your custom online course. Last but not least, feel free to ask for references from those who can share their experiences having worked with the provider in the past. Focus only on the top rated solutions and read carefully any shared experiences, appraisals, critiques, complains or comments, so that you can get a complete picture of whether a specific provider is a valuable and reliable option for your organization. This way, you will be able to get an insight of your providers' available options and thus make a well informed decision.
Now that you know what to look for when you choose custom and catalog eLearning courses, you may be interested in learning how you can use them to impact as more online learners as possible. Read the article 6 Tips To Design eLearning Courses That Appeal To A Wider eLearning Audience and find out how you can further expand your eLearning market reach.