Custom Content Or Off-The-Shelf Courseware: Is There Something In Between?

Custom Content Or Off-The-Shelf Courseware: Is There Something In Between?
Summary: This article is about editable courseware, and how it can be a beneficial option between the off-the-shelf courseware and the custom content. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of all 3 options, and how you should take a look at your course catalog and see where you can benefit from each option.

Custom Content Vs. Off-The-Shelf Courseware

Custom content or off-the-shelf courseware…which route are you taking? Determining what is best for your organization is not as easy as it sounds. Both have advantages and disadvantages but is there something in the middle of both options?


On one end of the spectrum, there is off-the-shelf courseware. Off-the-shelf courses are easily attainable and ideal for universal areas of training such as computer skills and management development. Typically, off-the-shelf courses are far more budget-friendly, and you can be ready to administer training quickly. However, a disadvantage of these off-the-shelf courses is that the courses are “straight out of the box”, and you don’t have the capability to edit anything that may be vital to your training needs.

Custom Content

Custom content is on the other end of the spectrum. If you need courses that are specific to your company’s needs and workflow, then custom content is necessary because you get exactly what you want for your course. Custom content allows you to customize your courses with not only logos and images but also specialized training focused on the company’s own products. You also own the courses, therefore, you can make necessary changes and updates and keep your courses relevant. The reason why this may seem appealing is mainly that it can come with a high price tag and the turnaround time is longer since it needs to be created.

The common denominator for both of these options is price. 'Off-the-shelf' is cost-effective and custom courseware requires more out of your budget. If you are like most people, you will probably want to get the best bang for your buck. But have you thought about really looking at your needs and seeing what training could benefit from custom? Which training could use the off-the-shelf courseware option?

An article titled “Where is Your Money Going” by Josh Bersin, published in February 2014 on CLO Magazine, states that most companies are spending a lot of money on their training and development programs, and a lot of that money is wasted. Bersin’s company published the Training Investment Model to help rationalize training and to let you look at the courses you offer and categorize the job training into ‘run the business’ and ‘grow the business’ and what level of training is needed for each category.

Areas For Each To Be Applied

Areas such as IT training thus acquiring desktop skills, general management skills, and techniques would benefit from an off-the-shelf course. Areas that include ERP rollout, call-center application training, and strategic programs are worth spending the money on custom content. This model can help companies organize their training into these categories so that it can help decide what option of training would not only save money but help streamline your training needs.

This brings us to the question, “Is there another option?”. What if you need something in the middle of custom content and off the shelf courseware and is that even available? Custom might be too expensive and unnecessary and off the shelf might be too generic- but what if you want to make some content editable?

So let's think of editable courseware. What makes editable courseware so unique is that it is exactly what it sounds like- you can take an off-the-shelf course, and you have the option to edit the courses to make it your own. With editable courseware, you have all of the benefits of custom content such as swapping logos, inserting job aids or company forms, adding your company’s own videos and graphics. In addition, you have all of the benefits of the off-the-shelf courseware including time-saving since you don't have to create the content. It’s the perfect mix. Gain all the benefits of off-the-shelf eLearning courseware combined with all the benefits of custom content at a fraction of the cost with fast implementation. While editable courseware is somewhat new to eLearning, it is an option that can really make a difference in training.


In the eLearning world, there are hundreds of courses that are readily available to be customized, and more and more companies are taking interest in editable courseware because it truly is right in the middle of the spectrum between custom content and off-the-shelf. When deciding what works best for you, don’t just look at both ends of the spectrum, look in the middle as it might be just what you are looking for.

Interested in editable courseware? Ask your current off the shelf eLearning content provider if they offer it.