Custom eLearning Vs. Off-The-Shelf eLearning: Which Is Right For You?

Custom eLearning Vs. Off-The-Shelf eLearning

With the increasing demand to roll out eLearning courses, Learning and Development managers find themselves in a dilemma whether to buy eLearning courses off-the-shelf or develop the learning content from scratch.  This article discusses the custom eLearning vs. off-the-shelf eLearning dilemma, looks at the benefits of these solutions, and provides the information you need to determine which platform is the best fit for your training needs.

Custom eLearning Is Apt For You:

1. When Your Training Needs Are Unique. 

Every organization has unique training needs related to its organizational culture and processes and systems. Organizations cannot source content from external sources for these unique requirements. Custom eLearning is the best choice for product training, software systems training, new employee orientation, etc.

ERP end-user training, for example, is something off-the shelf eLearning courses are not suitable for: It is completely tied to an organization’s internal processes and working. Once an ERP or any software is purchased, it is customized to the business processes of an organization. Hence, off-the-shelf courses are irrelevant. The same is the case with new employee orientation, where you need to take your employees through the laws and regulations specific to your company/industry, introduce them to your company mission and vision, departments within the organization, safety and security policies, etc. These topics cannot be relegated to off-the-shelf courses.

Apart from having good control over your training and including the content you want, you will also save a lot of time and money, once you kick start your custom eLearning project. This is because all the templates, images, and media components used in the earlier projects can be reused in your future projects.

2. When The Training Content Changes Often. 

Training needs can change over a period of time. For example, when a product is updated with a new feature or when new laws are passed in your organization, your course should also be updated to reflect these new changes. In this case, custom eLearning is the ideal choice because when you opt for a customized eLearning course, you own the course. And, this means you also own the source files, implying any changes to the content can be made easily. Also, you would have to pay only once as there are no recurring licensing costs or user registration fees.

3. When You Want Your Courses To Reflect Your Brand.

Some companies find it more meaningful to have branded images of their company in the eLearning courses. When you create a course on a product or a safety procedure, setting a realistic background and creating scenarios pertaining to your organization will really help you connect better with your learners. You can also use the desired GUI, colors, and logo to reflect the brand of your company in the course.

Off-The-Shelf eLearning Is Apt For You:

1. When The Content Is Generic. 

If you want to roll out courses on topics such as team building, compliance training, change management, negotiation skills, effective customer handling, courses on Microsoft Office, etc., then you probably don’t need to build customized courses.

In many cases, with off-the-shelf learning courses, the content, will be provided or has been approved by authoritative organizations. For example, most of the content for off-the-shelf courses is written by Subject Matter Experts in those domains. This is the reason Lynda.com has become a global leader for off-the-shelf content with 255,000 video tutorials and 4+ million users.

2. When The Requirement Is Urgent. 

Off-the-shelf courses are readily available for upload on a Learning Management System.  If your requirement is urgent, you can roll out these courses easily to your learners in less than 24 hours; unlike custom eLearning courses, where it takes around 2 weeks to develop a 30 minutes course.

3. When Your Budget Is Less.

The costs are relatively low as the development cost is distributed among many users. Most off-the-shelf vendors include deployment and maintenance in their services along with selling courses. This really makes sense when your training budgets are really less. Also, off-the-shelf courses make sense for small to medium-sized organizations that don’t have separate Learning and Development departments, to take up the training responsibility.

The table here gives you an idea of which solution is ideal when compared against some of the important factors.

Customized Courses Off-the-shelf Courses
Content Specific content Generic content
Organizational Requirements Meet the organization’s requirements completely

Can be created to meet the organization’s needs

May not meet the organization’s requirements as the content is created in advance

Created to meet the common requirements of a particular industry

Cost Expensive to create customized courses Relatively cheaper as these are ready-made
Recommendations Recommended only when specifications/customizations are necessary Recommended when course content is not a criterion
Resources and Time Require many resources and a lot of time to create Can be installed quickly and do not require additional resources to create

Some vendors provide only off-the-shelf content, some focus solely on custom eLearning development, and some provide both.

With the plethora of options for content, it can be hard to know what’s available and what will best suit your learners’ needs. So, what will be your solution to the custom eLearning vs. off-the-shelf eLearning dilemma? This resource: eLearning: Getting your Organization READY will be your guide and answer all the questions you have regarding building an eLearning course.

eBook Release: CommLab India
CommLab India
CommLab India is the most sought-after global leader for rapid eLearning solutions. Our formidable authoring tools expertise and years of experience in L&D and instructional design makes us the most reliable partners in your eLearning journey.
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