Internal Vs. External eLearning Consultant And Why You Need One

Internal Vs. External eLearning Consultant And Why You Need One
Summary: In this article I share my experience, working as an eLearning consultant both inside large organizations and as a freelance consultant. I will also show you some of the services that a freelance consultant can offer you, and how you can make the most of those services.

Internal Vs. External eLearning Consultant: Compare And Choose The Best For You

First off, being an eLearning consultant is a great job! I've been doing it in various ways for nearly a decade now, and I love it. But what do I do?

This article was inspired by the well-known eLearning blogger, Ant Pugh, who I've had the pleasure of chatting to a few times. Ant talks about internal versus external eLearning consultants. As I have worked as both, I thought I'd discuss that here.

Internal eLearning Consultant

In my tenure as an internal eLearning consultant, my time was split between several different types of activities:

  • Project Management.
    Leading on the development of eLearning courses, platforms and other related projects.
  • Internal marketing.
    Providing consultancy and advice to colleagues in different departments who were responsible for marketing and sometimes selling the products I was developing.
  • Internal consultancy.
    In a large organization, there are many diverse training needs, and I was well-placed to advise on the options and solutions that were available to meet the business needs of colleagues in different departments and different offices around the world - whether those solutions were internally produced or available externally.
  • External consultancy.
    Basically helping to sell my products by providing advice to clients on how our solutions met their needs - and listening to them where they didn't to feed back into product development.

The word 'consultant' means many different things - but in principle, it means giving advice - and that was a large thrust of my work as in internal eLearning consultant. Ant suggested in his article that there could be a conflict of interest for internal eLearning consultants. In my roles, I never found this to be the case - I provided the best advice to my clients - internal or external so as to meet their needs. My feeling is that there can potentially be a conflict of interest in any situation - internal or external - when receiving advice of any sort, it's always important to weigh it up and make your own informed decision.

External eLearning Consultant

Now, that I am running a consultancy business, how has this changed? In my situation, it hasn't really changed at all - I now provide the same services to my clients as before - I now have a wider range of clients and a different set of solutions to suggest - or provide - but I am still offering the best advice that my many years of experience offer.

What does this cover? These are the main areas I've been working on as an external consultant:

  • eLearning advice.
    Listening to clients' needs and suggesting how to achieve their learning solutions through Learning Management Systems, eLearning content, blended learning, or otherwise.
  • Conceive, design, build.
    Often clients come to me with an idea, but no way to put that idea into reality. I work with them to flesh out that idea through to a fully-functioning platform to deliver their training. I often manage these projects myself, and for smaller projects, I will also act as an Instructional Designer, having fun getting my hands dirty building courses, too.
  • Monitoring and evaluation.
    If you're investing in eLearning, you need to know that it's working - that's why business analytics is part of eLearning consultancy - using market and learner analytics tools, as well as other feedback mechanisms, I guide my clients to finding out how effective their training really is, while avoiding 'vanity metrics', numbers that look good on paper, but don't really mean anything.
  • Marketing advice.
    You may have designed and build the best course ever - but if no one knows about it, it's not going to do you any good. That's why marketing, internal and external, B2B, B2C and B2G (business to government) is so important.

Why Use An External eLearning Consultant?

There are a number of reasons why an external consultant might be right for you:

  • Scale.
    Maybe your organization is too small to have its own internal teams or departments. An external consultant can be the first step to bringing things in-house, or can be a longer-term solution if you want to focus on other core business activities.
  • Capacity.
    Perhaps your internal eLearning teams are stretched to the limit. In that case, bringing in an external consultant can help to cover these periods or projects.
  • Knowledge.
    Or it could be that there's a knowledge gap on your team - you've been working in one way, on one platform for a long time - and you see the need to open up the way you work. An external consultant can provide this for you.

How To Find A Consultant

Speaking to people is usually the first port-of-call. So, find out who in your network has the skills and experience you need. eLearning Industry and LinkedIn eLearning groups are other great sources. Think about who is posting regularly there, with useful content that fits your needs. Next, get in touch for an informal discussion of your needs and that will open the way to a fruitful collaboration with an eLearning consultant.