Outsourcing Content Development: Should You Outsource eLearning Course Content?

Content development is one of the biggest tasks in eLearning. But should you create it yourself or pay an expert to develop it for you? The right answer to that question will depend on the critical factors that affect outsourcing content development and which we outline in this quick guide. Here's what you need to know before making the decision.
Outsourcing Content Development: Should You Outsource eLearning Course Content?

Should You Consider Outsourcing Content Development? 

The quality of course content is critical to the success of Learning and Development programs. Effective content will keep learners engaged, support successful outcomes, and help your team to reach its goals. The best way to deliver that content will depend on what you want to achieve and the resources you can draw on. In general, you’ll choose from two main options: Creating content in-house or outsourcing content development to external experts. Both options include pros and cons we’ll consider to help you decide which will work best for your business.

In-house or outsource? Start with these questions:

  • Why are you creating course content?
  • Do you have a budget?
  • Do you have the required subject matter expertise in-house?
  • Does your team have the technical skills needed to deliver content to the required standard?
  • Can your team deliver course content to deadline?

You Should Develop eLearning Content In-House If:

  • Your goal is simple.
    The reason why you’re creating course content will influence all of your decisions, including the budget you can allocate and the standard you want to achieve. If the content you’re creating serves a simple purpose, like delivering basic safety information, it may be easy to develop in-house. Learners might simply need to read through explanatory material and confirm they’ve understood. But if you want learners to take action, or your objective is revenue-focused, then you can justify an investment in outsourcing content development.
  • Your content is specific and unique.
    If the content developed will be unique to your organization, outsourcing might not make sense. The third party contracted could end up needing a lot of support to deliver accurate content. And your team could spend almost as much time relaying, explaining information, and reviewing the final deliverable as they would creating content from scratch. But if the content needed is pretty generic, or the third party contracted has greater expertise, outsourcing may be the most efficient option.
  • You don’t have a budget. 
    Outsourcing content development is almost always more expensive than creating courses in-house. If you don’t have an adequate budget, developing courses yourself may be the only option. And even if a budget is available, you should consider the goal your course is expected to deliver, as well as the opportunity cost of resources required, to decide if the full spend can be justified.

You Should Consider Outsourcing eLearning Content Development If: 

  • You plan to sell courses.
    Selling a course is a major justification for investing in expert content development. If you plan to sell online courses, it won’t do to hack a crude presentation together by just using something like PowerPoint. For eLearning to become a business, content should be an asset that you invest in. And for that business to be sustainable, you should aim for the highest professional standards you’re happy to associate your brand with. By delivering engaging course content, you’ll support your customers to succeed. Happy learners can in turn become advocates who spread positive word of mouth and make repeat purchases. Your business model should include a realistic budget to invest in the kind of interactive and responsive courses customers will be happy to pay for.
  • Skills can’t be developed in-house.
    Even if you have a team charged with professional content development, some skills are too specialized and needed too rarely to maintain in-house. Using authoring tools to create sophisticated interactions isn’t always easy. And the most advanced Instructional Design skills must be used all the time to stay up-to-date. On the technical side, creating content that’s fully mobile responsive should usually be contracted to an expert. If the content you’re developing is difficult to conceptualize, or you want to track learner engagement, sourcing experts when specialized requirements are needed can be the smartest choice. If the content need continues to crop up, you can think about expanding your team or sending a member on a training course.
  • It’s the cost-effective option when all factors are weighed up. 
    Even if you have internal expertise and a team with fresh technical skills, outsourcing content development may still make more sense if you have to choose between competing priorities. Assigning course creation to a team that’s already maxed out will appear a poor decision if deadlines slip and your company’s reputation is compromised. Balancing budget, expertise and bandwidth will help determine where to make the split between in-house and outsourced course content development.

In Conclusion 

Choosing between creating content in-house and outsourcing content development is a strategic decision that ultimately depends on three crucial factors:

  1. Your budget.
  2. Your resources.
  3. The standard you want to achieve.

If course content has been developed to match your end goals, you’ll be best positioned to deliver those all-important outcomes. If you think you’re ready to start creating course content, ask these questions first.

It's also worth noting that the decision isn't simply black and white. For some organizations the correct answer will be a combination of both, using subject matter experts to develop some courses in-house and outsourcing the development of others where you resources aren't available or you don't have the expertize in-house.

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