What To Choose: Custom Content Vs. Off-The-Shelf eLearning Courses?

Custom Content or Off-The-Shelf? Exploring eLearning Options
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Summary: Unveil the training landscape by delving into off-the-shelf vs. custom eLearning content strategies. This comprehensive analysis dissects the advantages and drawbacks of both approaches, guiding organizations toward informed decisions tailored to their unique learning objectives.

The eLearning Content Showdown

There has been a paradigm shift in how companies handle employee development and training. The traditional and dull classroom approaches have given way to the new and current ways of eLearning, which are now utilized to provide a more conducive learning environment with custom eLearning content production. Due to the rising demand for online learning courses, Learning and Development managers are frequently presented with a quandary. They have two options: original content created specifically for their company or off-the-shelf training content. Making a decision may be more complex than it appears, especially if the benefits and drawbacks of each form of learning content need to be clarified.

Your primary focus should be on creating or procuring eLearning content that will efficiently and successfully fulfill your company’s specific learning objectives. Consider the following factors when you make your decision:

  • Pricing
  • Effort level
  • Tool skill level
  • Subject matter expertise
  • Content accessibility

In this article, you’ll learn about the benefits and drawbacks of each content option to help you make the right decision for your business.

Off-The-Shelf Content

Off-the-shelf training is a "straight-out-of-the-box" solution that provides easy, on-demand training activities provided by industry professionals. This content represents pre-made courses and eLearning resources that are immediately available for sale and use by your teams and employees. This course content is pre-formatted and includes general training and information for each topic. For convenient training and sharing, off-the-shelf learning content can be purchased as a single product, in bundled packages, or as subscriptions.

What Are The Advantages Of Off-The-Shelf Training Content?

1. Practical Alternative For Foundational Training

For firms wishing to train their staff on core topics such as Microsoft Office, interpersonal skills, and cybersecurity, off-the-shelf training is a convenient option. Choose from a variety of topics from a content library, freeing up time for other value-added activities.

2. Off-The-Shelf Material Is Typically Less Expensive Than Custom Content

Off-the-shelf content is considered a cost-effective choice that demands less out of your budget upfront. Organizations that use off-the-shelf training don’t have to worry about hiring an internal L&D team or a vendor to build the program or investing in course writing tools.

3. Designed By Industry Professionals

Organizations that purchase off-the-shelf material receive access to courses created by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). For example, a vendor may specialize in off-the-shelf leadership training courses, allowing firms to be confident that the courses are correct and up-to-date on the most relevant learning principles.

4. On-Demand Access That Is Immediately Deployable

Learners can access their training immediately after receiving off-the-shelf training and integrating it with an organization’s existing Learning Management System (LMS).

5. Support Is Included In Off-The-Shelf Courses

This can potentially be added as part of a maintenance contract. Self-help support is also provided through online communities of users in various forums.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Off-The-Shelf Training Content?

  1. Off-the-shelf content may not suit all of your individual training and staff learning requirements.
  2. Topics may be overly generic or lack information.
  3. Topics may be irrelevant; because it is more general in nature, certain topics that are unrelated may be included, which may be a waste of time.
  4. There are little to no customization and modification possibilities to fit the information to your specific needs. There may be a number of superfluous characteristics that complicate what should have been a simple task. Requests for specific features are unlikely to be heard, and future additions may be irrelevant to your business.
  5. Because the content is not tailored to your specific industry, retention may be low.

Custom Content

Custom content is an umbrella phrase for any eLearning content that has been generated and changed specifically for your company’s needs. In this scenario, it is generally considered outsourced unique content for individualized learning and training. Custom content development or customized courses allow for the adaptation, addition, deletion, or modification of any course outline material to better match the needs of an organization.

What Are The Advantages Of Custom Content?

  • More control over content and context
    With specific learning objectives and a well-defined framework, organizational leaders may exert control over both the content and the context in which it is provided. You can design your material for your organization and promote your brand through personalized courses by using customized concept images, colors, and a corporate logo.
  • Addresses specific issues unique to your organization
    Custom training content is tailored to your organization’s specific challenges (for example, reducing workers’ compensation claims, increasing efficiencies, and so on).
  • When you commission custom content, you often own the entire license
    You can avoid the long-term content management that comes with off-the-shelf content this way.
  • Custom material can be highly technical
    This demands skills beyond that of the employees.
  • A quick way to close performance discrepancies
    Custom training content enables firms to identify their employees’ difficulties and generate content tailored to their individual requirements, effectively enhancing employee performance.
  • Increases ROI by increasing information retention
    Custom content can help build focused training that will interest learners and maximize an organization’s training ROI.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Custom Content?

  1. Custom content is costly and may not be within your content budget.
  2. Turnaround time is longer because each course must be authored and designed according to your standards. This diminishes immediate efficiency and necessitates additional resources and effort.

How To Choose The Right Type Of eLearning Content

When it comes to LMS material, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Custom and off-the-shelf eLearning content is used by organizations of all sizes and across all industries. Each firm has unique learning and training objectives that must be examined before deciding on off-the-shelf, or custom content. Pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and life sciences may find value in certain off-the-shelf courses to ensure that they are receiving the exact information they require from SMEs who have already created a course, and retailers frequently use off-the-shelf health and safety training for their shop floor staff.

Off-the-shelf instructional content may be your best bet if you’re seeking general or regulation and compliance-related educational information. This form of eLearning content provides a variety of pre-made courses that can provide much-needed training (e.g. sexual harassment, diversity or security training, or soft skills such as cultural awareness). Off-the-shelf eLearning may be more cost-effective for smaller organizations unless they can generate bespoke content in-house, but larger organizations with higher training budgets may choose custom solutions because they can be tailored more closely to their needs.

However, it is ultimately up to the unique organization to determine which is best for them, thus choosing a flexible LMS is critical to giving you the most freedom to select. Custom eLearning content is likely to be the best answer if you have a specialized approach to a topic, training concentrating on your own products, onboarding about your organization and how it runs, or the requirement for considerable branding and customizations to the look and feel.


Editor's Note: Check out our list of the top custom eLearning content providers to find the right fit for your organization. 

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