With the increasing need for impactful and relevant e-learning content, L&D managers often face the dilemma of – either creating learning content from scratch or buying it ‘off the shelf’. If the content like organizational specific courses on products or processes does not exist at all in the public domain, then the only route is custom content creation. However, training needs of the modern learners are wide and varied – and the fact is that a lot of it is generic in nature. Even industry specific courses on compliance or SOP are available off-the-shelf.
In such a situation, many organizations find themselves leaning more towards the ‘off-the shelf’ (OTS) option and helping them come to that decision are a host of benefits that OTS learning solutions provide.
• The cost factor: Considered the most important factor by many, OTS courses are budget friendly. With many players in the market and the option of varying content bundles, it is often cost effective to buy OTS solutions. Most OTS vendors include deployment and maintenance costs within their services – and it all makes sense, especially if training budgets are limited.
• The time factor: Often, most organizations have the good intention of implementing e-learning within the enterprise but time constraints come in the way of fruitful implementation. Training needs are pertinent and often, immediate – with no time for developing bespoke content on a continuous basis. For quick and effective e-learning implementation, OTS courses are definitely the best answer.
• Resource management: Many organizations, mostly small and medium businesses do not have a separate L&D department or even an independent HR vertical to take up training initiatives within the organization. OTS e-courses make more sense for them because they do not have to assign resources to take the initiative forward – the OTS vendor can be looped in to create curriculum, provide courses, deploy the solution and extend support over time.
• Quality content: A factor which often makes L&D managers wary of OTS solutions is the quality assurance of the learning content. Most vendors take this factor into account and provide quality assurance by creating content in close collaboration with subject matter experts. Many vendors also get the OTS content approved by authoritative organisations. For instance, OTS software training is often approved by the original manufacturer – e.g. MS Office training approved by Microsoft. This kind of assurance from an authoritative source can ensure that organizations are getting the latest and best knowledge on the chosen subject.
• Customization: Contrary to popular belief, there is room for customization in OTS content as well. Most OTS courses are white-branded and can be aligned as per the end-clients’ branding strategy. Logos and symbols can be added to make sure that learners make the necessary connections to aid learning.
• Localization: Due to the wide global spread of most companies, e-learning courses often have to be localized or translated into many languages. OTS content is often available in multiple languages to ensure that localization does not add to the implementation time and training budgets spends.
• Maintenance: Maintaining the hosting platform as well as the content is the OTS vendors’ responsibility. This frees the organizational resource from management issues and they can concentrate more on the effectiveness of the learning endeavour within the organization. Courses are updated on a regular basis to make sure that the content remains relevant and effective. Reports on user data can also be churned on a regular basis and shared with administrators or other stakeholders.
There are various factors and considerations that work behind the decision of ‘custom content or OTS’. If the above factors make sense to you, maybe it’s a good idea to explore off-the-shelf learning solutions. Or think about combining custom learning delivery with OTS to create an effective and strong learning program. Let the learning begin!