E-learning technology makes it possible to create unique projects that are perfectly adapted to a wide variety of objectives. But sometimes the market offers so-called «ready-made» courses that are already finished, so naturally we have to ask ourselves which option is better.
Analyst Josh Bersin would probably rephrase the question as «which option is better for achieving your goals?» He thinks this is a crucial issue. If a training doesn’t provide the necessary results, that’s a pretty good sign you picked the wrong kind of course. But is it really such a vital distinction? And if so, what’s the difference? Instead of asking more and more questions, let’s go ahead and start finding answers.
Ready-made courses are an ideal solutions for organizations with a limited budget or large companies that have to, for example, train a large team or an entire department all at once. What do we need to know about these projects?
- Universal content Ready-made courses specialize in general topics and are universal enough to be useful to more than just one organization. They cover topics such as general financial literacy, communications, leadership skills, time management, stress management, team-building, Microsoft Office, etc.
- Affordability Made-to-order are unique products, but ready-made courses are more like regular consumer goods. They’re designed to be sold to various companies in the same field, and they’re less expensive than their competitors because they’re more in demand.
- Ready to go Ready-made courses are just that — they’re already made, tested, and polished to a shine. You can buy one and start using it the same day.
- Large selection Demand engenders supply, so the number of ready-made courses is constantly increasing. You can sometimes find dozens of courses from various developers covering the same topic. All you have to do is choose the one that best meets your needs.
- Time-tested content The content of ready-made courses is always prepared and approved by experts in the field, including pedagogy specialists and graphic designers. You’re getting a course that’s of high quality, but also flattened out to meet the needs of as many organizations in your field as possible.
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But ready-made courses also have a number of drawbacks that will be of crucial importance for some companies and insignificant for others.
- No branding By default, ready-made courses contain no logos, color schemes, advertising slogans, or information about your company’s products. Some developers do make it possible to brand a ready-made course, although this will take time and require an additional investment. The same goes for changing the overall content, design, and other aspects of the project.
- Restrictions Many developers don’t give you free reign over the materials you’ve purchased. They might charge a monthly subscription fee and deny you access to the course if you don’t pay up. Or they might not allow you to resell the product. This doesn’t apply to all companies — we always do our best to meet our clients’ needs.
- Failure to meet expectations Unfortunately, ready-made courses don’t always jive perfectly with a company’s goals and interests. Certain factors that are important to you might be insufficiently addressed or not covered at all. Some companies might end up having to track down supplemental materials for their employees. But the opposite extreme is also possible — a course might contain excess information that distracts employees from what’s important and makes it harder for them to focus on crucial factors.
Courses Made to Order
If your objectives go far beyond anything a ready-made course has to offer, your best bet is probably to develop a new project from scratch. These kinds of courses have a number of advantages.
- Involvement in the project You can oversee every stage of the project’s creation and make adjustments as you go. If you have any preferences, problems, or ideas, you can discuss them directly with the developers. Buying a ready-made course can mean making a compromise between your company’s goals and what the market has to offer, but a course made to order will correspond exactly to your statement of work.
- Branding You design the course as you see fit, so you can integrate elements of your company’s branding into it or give the developers a style guide and ask them to make sure every aspect of the course matches it.
This can be especially important if your employees will be providing your company’s services. Employees who know your brand inside and out will be better able to broadcast it to your customers.
- Ease of use A course made to order will be designed for your platform of choice, which makes compatibility a non-issue. This allows you to more easily automate the training process and gather statistics about your staff. Moreover, you’ll always have access to the materials and can use them as you see fit — even as a foundation for future projects.
- Variety Ready-made courses are almost always in a simplified format, but the potential for courses made to order is limited only by your budget. They can include text, trainers, quests, sims, and various multimedia elements, including voiceover, video, animation, interactivity, game mechanics, etc.
- Unique content Projects made to order are designed around the your company’s distinct personality. They’re designed to accomplish goals that are strategically important to you or require a unique approach. The topic of your course could be anything, from selling a specific make of car to providing professional training to staff with a narrow specialization.
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But courses made to order have two significant drawbacks. As you can probably guess, they’re the exact mirror image of the primary advantages offered by ready-made courses.
- High price Developing a course based on a statement of work will most likely cost more than buying a ready-made course. However, these courses can also be adapted to all sorts of budgets thanks to the wide range of options offered by the e-learning format. Also, you only pay for the content your employees actually need.
- You have to wait These courses are made from scratch, which means it will take time to develop and test them.
Are you willing to wait, or do you need results right now? How universal is the topic you’re interested in? Which criteria play a key role? For your convenience, we’ve combined the main points of our discussion into a little cheat sheet.
Courses Made to Order
As a rule, they’re less expensive
As a rule, they’re more expensive
Can be used right away
It takes time to develop and test them
Contain universal content
Contain unique content developed especially for your company
May contain too much or too little information
Only contain necessary information confirmed during development
Cannot be changed
Can be changed and improved during use
May only be available for a limited time or under certain circumstances (subscription, etc.)
Always available and easy to use
Needless to say, sometimes the borders can get a little fuzzy — hybrid options are quite common. But tweaking finished materials is a paid service, and you’ll have to discuss it with the developers separately. We know from experience that it’s easy to change one detail, but it can be really hard to stop at just one. Once you get a taste for it, your list of tweaks can turn into a whole new statement of work.
Every case is unique. You need to decide what will be the most organic fit for your training system. You can always consult our specialists about this. They’re available to help you select or develop the course that best meets your specific needs.
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