Are dedicated elearning suppliers becoming obsolete?

29th January 2015

With the growth in authorware such as Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Lectora, Mohive, et al, anyone it seems, can be their own elearning developer, designer and project manager.’? The great asset of these applications is that the democratisation of content production can save an organisation thousands from their budget and offer complete control over the content and design.

With this being the case, HR and other commissioning departments no longer require the services of costly elearning suppliers any more, right? Well not quite. Before you go and buy that Storyline licence, here are a few points to consider.

1.’? Tracking and reporting

If you’??re intending to create a compliance course, for example Anti-bribery and Corruption, then under UK legislation you have a legal obligation to demonstrate that you have trained your staff on the policy and ensured that it is understood.?’?You can develop an elearning course using authorware, but without a Learning Management System (LMS) to track the completion rates of users, it becomes very difficult to prove that employees have successfully completed the training.

An external supplier will ensure that your course abides by technology standards such as SCORM and hosted on an LMS. In this way HR departments will be able to track, who has undergone the training, their score and the completion status. In organisations with a large number of employees to train, the reporting function of an LMS becomes even more important.

2. Technological requirements

So you’??ve built your course, it’??s looking really great and ready to be unleashed upon the world. Unfortunately without a wider knowledge of technical specifications, it’??s easy to make a mistake or wrong assumption.?An example of this could be that you embedded a flash video into your course, that cannot be viewed by mobile audiences, or you may have included audio but discovered later that many of your learners do not have access to speakers on their work PCs and so cannot hear the commentary, music and sound effects you’??ve sourced.

This is a common issue to those who have attempted to build their own course, as many assume that if it works on their PC, then it will work for others. Sadly the QA and testing that is required to ensure that the course works across multiple browser types and mobile/pc platforms can be time consuming and laborious without access to professional testing tools. By working with a dedicated elearning company, the Lead Developer will ensure that your course will be thoroughly tested on a range of devices, browsers and operating systems to make your it works to an agreed specification for your organisation. Not only this, but they will be aware of the latest technological trends and potential pitfalls of various delivery methods and be able to advise accordingly

3. Accessibility

Many organisations and institutions require their training courses to implement W3C accessibility guidelines to ensure that everybody, regardless of their visual or audio capabilities, can access the content. This requires more than merely captioning video and screen content and requires considerable thought in terms of the design, layout and functionality of each screen. Text must be accessible to JAWS readers and contrast levels and even keyboard controls must be considered so that all set-up types are accommodated. Therefore, accessibility must be part of the design process from the very beginning of the project as it’??s impossible to effectively retro-fit a course in this manner once it has been built.

4. Expertise

There is a lot more to course design than meets the eye, that’??s why Instructional Design as a discipline is the predominant factor in the success of a training course. Good Instructional Design means that your elearning course not only covers the important themes and subject matter but is designed in such a way to maximise learning and actually changes behaviour.’? It is not simply enough to put the information on a page and hope that learners will assimilate it. With the wealth of interactive experiences learners have in their day-to-day lives, expectations of the user experiences are high. Good Instructional Design will take into consideration the learner’??s environment (will it be noisy and distracting), the delivery platform (mobile or PC), define the learning objectives, consider the cognitive load (balancing the right amount of information for the learner’??s needs), and engagement (using interactions, simulations, scenarios and videos to affect the learner). This is important for the effectiveness of any training but is especially important for organisations that would like a measurable ROI to demonstrate the benefit to the business.

5. Value for money

The range of expertises and disciplines that elearning companies have in their toolkit (including, designers, developers, industry knowledge, translation facilities, instructional designers and project managers), means that in terms of scales of economy, a dedicated elearning supplier is a valuable and cost effective proposition.

Sourcing experts in these areas can individually cost an organisation far more in terms of time, efficiency and budget. Unless your organisation is lucky enough to have these skills in-house, you may have to outsource the work or bring in and manage expensive contract staff. A reputable elearning agency will be able to offer all of these expertises as well as the latest industry knowledge and awareness of challenges that an individual working alone may be unaware of.

Faced with these challenges and risks, it is no wonder that most organisations choose to work with a dedicated elearning agency. The ability to make home-grown courses on a shoe-string budget has an obvious appeal and certainly is a way forward for small businesses as an accompaniment to their one-to-one training. However for larger organisations that need effective, well designed training, the value of a dedicated agency is hard to dismiss.

Author Tamar Elderton-Welch’?

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