Hidden Costs of Cheap Elearning

21st May 2019

E-learning is a cheap way to deliver training, right?


E-learning is good value for money, absolutely.

But if your e-learning is cheap, there’s a chance it’s not very good.

After all, good quality learning materials take time to produce, and must be regularly updated, customised to your business, and offered on a platform that adapts to the changing needs of your learners.

Cheap e-learning packages might seem sufficient to meet a need (or tick a box), but it can fail to deliver on your most basic requirements, and have damaging effects on your colleagues and their attitude to learning in general.

So what, exactly, is wrong with low-grade e-learning?

Before we get into the details, we must state that we are (unsurprisingly) advocates of e-learning as a way of delivering training. It’s economical, practical and highly effective – when delivered diligently.

E-learning can be a delight to use – and a great way to learn.

But e-learning can also be terrible.

Instead of engaging people, it can turn them off of learning, reduce their faith in your company and prevent colleagues from learning essential information that is required to prevent serious risks.

1. Employee engagement

One of the biggest benefits of giving your colleagues opportunities to learn is that it makes them feel more valued, and gives them chances to develop their career.

Instead of standing still, colleagues recognise that their skillset is progressing, and their prospects are improving. Being employed by your company means more than simply exchanging time for money; it also means being rewarded in less tangible ways.

The end result is that your colleagues feel appreciated, valued and recognised. In return, they feel more inclined to give more of their attention and energy to your organisation. They feel engaged as an employee and see your organisation’s success as a key driver of their own fortunes.

Of course, these are all benefits that come from good-quality training that makes employees feel valued.

“Negative onboarding experience means employees are twice as likely to look for a new opportunity in the near future.” – Digitate survey of 1500 professionals

2. Ineffective training

All e-learning is not created equal. Cheap courses might be out-of-date, poorly presented or difficult to use, leaving fewer colleagues with the knowledge and skills you wanted them to acquire.

Producing high-quality learning materials that engage employees with a range of formats takes time and money. Cheap e-learning providers will inevitably cut corners to keep prices keen and still make a profit. Your learners will be the first to suffer.

3. Irrelevant materials

The cheapest e-learning courses are usually standard packages that are bought off-the-shelf. These are made to cover a wide range of industries, so may include content that is irrelevant for your teams.

What happens when your colleagues encounter this irrelevant material?

They may have enough prior knowledge to recognise that it doesn’t apply – or they may believe that this information does apply, leading to a confused understanding of the topic.

Either way, the experience for the learner is poor and only serves to undermine confidence in the learning you provide.

4. Reduce learner trust

If your colleagues’ trust is undermined by poor quality e-learning, they are less likely to have faith in other courses or learning opportunities that you provide.

Instead of engaging with learning, your colleagues may assume that the learning is a tick-box exercise rather than a genuine opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills.

Cheap e-learning is a quick and easy way to encourage a cynical attitude to learning.

5. Barriers to learning

For some of our clients, speed is an issue.

Learning must be delivered in a hurry – often because of a compliance, security or health and safety issue.

Poor-quality e-learning does not help to accelerate the delivery of learning. Instead of getting it right first time, with learning that is customised to your audience and your organisation, cheap e-learning solutions are more likely to disappoint your learners and leave them without the essential skills and knowledge they need.

And that leads us neatly on to our next point…

6. Compliance risks

Essential learning cannot be left to chance. Given the high stakes of compliance failures – such as fines, reputational damage and prison sentences – why would any organisation choose low-grade e-learning for vital compliance courses?

In the past, companies have been fined for not training colleagues adequately on topics such as health and safety and legal issues around data protection, digital security and bribery. There is no legal defence for companies that provide inadequate training on vital compliance issues – particularly if a failure leads to a breach of the law.

7. Employer brand

People talk. Word travels fast.

If your employees are unhappy because you provide shoddy training materials, and never invest in quality training, other people will hear about it. When you need to recruit, you may have to battle against a negative reputation.

On the flip side, giving your colleagues genuine opportunities to learn and grow not only makes them more inclined to stay, but it also makes them more likely to leave positive reviews on employer review sites like Glassdoor, and more likely to encourage acquaintances to join your company.


E-learning that your employees will love

As we’ve outlined above, there are many reasons why e-learning must be good quality. Generally speaking, the cheapest e-learning programmes are not the best – and are unlikely to help you meet your objectives.

But that’s not to say that off-the-shelf e-learning is always bad. You may find off-the-shelf e-learning solutions that meet the needs of your organisation and your learners.

In many cases, e-learning courses can be adapted to make the material relevant to your learners and your industry. This might mean changing some of the examples, updating the language, or creating additional content.

Updating the content for your own audience is usually an inexpensive and easy way to ensure that your learners are engaged and your investment produces the intended return.

Want to know more about our own e-learning courses? We specialise in producing engaging programmes on a wide range of diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias topics. Our courses are easy to customise so they meet the needs of your learners, and your organisation.

Contact our friendly team to learn more.

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