To build a course or to outsource? That is the question

Hannah Waddams | 07/10/2018

Are you struggling to decide whether to build eLearning courses in-house or to outsource them? Look no further – we may be able to help you make your decision. In this blog we will take an in-depth look at the key factors in the “make or buy” decision-making process, enabling you to analyse your internal capacity and if decide if whether building in-house is the right step to take. 

Step 1: Consider the resources involved and your organisational capability

The first step is to consider the different resources involved in creating an eLearning course. At Cursim, Omniplex’s learning design and development division, we split the effort needed to produce a course into distinct areas, and each of these areas need different resources. You should consider whether you have the following resources in-house before deciding to DIY (develop it yourself, of course): 

  • Subject Matter Experts (SME)

    Do you have an in-house expert or specialist with keen experience in training the topic? If they lack this familiarity, can the organisation provide them with instructional guidance on how to best convey the topic? SMEs will also need to understand how to trim vast amounts of knowledge down into a set of key learning points that are easily digestible.
  • Instructional Designer

    Do you have an Instructional Designer with the skills to create a course to best display key points using eLearning? They will need to work closely with the Subject Matter Expert to best understand and convey the topic at hand. It’s worth pointing out that eLearning instructional design requires its own unique set of skills separate from creating a classroom training course or a face-to-face learning experience.
  • Graphic Designer

    A key component to building a successful eLearning course is its appearance. Does your organisation have the resources to successfully design a visually engaging course? Oftentimes, there are a set of corporate branding or style guidelines that need to be taken into consideration. Graphic Designers will need a thorough understanding of the authoring tool’s possibilities and limitations in order to make best use of their skills.
  • Content development

    How well versed is your Content Developer when it comes to your chosen authoring tool? Developing courses takes a team, but it also requires someone who can navigate the software to develop the content. If you don’t currently have these skillsets in-house, but have someone that’s willing to learn, check out the training offering for your chosen authoring tool. 
  • Project management

    Do you have a Project Manager to lead the team? Do they have a detailed knowledge of project timelines and resources? Do they understand the complexities of managing the development of an eLearning course? There are many moving parts when building a course in-house, and an organised, detail-oriented leader is important to stay on track. Also, it’s a plus if he/she can effectively and politely chase people down when deadlines are looming.
  • Testing and quality assurance

    While SMEs validate the authenticity of the course, QA experts are absolutely necessary to confirm an error-free finished product. Attention to detail is crucial when editing eLearning content – everything from grammatical errors to areas of non-functionality and typos must be checked, rechecked and triple-checked.

    Along with quality assurers and proofers, another indispensable resource are members of the target audience. It’s important to test drive the newly created modules on people who will be taking the course, so you can see whether it makes sense for the learner. And of course, be sure to thoroughly vet these test-takers after their completion of the practice run.

Step 2: Timing is everything

We often see that organisations have a tendency to underestimate the time it takes to create an eLearning course – often basing their assessments on the time it takes to create a simple PowerPoint. This is a colossal misstep. In our experience, it is important to distinguish time in two ways:

  1. Development time: The period of time it takes to create the course. Estimates range anywhere from 50 to 500 development hours for every 1 hour of eLearning produced. The factors affecting this include the complexity of material, the readiness of the material and the type of technical features used (e.g. video, audio, complex scenarios etc.)
  1. Elapsed time: The time between the project initiation and the delivery of the course. Key variables include the availability of resources and approvers, influencers and stakeholders. Typically, 10 weeks or more is a safe estimate.

Step 3: Are we prepared?

So, are you prepared? Upon finishing this assessment, your analysis may have revealed shortfalls in particular areas. If so, can you develop team members to meet these deficiencies or must you entertain new hires? How much training is required to get the team up to speed? And what are the realistic timescales for bringing in new resources?

To build eLearning in-house or to outsource is a big decision for any company. But is there a third option? Yes, there is. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be so black and white. Some course development partners offer collaboration and pledge to work with your organisation throughout the entire process. These content development companies, Cursim included, tend to be a popular choice because they not only help manage the process, but also work to build long-term skills in your organisation so you can become self-sufficient for future projects. For many customers, this is a favoured approach because it balances your own resources with that of an experienced content development company, all while yielding affordable long-term goals.

I hope this assessment has offered some answers to the question at hand – to build a course or to outsource? If you have any more questions or comments, feel free to get in touch with one of our eLearning solutions consultants.

Hannah Waddams

Hannah is a marketing executive here at Omniplex

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