Internal development of eLearning brings both benefits and a few potential drawbacks to learning and development as well as the organization as a whole. As with any business decision, your job is to determine if and when the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks. Or, you may determine that drawbacks will be no more than a blip on your radar. Let’s look at the benefits of internal development first.
One of the primary benefits of developing eLearning internally is the control that comes with it. As the developer and owner of the content, your organization has the ultimate control of each and every word, activity, test question, and evaluation. This means that if your organization sometimes has rapid or constant changes in policies, procedures, products, or regulations that affect training content, you’ll be able to implement those changes quickly and efficiently. Plus, you can tailor your content to your audience so that it makes a long-lasting impact on the learner.
In terms of time, developing internally may take less time once your process is up and running. For example, let’s say you have an instructional designer who manages the SME, develops outcomes, and creates content, and then passes the prepared storyboard on to a course developer who prepares the course for delivery. This process can become very efficient over time-and end up saving time that you might spend testing externally licensed courses.
Cost is also a benefit to internal development of eLearning. Although there may be an initial cost, which we will discuss in a moment, the cost of designing and delivering your own programs may be lower than external development, especially if external courses are paid by the learner. And once you’ve developed a staff, this cost will also be lower in the long run.
Finally, internally developed eLearning can be branded to match your organization. This kind of seamless development and delivery of learning, even across a diverse audience, may have more credibility than an externally packaged program. With your own branding, your courses can match the overall “look and feel” of the organization’s online applications, such as HR, social media, and internal Internet.
What about potential drawbacks or opportunities? Again, keep in mind that just because a potential drawback exists does not mean that your organization must suffer through it. First, the process of developing internally will require you to either re-purpose existing staff or hire new staff that can handle the process. In addition, the staff you manage will most likely be handling both instructor led and eLearning programs.
In terms of delivery, internal development pretty much requires that you have an internal mechanism for delivering and recording online learning interventions. This can be an “off the shelf” LMS or it can be something that is developed by IT within the organization, but you’ll need it. As we mentioned earlier, if you have courses and programs without a delivery method, you’ve wasted your time and effort.
Also, costs in terms of time and money are also potential drawbacks for internal development. Although we have discussed the potential of saving time in the long run, you may find that time expense is much higher in the beginning of internal development. This time includes working out a process, testing and re-testing your delivery method, and breaking in the staff. Costs, as with any new adventure, may be higher on the front end, as well. For example, you may find that you’ll spend more in year one on staffing and technology than in years to follow. In addition, LMS technologies change, and you may want to upgrade at some point going forward. Along with this, you may find that your internal development has become successful to the point that you have to add more staff to handle content development and deployment.
Remember that your role is to determine how the benefits will outweigh the potential opportunities, or to decide that the potential problems are just normal obstacles for your organization. Next, let’s take a look at external licensing of eLearning programs.
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