We’ve discussed eLearning in terms of internal development versus external licensing as two separate approaches. For many organizations, a separate approach using one or the other method may work. But what about an organization that has some leeway in regard to its eLearning programs? A combined approach using both internal and external eLearning content might be the way to go.
First of all, what is a combined approach? There is no number, such as 50% of content, or “demarcation line”, such as all regulatory training should be outsourced to a vendor. A combined approach will work with the organization’s budget, infrastructure, staff, and audience to come up with the right combination of internal and external content.
So why would you use this approach? Let’s say your organization is investing in eLearning and you have the budget to develop your own content. But you don’t want to get in over your head. In a case like this, you could begin developing internal content for those items that are more efficiently managed, such as those with a major development process at the beginning and minor changes thereafter. Using this content as your own, you can test your system and its infrastructure before going full swing. On the other side of this, you can outsource those items that may test your reserves, such as regulatory training or general industry learning.
As with any of the approaches we’ve discussed, there are benefits and potential obstacles. Consider the benefits of a combined approach. You may be able to focus your internal staff’s efforts on customizable, branded, internal eLearning programs while giving the vendor the programs that don’t require too much attention. From this, your organization can be introduced to eLearning on a good scale, that is, on a customized, targeted scale. In terms of time, consider the fact that you could essentially be managing and implementing two separate eLearning projects for your organization. In our previous example, what if you could roll out the organization-specific program as well as the industry-related program at the same time? Essentially, a combined approach would allow you to cover more ground more quickly and more efficiently.
But what about the potential obstacles? As we’ve mentioned, cost is one of the most obvious. You may not have the luxury of a budget that stretches to both internal development and external licensing. And if you’re not sure, spend plenty of time examining both options before you decide to use a combined approach. If you and your staff are handling too much as it is, a combined approach could be difficult, as well. Just because you are looking to outsource content management does not mean that there won’t be any management internally. For example, someone has to manage the relationship with the vendor, billing and payment, and quality assurance. Another potential drawback of a combined approach is spreading your SME’s and stakeholders too thin. We already know that an SME most likely has another job, and that he or she is adding training responsibilities to what already exists. If you ask an SME to review internal content as well as externally licensed content, you should make sure he or she understands the extent of work that will be required. You definitely do not want an SME think that you are overloading them.
As you can see, a combined approach is definitely useful in certain situations, but use caution if you plan to embark upon this approach. Think it through completely and you shouldn’t have any problems. And, keep in mind that once you embark upon an external licensing approach, you can always move to an internal development or a combined approach.
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