Licensing external eLearning content can provide you and your organization with definite benefits, along with some potential drawbacks. Again, as we discussed on the benefits and obstacles to developing internally, your role is to determine where the greatest benefit lies. But as we are discussing external licensing, remember that it can be a temporary approach. As we will see, the infrastructure requirements are much less than developing your own eLearning. First, let’s examine the benefits of the external licensing approach.

In terms of cost, we will examine both time and money. In relation to time, externally licensing your eLearning content can be quick and efficient. Once you decide on the vendor and sign the contract, delivery may be relatively quick. And there is no run-up to full staffing, like you would need to do with internal development. Cost is another potential benefit. Remember that the cost of both approaches will depend on your infrastructure, the number of users, and the current technological condition of the organization. But suppose that most of these factors are in place: a per-head eLearning course may not be a major cost at all, especially up front.

Another benefit of external licensing is in the management of learning. In most cases, a vendor will manage content and delivery for you. In terms of delivery, if participants are visiting a website there is virtually no delivery concern for you. Content management is also a plus. For example, if your organization is highly regulated, the cost of maintaining regulatory training and all the changes that comes with it may be fairly high. But a vendor that specializes in this type of training has a staff that maintains the content. And all you have to do is wait for the update to be pushed out.

In similar context, you will recall that we discussed the necessity of an internal delivery mechanism that will be necessary for internal development. In general, this is not necessary for external licensing. In many cases, the vendor hosts the courses, which means that your users simply log on via the Internet and take a class. Then the vendor provides you with reports on completions.

There are some obvious obstacles that may come along with external licensing of eLearning content. First, consider content control. Just as content management by a vendor can be a benefit, it can also be an obstacle. For example, if your organization’s environment changes rapidly, you may want the control that comes with developing your own content. Customization of externally licensed content is expensive, if it exists at all, and may or may not work exactly for your organization’s audience.

Along these lines, most external content cannot be branded to match your organization’s look and feel. For some organizations, this is not issue. But for some, who spend time and money creating a brand, this can be a deal-breaker. Participants know that they are not accessing an intervention that was created and branded just for them. Also along these lines, you will not be able to target the content to your audience, which in some organizations can be a deal breaker.

We’ve already discussed cost as a benefit, but we have to discuss it as a potential obstacle when it comes to external licensing. Many vendors provide eLearning on a per-learner basis, which can be cost effective in a small organization. But if you have a larger organization and plan to reuse content on a regular basis, the cost can become an escalation. And although you may see some return on investment versus your cost, what happens when the ROI begins to level off? Alternatively, what if your external courses are simply the ones that cannot be priced in terms of ROI unless something goes wrong, like a regulator citation? In this case, the escalating cost may not be worthwhile in the long rung.

As we’ve mentioned, external licensing of eLearning content may be a great place to start with online learning. Once you’ve built up the time and the budget, you can transition to an internal development approach. Regardless, your role is to make the choice of approach based on your organization and its needs.

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