eLearning is becoming an essential in learning and development, especially for organizations with diverse workforces. Keep in mind that a diverse workforce, in terms of learning, could be a group of employees who are physically together but learn at different paces. A diverse workforce could be geographically and culturally different, as well, meaning the employees can be remote from the headquarter organization in many ways. But with the advent of eLearning comes the decision about whether to develop eLearning programs internally or to outsource them to vendors or eLearning providers. Before you make a decision for your organization, it may be a good idea to look at each approach, define it, and determine the benefits and drawbacks, both in general and for your organization. First, let’s take a look at internal development.
Internal development of eLearning is the process of developing, designing, deploying, evaluating, and changing courses and programs within your own organization. It sounds simple, and from outward appearances it is. In fact, any time we see the term “internal development”, we think of control, ease of access, and probably less cost. Most of these thoughts are true, and we will look at benefits and drawbacks of internal eLearning development next. But let’s break down internal development into its necessary components, so that you can determine if you have the infrastructure to take it on.
First, let’s examine what you’ll need in order to undertake internal eLearning development. One of the main items to look at is your delivery method. After all, you can spend time in development but all of this means nothing if you do not have a reliable delivery method. Do you have a Learning Management System that can deliver each program and record its completion? If so, does your Learning Management System allow you to develop content that is packaged and ready to deliver? If you are without an LMS, finding one should be your first step. Along with this, decide if you want to spend the extra time and money to obtain an LMS that allows for content creation.
Let’s look at content creation. If your LMS has an authoring tool, you’ll still need instructional designers to create the content. Remember that the online environment requires small “chunks” of information that are optimized for the remote audience. But if you do not have an authoring tool, you’ll need not only instructional designers but also the expertise to create online programs that can be delivered by your LMS. Some designers have both skills sets, but some do not. And your decision will be which skill set and which people.
What about content expertise? Remember that, just as in standard instructor led training development, you’ll need to pull in subject matter experts (SME’s) to provide and approve content. eLearning, just like ILT, is only as good as its content, so consider how much access you’ll have to your SME’s – and how you can get them together with your design team.
Time is another element that is necessary for eLearning development. For some reason, some learning and development professionals seem to believe that eLearning development takes less time. In some cases it may, but in the beginning you’ll need time to develop content, approve it, test it, and test its viability in your delivery method. And you’ll need time to work out the bugs in your development process.
That brings up one last necessary element in internal eElearning development: the process. What will your process be? This depends on all of the other elements, such as staff, timing, SME’s, and delivery method. For example, if you have SME’s working directly with designers, you’ll need to determine the process of how they’ll work together, how they’ll test the content, and how they’ll approve it for delivery. And with this process comes your management of time, the steps involved, and the problems that may develop during that process.
Now that we’ve discovered the basics of internal development, let’s look at the benefits and potential drawbacks of this approach.
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