When does it make sense to outsource elearning content development?
When does it make sense to outsource elearning content development?

If you’ve made the decision to introduce eLearning content into your corporation or organization you’re on the right path, but the next question becomes, “who’s going to develop the content?”

Innovative eLearning platforms have made it significantly simpler to do your eLearning development in-house from a technical standpoint, but there are also advantages to outsourcing the creation of that content.

While there may not be one final answer that works for every corporation, small business or organization, there are some pros and cons of outsourcing that can guide you toward an answer.

Areas Where You May Outsource

eLearning is comprehensive and multi-faceted, so before exploring whether or not it would be advantageous to outsource, it’s a good idea to delve into the different components that comprise eLearning content.

There may be some areas worth outsourcing, while others may be best suited to in-house design and creation.

  • Instructional: The instructional part of eLearning development really serves as the foundation for everything else. For some organizations it may be best to do this in-house, since they know their organization best, but a professional development company may be able to optimize content, make it more effective and compelling, develop based on learning principles, and increase overall retention of material being presented.
  • Visual Content: The visual content of eLearning courses includes things like images, graphs and charts, animation and design of the overall interface. While the creation of still images and basic graphics may be simple for in-house employees, video production or more complex graphics may be best left to experts.
  • Audio and Narration: Many organizations find this is the best place to outsource because developing audio components and effective narration often requires a team specializing in these aspects of eLearning.
  • Technology: The technology of eLearning is another prime opportunity to outsource. The technology development should ensure systems are smooth and error-free, and there are adequate troubleshooting resources for users.

The Advantages of Outsourcing

  • The number one reason many corporations and organizations outsource the development of eLearning content is to benefit from the expertise of contractors who are skilled and knowledgeable in this area. An in-house team may not have the same level of experience or know-how to develop the most effective content, particularly if it’s extremely complex material. Additionally, experts may have ideas or contributions to the project that wouldn’t otherwise be considered in-house.
  • You’re going to save both time and money in most instances if you outsource content development, rather than allocating resources from within your own organization. An outsourced team also tends to more easily meet tight deadlines.
  • If you’re an organization considering assembling a dedicated in-house eLearning team you’re going to have to cover overhead expenses including taxes, workspace costs, benefits, etc. With an outsourced team you’re just paying for the cost of the project, without the overhead of having a full or even part time employee.

Now For the Disadvantages…

  • An outsourced team may not be as knowledgeable about the coursework being designed, or the overall nature of what it is your organization does or is trying to convey. It could be something technical, or even something as subtle as capturing your unique corporate culture, but regardless it’s going to be difficult for an outsourced company or team to know the ins and outs of your organization as well as people within it do.
  • You have to be comfortable surrendering control when you outsource eLearning content development. This can be a challenge, particularly if you’re the head of your organization and you’re used to being the leader. Yes, you can provide direction during the outsourcing project, but ultimately there are a number of decisions that are going to fall to the people you’ve charged with creating the content.
  • You may not have a clear idea of your exact objectives, and if not this can lead to problems in communication, frustrations and delays on the part of your outsourced contractors. eLearning development can very much be a “learn as you go” process, and you may find that you’re constantly realizing new and better ways to develop your content, but that’s not a freedom you have when you outsource.

Ultimately when deciding whether or not you’ll outsource your content development, the most important thing to look at is the scope of the project, whether you have the resources to complete it in-house, and how much control you want to have over the project.

It’s also important to consider whether or not your content can even be shared with outsiders—for example, a company creating training materials based on proprietary information may not even have the option of outsourcing.

Both creating content in-house and outsourcing can have advantages and disadvantages, and these have to be weighed and considered before making a final decision that will impact the quality, effectiveness and cost of your corporate eLearning.

Be sure to contact our e-learning experts should you have any questions.

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