eLearning development

To build a course or to outsource? That is the question



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To build a course or to outsource? That is the question

Are you struggling with the decision whether to build a course in-house or to outsource the task? Look no further – We have your answer. Join us as we take an in-depth look at the key factors in making the “make or buy” decisions for producing your own elearning courses.

Step 1: Consider the resources involved and your organisational capability

The first step is to consider the different resources involved in creating an elearning course. Here at Cursim, we split the effort needed to produce a course into distinct areas. Often, we create a matrix to assess our customer’s capabilities against each individual resource. These resources are as follows:

Subject Matter Experts (SME)

Do you have an in-house expert or specialist with keen experience in training the topic? If they lack this familiarity, can the organisation provide them with instructional guidance on how to best convey their topic? SMEs will also need to understand how to trim vast amounts of knowledge down into a set of key learning points that are easily digestible.

Instructional Designer

Do you have an Instructional Designer with the training and assets to create a course to best display key points using elearning? They will also need to work closely with the Subject Matter Expert to best understand and convey the topic at hand. Digital Instructional Design requires its own unique skill set compared to creating classroom training course.

Graphic Designer

A key component to building a successful elearning course is its appearance. Does your organisation have the resources to successfully design a visually engaging course? Oftentimes, there is also a set of corporate branding or style guidelines that need to be taken into consideration. Graphic Designers will need a thorough understanding of the software’s possibilities and limitations to make best use of their skills.

Content development

How well versed is your Content Developer when it comes to elearning software? Developing courses takes a team, of course, but it also requires someone who can navigate authoring tools to develop the content. At Cursim, we use Articulate Storyline because of its simplicity, flexibility and interactivity.

Project management

Do you have a Project Manager to lead the team? Do they have a complex knowledge of project timelines and resources? Do they understand the complexities of managing the development of an elearning course? There are many moving parts when building a course in-house, and an organised, detail-oriented leader is important to stay on track. Also, it’s a plus if he/she can effectively and politely chase people down when deadlines are looming.

Testing and quality assurance

Is your company outfitted with trusted levels of testing and quality assurance? SMEs are the authority on the subject matter. But proofers are absolutely necessary to ensure an error-free finished product. Attention to detail is crucial when editing content. Everything from grammatical errors to areas of non-functionality and typos must be checked (and rechecked!)
Another indispensable resource are members of the target audience. It’s important to test drive the newly created modules on people who will be taking the course so you can see whether it makes sense for the learner. And of course, be sure to thoroughly vet these test-takers after their completion of the practice run.

Step 2: Timing is everything

We often see that organisations have a tendency to underestimate the time it takes to create an elearning course. This is because they often base their assessments on the time it takes to create a simple PowerPoint. This is a colossal misstep. In our experience, it is important to distinguish time in two ways:

Development time: 

The period of time it takes to create the course. Estimates range anywhere from 50 to 500 development hours for every 1 hour of elearning produced. The factors affecting this include:
  • The complexity of material
  • The readiness of the material
  • The type of technical features used (e.g. video, audio, complex scenarios etc.)

Elapsed time: 

This is the time between the project initiation and the delivery of the course. Key variables include the availability of resources, approvers, influencers and stakeholders.  Typically, 10 weeks or more is a safe estimate.

Step 3: Are we prepared?

So, are you prepared? Upon finishing this assessment, your analysis may have revealed shortfalls in particular areas. If so, can you develop team members to meet these deficiencies or must you entertain new hires? How much training is required to get the team up to speed? And what are these realistic timetables for bringing in new resources?
To build in-house or to outsource is a big decision for any company. But is there a third option? Yes, there is. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be so black and white. Some digital learning vendors will collaborate with you throughout the entire development process. These types of vendors, Cursim included, are a popular choice for many reasons. They help you manage the process and build your long-term skills so you can become self-sufficient.
We hope this assessment has offered some answers to the question at hand – To build in-house or to outsource? If you have any more questions or comments, feel free to add a comment.