E-learning Outsourcing Based on the Development Stages and Course Components

Outsourcing of eLearning courses’ development is becoming a global trend. This is because it helps reduce cost, leverage global capabilities, reduce risks and identify new markets. According to a survey by Global Industry Analysts Inc., a reputed publisher of off-the-shelf market research, the turnover of eLearning outsourcing industry will reach $6 billion by 2015.

E-learning Outsourcing

Many Fortune 500 companies are outsourcing their eLearning courses to India, South Africa, Philippines and other countries because of the availability of highly skilled workforce at low cost. Furthermore, outsourcing facilitates quick development of high quality products.

According to a research by Bersin & Associates, the cost of a content development project will come down by 20-40% when it is outsourced to India. It is also proved that if companies outsource eLearning projects which involve a series of steps like localization, LMS hosting and implementation, translations etc., they can concentrate on their core activities better.

So, let’s see how to prepare ourselves for eLearning outsourcing by following a step by step process.

Development Process

If you are familiar with the eLearning development process, you know that it consists of 4 main stages, viz. Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate. You may already be familiar with these stages, if you are developing eLearning courses in-house. In addition to these, you may also include online course translations and LMS administration if you are looking at end-to-end eLearning solutions.

You can choose to outsource one or all of these functions. But, how will you make the decision? Let’s look at each of these stages and see how the decision to outsource or not can be made.

Analysis:

Analysis

If you feel that an outside perspective will help you pinpoint the performance gaps, which can be bridged through training initiatives, you can outsource the task of analyzing your training needs. Sometimes, organizations could end up losing sight of the big picture by getting “too involved” in the details - this is when outsourcing this function helps. You can also outsource the analysis of your training needs, if your team is too hard-pressed for time. While outsourcing, make sure that your vendor- partner is highly experienced in the field of performance and need analysis.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
Analysis
  • Team "can't see the forest for the trees"
  • Team has no time
The Ideal Vendor
  • Learning consultant for performance improvement
  • Proven expertise in needs analysis

Course Design

Course Design

If you have set eLearning course design standards, but limited time, you can outsource this task. You can also outsource it if you have solid knowledge of the subject-matter, but do not possess adequate learning design capabilities. In such scenarios, you should not attempt to design the course. It’s better to let the experts handle it.

Always make sure that your vendor-partner has a good understanding of your learning needs and specializes in eLearning Design. The vendor should keep your organizational goals in mind while designing a course for you.

Small, cohesive teams are ideal. You need a vendor who has the expertise in performing diverse functions and can coordinate the work of the team members very effectively. Ask for the profiles of the team members, who will be working on your project.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
Course Design
  • Team highly stretched for time and your learning design standards are set
  • No learning design capabilities, but sound subject-matter expertise
The Ideal Vendor
  • A training and learning company
  • Proven expertise in eLearning design
  • In-house instructional design specialists

Development of Components

Development of Components

If you have instructional design standards in place, then you can outsource the development of specific components such as content, graphics, animations, etc. You can also outsource specific components, if you are using authoring tools but need certain graphically rich interactivities or learning objects to enhance the course. Always go with vendors who have in-house capabilities to develop various graphical components. Customized graphic companies can also do this job.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
Development of Components
  • Instructional design standards are in place
  • Need for graphically rich interactivities or learning objects
The Ideal Vendor
  • Expert in development of components OR
  • Customized graphic/animation company

Development of Course

Development of Course

Continuing with the list, you can outsource online course development if you have a skilled design team and when your design standards are well-defined or mature. In such scenarios, you may choose to outsource to turn out more courses in less time.

However, here is a word of caution. Don’t make the mistake of giving course development to a elearning company that specializes only in graphics and has no background in learning. In addition to the core competence of using authoring tools for course development, the ideal vendor should also have in-house Instructional designers who can provide valuable insights into the course.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
Development of Course
  • Have a strong design team
  • When your design standards are well defined or mature
The Ideal Vendor
  • Expertise in authoring tools
  • Proven expertise In learning design
  • In-house instructional designers

Evaluation

Evaluation

In this phase, you need to check whether your learners liked the course. You also need to assess the effectiveness of the course in meeting the learning objectives. You also need to see if there is a change in the learners’ behavior. And, above all, you need to check whether the course has helped achieve your company’s business goals.

If you think that you can get a more candid feedback through an external agency or are constrained by time, you can outsource the task of evaluating your course. You need to choose a vendor who can measure the effectiveness of training programs effectively, using industry-accepted standards.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
Evaluation
  • You want to measure long-term improvements
The Ideal Vendor
  • Capability to measure training effectiveness across all levels of measurement

Translations

Translations

If you want your eLearning courses to reach your global employees and create the maximum impact, you should deliver the courses in your employees’ native languages. You can outsource your eLearning course translations, if professional translators and narrators are unavailable in your organization. An ideal vendor has a team of competent in-house translators and recording professionals.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
E-learning Course Translations
  • You do not have professional translators and narrators in-house.
The Ideal Vendor
  • In-house translation capability with native translators and voice artists.

LMS Hosting and Administration

LMS Hosting and Administration

LMS setup and administration is vital to make your eLearning initiatives a success. You can outsource this function, if your technical team is finding it hard to administer your LMS. In many cases, employees may not have the needed capabilities and time to administer your LMS effectively.

Look for a vendor who specializes in using technology for learning. The LMS vendor should be sound knowledge of the LMS and be able to customize it according to your requirements.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
LMS Hosting and Administration
  • You do not have a dedicated team that is assigned for LMS Administration.
The Ideal Vendor
  • Specializes in using technology for learning
  • Ability to customize LMS as per your requirements
  • Provides 24 x 7 support

Organizations expect a lot of support from vendors, in order to get the best out of their LMS investment. So, an ideal vendor should provide excellent 24 x 7 customer service.

End-End E-learning Development

LMS Hosting and Administration

Is there a need to outsource the complete learning solution – end-to end? I’d suggest that when you don’t have learning design capabilities in-house, you should outsource the entire course development process. Make sure you outsource your project to a well-known vendor who specializes in eLearning design.

Always make sure that the vendor-who is experienced in all facets of eLearning development - instructional design, graphic design and use of authoring tools such as Flash, Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate 8, etc. You can also consider a vendor who has expertise in customizing LMSs, if you are looking at hosting the courses.

Phase and Related Components Outsource IF
Complete E-learning
  • You don’t have learning design capabilities
The Ideal Vendor
  • A training and learning company
  • Specializes in using technology for learning
  • Sound functional skills sets in learning design: ID, GD and learning technology
  • Expert in authoring tools and learning management system

So, in this way, we can take the help of an eLearning vendor-partner and remain competitive in this constantly changing corporate world. Always remember that if you don’t have enough resources to design eLearning courses, it’s better to outsource because it will provide a “professional touch” to your online courses and make them more effective. What do you think? We’d love to hear your views.

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