A growing number of companies are considering self-authoring as an option for fulfilling their training needs. What are the benefits and risks?
There are many benefits to bringing this work in-house, but equally, there are also pitfalls to be avoided.
What to consider when creating e-learning
1. Why create e-learning courses in-house?
The development of a range of authoring tools has opened the market to give everyone the tools to make high-quality e-learning. In many cases, these are the same tools as your e-learning vendor will use, so if you have the in-house expertise, it makes sense to self-author.
Key advantages of in-house authoring
- Agile response times.
- Access to Subject Matter Experts.
- Decreased development time.
- Alignment with business goals
So it is important that you choose the correct tool to get you started.
2. Which e-learning authoring tool should you use?
There are many course authoring tools to choose from, but your first decision should be between Desktop or Cloud-based.
a. Desk-top course e-learning authoring tools
These are more secure and do not rely on an internet connection. They generally come with a one-off purchase fee which can make budgeting easier. On the downside, having the tool locally on your pc or laptop makes it difficult to share content or develop it collaboratively.
b. Cloud-based SaaS tools
The key advantage of this is option is that you can access the tool from anywhere, and it is possible to collaborate with colleagues more easily than using a tool based locally on your machine. There may be security issues with putting your company information on a cloud-based system, and they rely on you having access to a web connection.
3. What e-learning authoring features do you need?
Once you have decided what type of tool you want, there are many products to choose from. To help narrow the choice down, you should consider:
- Does it have an intuitive interface?
- Does it cater for Accessibility?
- Can you create branching content?
- Are there a limited number of templates?
- How does it handle translation?
- Does it have a variety of exercises to test understanding?
You will probably want to try out a few before making your decision, and most authoring tool vendors offer trial period access.
4. Check what output types are available
Most, if not all, authoring tools will offer a variety of outputs, but it is worth checking that all the options you need are catered for.
Common output types
- SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model)
- AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee)
- MS Word
- MS Excel (for translation)
5. Which skill sets do you need to create e-learning?
Once you have the technology in place, you will need to think about resources.
The key to creating successful e-learning in-house is understanding the resources you will need and what you have available. Aside from the basics of making pages in your new tool, you must consider the skill sets that go into a great piece of e-learning.
a. Content Writer
As an in-house author, you will have easy access to your subject matter experts, but you will want to edit their input to turn it from a brain dump into effective learning as a rule. So, your first task is to structure the content to address your learning objectives.
b. Instructional Designer
Having created the basic storyboard, you will need to consider how you use the assets at your disposal in the authoring tool. In e-learning development, this is called instructional design and is often the difference between a good course and a poor one.
c. Creative writer
To bring the basic content alive, you may want to create contextual scenarios and exercises so your colleagues see the learning relating to their roles. You may also want to introduce a theme to the course to create engagement.
d. Accessibility expert
You will want your content to meet your diversity and inclusion policies, which will mean understanding how to make accessible e-learning. Most of the latest tools will provide you with content that will automatically work with assistive technology, such as screen readers. Still, you will need a good understanding of accessibility design concepts, such as colour contrast, page layout, text and font choices and the many other things that make the POUR accessibility features.
e. Graphic Designer
There are many competitively priced libraries of stock images, but you may wish to edit these or create your own to reflect internal processes. Having some design skills, such as knowledge of Photoshop, will be very helpful.
f. Project manager
Managing the inputs of your SME’s, reviewers, and additional resources will take time and planning, particularly if you are working to a hard deadline and have to keep many stakeholders happy.
No matter how often you read and re-read your content, there is usually some small typo immediately spotted by a learner the minute the course is released. Proofreading is an underrated skill, and you will want to ensure your content is thoroughly checked before going live.
6. The pitfalls of outsourcing work
Previously, it was possible to build content in-house while outsourcing some of the key requirements or hiring short-term contractors with specialist skills. The introduction of the IR35 legislation has made that much more problematic, and you will need to ensure you have all the skills you need internally.
7. Don't forget e-learning accessibility!
Making your service accessible is a requirement in the UK under the Equality Act 2010. Yet until recently, it has not been a high priority for corporate e-learning buyers. For years, the solution has been to provide a Word or PDF version of the content as the ‘accessible’ alternative.
Accessibility in e-learning involves using technology and standards to create training content that is fully accessible to all learners, regardless of whether they have a disability or not.
Many authoring tools will provide you with content that will automatically work with assistive technology, such as screen readers.
However, you will need a good understanding of accessibility design concepts, such as colour contrast, page layout, text and font choices.
It is a complex process that we explain on our e-learning accessibility page.
All authoring tools will advertise their ability to make top-quality learning, but it is not a golden bullet that guarantees success. If you have the varied skillsets required to make an e-learning course, then it is a great option to consider.
If you need to hire or train up resources to fill the gaps, you may find it more cost-effective to go to a specialist e-learning vendor.