Anyone implementing eLearning for the very first time has to grapple with this million dollar question – What are the different components that need to be factored for in the eLearning budget? Before you can say ‘eLearning budget’, what immediately comes to mind is the initial IT spend for setting up the required eLearning architecture and its various components (servers, LMS, authoring tools, live-delivery/meetings software, collaborative learning tools, portals etc.), including technical support, maintenance and upgrades. Of course the scope of this spend would be determined by the deployment strategies chosen-the medium of delivering the content. The cost of implementing a purely asynchronous strategy (self-paced modules taken by learners in isolation from other learners, typically online or on CDs or though the local intranet) would be different from a synchronous strategy (live eLearning sessions such as virtual learning, collaboration centers, discussions, webinars etc.) or a combination of both.
And then a sizeable cost would be for the actual content itself–including the content source, developing custom content or buying off-the-shelf content. If an organization is going to develop courses in-house, costs would involve building/up skilling/hiring a team for the development and deployment, costs for building the content – with variable costs depending on the complexity of the design of instruction, media, UI, and functionality required from the eLearning project (complex animations and interactivities, while having the potential to be highly engaging, are notorious for eating up a big chunk of the media spend!). If outsourcing design and development to vendors, then a sizeable part of the budget would factor for this. Underpinning all these factors would be the scope and size of the eLearning project. Another cost that comes to mind is for marketing the initiative within the organization (invariably a critical factor for success -especially in first-time implementations).
When planning for a budget for eLearning, it is almost always the more obvious components that get included in it. However, smaller or less-obvious but important components sometimes slip through the cracks in the planning stage – you need to watch out for this and factor for them also to arrive at a realistic estimate of your eLearning budget.