When I go shopping for a pair of trousers, I can never find something that fits me snuggly. Either the waist is too low, too tight or, just that the fitting does not suit my physique. And when in the rare instances I find something that is manageable, the color would not be to my liking.
I am sure those who may not have the physique that garment manufacturers consider as standard, will empathize with my travails. Some offer to do alternations, but I will have to wait to get it done and I might even have to incur extra cost to ensure that the piece is altered to suit me. Even after that, there is a sort of patch work and not as good as the original, in terms of finish. To me, bespoke clothing works best and perhaps it helps that I am in India and I can get cost-effective options for bespoke clothing!
What has this got to do with Off-the-Shelf Courses?
Well, I find a strange similarity between off-the-shelf clothing and off-the-shelf courses being developed for training purposes. Once organizations began to use online training solutions for training their staff, many companies started developing off-the-shelf courses that cater to the general training needs of the organizations. Some specialize in certain domains and others specialize in general topics. But do they accurately address the training needs of the organization? Do they offer the right fit?
Well, off the shelf courses do have their place. For example, if you have to train your staff on MS word or Excel, you might just want to pick up courses developed by Microsoft for the purpose. Makes lot of sense. However, if you want to train your staff about “Safety Training” in your organization, can you find an off-the shelf course that will suit your situation perfectly? Unlikely! This is because, safety parameters in your organization are tailored specific to your unique situation, equipment and functioning. In this case, off the shelf courses cannot provide 100% coverage of your training needs. The same is true with other courses, such as soft skills training, legal and compliance, environment training etc.
Let’s see specifically, why off-the-shelf courses may not be such a good idea, for most training requirements that are NOT standard software applications training.
1. Generic content: Off the shelf courses are built to cater to large and diverse audience. It is based on a pre-determined framework, which may not cover all the parameters relevant to your organization.
2. Cannot meet 100% of your training requirement: As mentioned earlier, off the shelf courses are created, keeping in mind a larger target audience. Only those parameters that are broadly relevant to a wide group are covered in the training content. Therefore, if you are expecting that they will cover all the training content 100%, you may be disappointed. To fill in the gap, you might have to supplement it with either hand-outs, or classroom training.
3. Can get out-dated: Once you have purchased an eLearning course, you have the license to use it indefinitely. However, when the content of the course is no longer relevant to the changing requirements of your organization, it may not render the service it was purchased for in the first place. It becomes a dead investment.
4. Updates might prove costly: If you would like to go back to the vendor for customization (if they provide such an option), you might have to incur extra cost. And yet, there may be limitations to the extent you can customize. Some vendors might provide maintenance contract, for which you might have to pay extra. It might end up being expensive in the long run.
5. Licensing models might limit scaling up: Typically, off-the-shelf courses provide licensing models such as per user, perpetual, per site etc. However, the vendor has pre-fixed models that you have to choose and you might have to tweak your needs to fit ‘their’ models, instead of the other way round. This might gravely alter the budgets, if you want to scale up in future.
So, if you are looking for the best training fit, custom eLearning might be a good option. It may take time to roll out, but it might prove to be a cost-effective and efficient option keeping the long-term requirements in mind. What do you say?