Outsourcing E-learning Design and Development
All You Need to Know

E-learning design and development is as much a science as an art. Outsourcing custom eLearning development requires careful planning and coordination between both parties.

What Do the Numbers Say?


of companies outsource to control costs


of companies outsource to focus on business objectives


of companies outsource to solve capacity issues

The history of outsourcing dates back to the 1700s in India. In 2017 and 2018, India ranked first in the list of the ‘best outsourcing destinations’ based on cost-effectiveness and availability of skilled talent.

What eLearning is

Why Outsource E-learning?

What you get by outsourcing e-learning design and development are state-of-the-art design, development support, and more… Explore the main advantages of outsourcing custom eLearning solutions.

Expertise – Your outsourcing partner will be well-versed with the latest technology and e-learning trends. They will have a wide talent pool of experts including instructional designers (IDs) and authoring tool experts who can help curate, design, and develop innovative eLearning solutions, along with effectual project management skills.

Resources – Developing e-learning courses is the sole business of a custom eLearning services provider! So they can take on your work without any stress, offering you flexibility. You don’t have to compromise on the quality of your training solution as the vendor will have robust quality analysis (QA) processes. You can also take advantage of value-added services such as eLearning translations and a Learning Management System (LMS).

Quick Turnaround – As development is an eLearning outsourcing vendor’s core business, you can be assured of a high-quality eLearning course in a short period. Your outsourcing partner can provide round the clock services with a time-zone benefit to meet your requirements. Every minute saved will translate into cost savings.

Benefits of Outsourcing eLearning Development

Benefits of Outsourcing eLearning Development

Still not convinced?

Do you have other concerns holding you back from outsourcing eLearning development? We have solutions to tackle them!

What’s Holding You Back from Outsourcing E-learning Development?

Problems with OutsourcingHow to Tackle Them
How to have a perfect project management system in place?Have a single point of contact, share all requirements upfront, have regular communication and rigorous quality checks
How to ensure effective communication?Maintain verbal communication and emails and plan for regular status updates
How to deal with Confidentiality issues?Have legal non-disclosure agreements
How to counteract lengthy drawn-out processes?Ensure the vendor follows agile project management process and agree on regular milestones and deadlines
How to ensure quality?Ensure efficient quality assurance (QA) processes
4 Outsourcing Objections and How to Overcome Them [Infographic]

That’s about how to tackle the arguments with outsourcing, but do you know when the time is appropriate for you to outsource your e-learning development?

What is the Right Time to Outsource eLearning?

The right time for outsourcing the design and development of corporate eLearning solutions is when:

You are not sure where
or how to begin

Are you new to eLearning? Does your in-house learning and development (L&D) team lack the required skills or talents? Are you finding it difficult to manage every aspect of eLearning development?

Then, Outsource! 

You are in a time crunch

You may have a talented in-house team for eLearning development who are too busy to meet your timelines.

Outsource for faster turnaround times.

Your human resources
are maxed out

Have you exhausted your resources, manpower, time, and costs without getting the right output? Are you finding it difficult to put your employees’ time and talents to good use?

Outsource eLearning for effective resource allocation.

You are unable to match
expectations with reality

Your in-house team may not be able to turn your training goals, objectives, and outcomes into reality.

Outsource to realize your vision!

So you know when to outsource eLearning development! But what can you outsource?

What Can You Outsource in eLearning Design and Development?

What Can You Outsource in eLearning Design and Development

Have a look at the different things you can outsource in eLearning.

1. End-to-end E-learning Development – If you have content ready to create a digital learning solution, but lack in-house ID and authoring tool skill, outsource eLearning content development.

  • Outsourcing end-to-end eLearning development will require more involvement from your Subject Matter Expert (SME) for review and clarification.

2. Rapid E-Learning Development – If your in-house team is unable to develop eLearning courses from raw material (PowerPoint presentations, ILT material, Word documents, videos).

  • eLearning outsourcing makes use of rapid authoring tools and requires minimum SME time, instructional design, and resources for the development of courses.

3. Flash to HTML5 Conversion – If you want to convert your Flash-based courses and you don’t know how to go about it.

  • Outsourcing can help in quickly converting courses to HTML5 with the use of authoring tools.

4. Training Decisions – If your in-house team cannot decide on the training format. Is blended learning the right choice? Or microlearning? Or a curriculum?

  • Outsourcing helps you determine the learning gaps and the right format of delivery of the course/s.

5. Instructional Design – If your in-house team lacks learning design capabilities and an understanding of adult learning principles.

  • Outsourcing helps you frame performance-based objectives, decide on the right instructional design strategy, and frame assessments.

6. Multimedia Components – If developing, customizing, or programming complex animations, interactivities, graphics, or videos is a challenging task for your in-house team.

  • Outsourcing helps you save the costs of hiring people or purchasing tools for these jobs.

7. Course Development – If your in-house team lacks expertise with authoring tools. Storyboards created by your in-house team can be outsourced for development.

  • Your outsourcing vendor will have the required expertise to provide quality output in time.

8. Translation and Localization – If your in-house team does not have translators with expertise in various languages and domains.

9. Digital Assets for Performance Support – If your in-house team is unable to develop engaging and compelling performance support assets.

  • A competent eLearning vendor will provide you with multiple digital assets to support the immediate performance of your learners.

So, you know when and what to outsource! But how can you convince your management about it?

How do You Build a Business Case for eLearning Outsourcing

Make an effective business case for outsourcing eLearning with these points in your arsenal:


Outsourcing helps you scale-up eLearning development on-demand, according to your needs, and at your convenience without worrying about the deadlines to rollout training.

Less Hassles

A reliable eLearning vendor would have an agile process of development to streamline project management and illustrate business value. The Successive Approximation Model (SAM) used for eLearning development is agile, iterative and flexible, with three phases – Preparation, Design, and Development. This will give you the flexibility to offer the vendor feedback at each stage of the process.

Enhanced Productivity

Outsourcing eLearning design and development provides you a competitive advantage. The quick access to learning your employees will have allows for better productivity. Expert eLearning designers and developers design learning materials that facilitate learning and improve results, making learning engaging and enjoyable. This allows you to focus your energies on improving overall efficiencies. 

Improved Quality Within Costs

Outsourcing helps meet the training needs of an ever-changing corporate scenario, and also contain costs. Though eLearning outsourcing might entail high costs initially, they decrease over time with the reusability of assets. You can equip yourselves with the latest technologies, trends, and best practices through outsourcing.

You have made a business case for outsourcing. But do you know how to prepare an outsourcing budget?

How Can You Create a Budget for eLearning Outsourcing?

To make the process of outsourcing eLearning design and development easier and simpler, you need to have a budget in place. Here are a few tips on how to create an outsourcing eLearning budget.

1. Have Clear Training Goals

Your training goals dictate every aspect of your corporate eLearning program. The cost of an eLearning course depends on elements such as the course duration, level of interactivity, and translations. You need to ask yourself if you need:

  • A plain user interface or a customized one?
  • Short modules or lengthy courses?
  • Basic or complex interactivities or simulations?
  • A simple quiz or more engaging training activities?
  • Branching scenarios?
  • Translations?

All these decisions affect the budget. The more intricate the activities and higher the level of interactivities, the more eLearning will cost you.

2. Understand the E-learning Development Process

Understanding the process helps you assess how much time and money you will have to spend on the development.

  • If the process requires your review and feedback only after the development, it is going to cost you a lot.
  • If your vendor uses an iterative process of review (like SAM), you are sure to cut down costs.

3. Set the Right Timeframe for Rollout of the Courses

  • The faster the development, the more the costs.
  • Taking too long to create the course can also lose you money.
  • Setting a realistic timeframe will enable you to optimize costs for eLearning.

4. Leverage Your In-House Resources

Ensure your vendor uses the resources and authoring tools you already have. Doing this can help you cut eLearning development costs. This also allows you to update the course when there are changes to be implemented.

It is better to have your own LMS (Learning Management System), but you can outsource its support and administration.

5. Outsource Only Part of the E-learning Development

  • Outsourcing only part of eLearning development is a good way to lower costs.
  • The rest of the eLearning development can be done by leveraging your in-house team.

You have your outsourcing budget ready, but how do you select the right vendor for your development?

How Do You Choose the Right Vendor to Outsource eLearning Development?

Choosing the right vendor is half the job done, to have the best eLearning solution for your training needs. However with several eLearning content development companies in the market, how do you go about it?

1. Shortlist 5-7 Vendors from the list of top eLearning companies vendors vetted by:

  • eLearning Industry
  • ATD
  • Brandon Hall
  • Training Industry

Also, check for their experience, thought leadership, and customer education initiatives.

2. Evaluate their Websites and select the top 3 vendors and assess their understanding of the subject matter. Ensure the vendor’s core business is eLearning development. Review the company’s team members. You can ask for resumes of the team members you will be working with.

3. Ask for a Prototype and carefully evaluate their instructional design (ID) and project management skills and how well it is aligned with your expectations.

Here’s a checklist that can help.

  • What is their expertise in Instructional Design?
  • What is their proficiency in using authoring tools?
  • Is their project management process streamlined?
  • Do they provide additional services (e.g. translations, LMS)?
  • Do they have experience in handling global clients?

You have picked the right vendor, but what is the groundwork you need to do before outsourcing eLearning?

What Groundwork Should You Do Before Outsourcing?

Set Measurable Learning Objectives

Make your intended outcomes very clear to help your eLearning vendor create digital learning programs efficiently. Your instructional objectives should contain 3 components – Performance, Condition, and Criteria. Learning Objectives help decide the instructional method and scope of the content for eLearning development.

Check the Availability of Content

Segregate and filter content based on the set learning objectives. Try not to include content that is not aligned with the set learning objectives. You will then be able to identify and adequately fill any gaps present in the content.

Get SMEs On-board

Plan for curriculums and discuss with the subject matter expert (SME) the time needed from them for reviewing and validating eLearning projects. Ensure SMEs keep all propriety information handy for your eLearning partner.

Done and dusted with the prep work? Now, a few tips on how you can support your vendor.

How Can You Support Your eLearning Outsourcing Partner?

Have an Approved Project Plan

Have an approved project plan with important project milestones. This helps the project to be completed within timelines.

Establish a Communication Pattern

Establish a communication pattern right (weekly status calls) at the beginning of the project. Understand how your vendor manages outsourced tasks.

Have a Single Point of Contact

Have a project manager from your side to manage the development of eLearning. A single point of contact from both sides helps easy flow of information and monitoring the progress.

Use Your Existing Resources

Provide your vendor with your existing resources so they can repurpose them. Standardizing and reusing templates and style guides is one way to do it.

Educate Your Subject Matter Experts

If there are multiple SMEs/reviewers, use online review tools to make the review process simple and manageable. SMEs are instrumental in bridging the learning gaps and defining the learning objectives. You can educate SMEs about the processes used by your vendor to make outsourcing more prosperous.

Provide Your Vendor with the Learner Profile

Giving your eLearning vendor a clear picture of your learners – their learning needs, demographics, and challenges at work – will help the vendor design learning that meets the learners’ needs.

Your eLearning outsourcing is a success, but how do you ensure the success continues?

How Can You Ensure eLearning Outsourcing Continues to be a Success?

Nurturing the relationship with your eLearning outsourcing partner can offer you quite a few benefits, not the least of which is that the vendor is already familiar with your processes and standards. This saves a lot of time and increases the quality of the output.

Closure Formalities

Here are a few closure formalities that can draw continual success from outsourcing eLearning design and development

Make Time for Closure Meetings

Closure meetings help you identify what went right and what went wrong in the project. You can continue the things that went right and correct those that went wrong in future projects. Use feedback forms to ensure you communicate your observations and criticisms to the vendor.

Understand and Manage Risks

Understanding what went wrong (pain points) helps you focus on problem areas. The insights gained from the closure meetings help improve the efficiency of future projects.

Enter into a Master Service Agreement (MSA)

An MSA makes the negotiation process for future projects easier and quicker for both you and your eLearning vendor, and also ensures better rates.

That was all about outsourcing eLearning, and here are a couple of case studies for you to understand how it works in practice.

Are there any Case Studies on eLearning Outsourcing?

Outsourcing Video Development for Product TrainingOutsourcing ILT and eLearning Development for Software Training
About the Client: Global leader of precision instruments for laboratory, industrial, and food retailing applicationsAbout the Client: Leading US biopharmaceutical company that works on innovative medicines for patients with life-threatening diseases.
Requirement: Develop engaging online training on the product portfolio of highly complex products Requirement: Develop a blend of classroom, eLearning, and performance support on a new regulatory document management system (RDMS)
Target Audience: Sales reps, service technicians, and distributorsTarget Audience: Employees across the organization, based on their usage of the RDMS
Solution: We developed explainer videos to facilitate a better and accurate understanding of products.

Videos had live photographs and 2D animations to depict product assembly and functions.

Gamified assessments were used instead of the usual assessment formats for better learner engagement.

Solution: We developed role-based eLearning simulations to help employees master task in the software – based on their role.

For employees not comfortable with eLearning, we developed ILT material; users had the flexibility of taking either that or eLearning courses.

We developed quick reference guides (PDFs) that showed the execution of each task with succinct instructions and screenshots – to be accessed at the point of need.

E-learning Development Outsourcing: A Comprehensive eGuide to Select the Right Vendor