E-learning content: Cost or value?

There are many articles about the cost of developing e-learning courses. This one’s different. We’ll give you the numbers, but we’ll also provide a modern perspective: costs shouldn’t be the only deciding factor for creating e-learning. It’s also worth considering the added value for the business, which can save many strategic and intangible costs. In other words, the value goes beyond creating e-learning.

By The #Generators on Apr 15th

The cost perspective

When e-learning first came about in the 90s, it was known as “computer-based learning.” Back then, it was pitched as a cheaper approach than running physical corporate academies. This resulted in companies viewing their Learning & Development departments as cost centers, where the decision to create learning and support materials was often based on costs. But this is an old-school, defensive perspective. E-learning initiatives shouldn’t be based on price lists but on the added value to the organization.

In this article, we’ll pay attention to this cost perspective, but we’ll also focus on the value, which is a more constructive (and less defensive) outlook.

Creating e-learning costs (a lot of) money

Creating e-learning costs a lot of time and money. Research by Kapp and Robyn Defelice shows that it can take between 90 and 240 hours just to create one hour of e-learning materials alone. And in 2019, Raccoon Gang reported that the average cost of creating an hour’s worth of e-learning can range from $8,800 to $28,640.

But this is only half the story. E-learning costs don’t go away once you’ve published your course. To keep up with a rapidly changing world, it’s important to continue visiting your content from time to time to make sure it’s still accurate. Though this leads to more costs, it’s more valuable to make a long-term investment in content that you can scale and keep relevant rather than to invest heavily in content that can only make an impact once. The latter is a costly mistake many organizations make.

So, to create content worth investing time and money in, let’s shift our focus to value creation.

Time and knowledge are the new currency for any organization

According to a report by Panopto, about 60% of employees find it hard to obtain the necessary information to do their jobs. Similarly, employees also spend 5.3 hours a week waiting for information. The key takeaway here is that we could boost employee productivity significantly if we presented them with accurate information at the right time. Imagine being able to calculate the value of adding two or more productive hours to each employee. From our perspective, that’s a more productive question than calculating the cost of e-learning.

We get that L&D can’t possibly meet every learning need bubbling up each minute. Still, these knowledge gaps exist. So how can we identify the right learning intervention and content to fill them?

Our solution is to change the way we look at the content creation process by considering a bottom-up learning approach known as Employee-Generated Learning (EGL). Under EGL, any employee can create and share their tactical knowledge with anyone in their teams and beyond. In return, this shifts L&D’s role from being a central team that pumps out content to one that’s responsible for overseeing the knowledge-sharing process instead.

With EGL, there’s no need for the traditional creative process that requires:

  • Seeking input from SMEs to validate content
  • Using a complex instructional design authoring tool
  • Involving trained developers and instructional designers
  • Getting help from graphic designers

Instead, your SMEs will directly serve their fellow SMEs, speeding up the circulation of knowledge throughout the organization while saving L&D time and money. L&D can instead take on a more supportive role, providing the necessary infrastructure and guidance to empower SMEs.

Create e-learning content in-house

Outsourcing your e-learning production comes with many hidden costs. Our experts wrote a guide on how you can create e-learning in-house at a fraction of the cost.

For a closer look at the value of EGL, let’s break it down into four main components: strategy, people, tools, and content. We’ll review each of them in greater detail.

1. Strategy

EGL streamlines your organization’s learning strategy in multiple ways, all of which leave a positive impact on your business:

Bottom-up approach.
Unlike the top-down approach where a central learning department is responsible for creating learning content for the organization, EGL enables a bottom-up approach where employees create content for each other. In other words, it enables employees to meet their own needs. Employees can apply their firsthand understanding of their peer’s needs in a way a central L&D team can’t. This creates better alignment between the learning content and the learning needs it meets. And because employees are directly involved in the business, they’ll be tuned in to the latest updates, allowing them to easily maintain their learning content with the most relevant information.

Value-added Cost saved
  • Relevant content created by SMEs who share the same viewpoint as their learners
  • Up-to-date information because the business maintains the content 
  • No time wasted on exhausting business planning, storyboarding, and designing learning 

 

Employee-driven
Employees want to solve problems at work using information they can easily find, quickly understand, and – more importantly – instantly apply. When their peers are the ones creating the learning content, employees’ have immediate access to tried and tested information. This significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to transfer knowledge.

Value-added Cost saved
  • The correct information at the right time in a suitable format
  • Less time spent on problem-solving
  • Less time spent on learning 
  • No time is wasted on hard learning or practicing something 

 

Time to market
With employees creating the content, the speed of development and the time-to-market is much faster than with a top-down approach. Because SMEs themselves share the knowledge, there’s no need to validate the accuracy of the information externally, which can be a serious, time-consuming task. For example, because an instructional designer is no longer in charge of creating the content, it eliminates the need to reach out to an SME to fact-check their work.

Value-added Cost saved
  • Ontime delivery because the content is created at the speed of the business
  • No delay in launches due to unfinished learning content
  • No launches without learning content 
  • No time is wasted on validating the efficacy of information because it comes straight from SME’s 

 

Business impact
Because EGL empowers employees to meet their own learning needs and more accurately so than L&D can, they’ll be better equipped to perform their jobs well. This leaves a positive impact on both their KPIs and the business.

Value-added Cost saved
  • Learning content aligned with the business goals 
  • No time is wasted on mapping business goals to employee performance  

 

2. People

L&D professionals and employees are the two key players driving EGL’s success. Let’s look at the unique value each of them brings:

L&D
Under EGL, L&D doesn’t need to be scurrying around, creating every tiny nugget of knowledge to meet everyone’s learning needs. Instead, as employees take the lead on content creation, L&D can take on a more supervisory role, facilitating the process and providing any support employees may need along the way. As an added benefit, the L&D team also gets more time back to focus on important projects that can’t be handed off to employees.

Value-added Cost saved
  • Knowledge is shared in an open transparent way 
  • Capturing knowledge ensures business continuity, even when employees with that knowledge leave the company 
  • No time wasted on hiring instructional designersdevelopersgraphic designers, or thirdparty vendors. 
  • No need to buy ID tools 
  • No need to liaise with SMEs for input or review 

 

Employees
As the name “Employee-generated Learning” suggests, employees are the primary drivers of knowledge-sharing. As experts on their subject matter, they’re qualified to validate their own content. And because they’re plugged into daily business operations, they’re aware of notable business updates as soon as they’re announced, allowing them to easily update their content. In short, they’re responsible for creating, publishing, and maintaining the knowledge ecosystem organically.

Value-added Cost saved
  • Up-to-date information for employees, by employees. 
  • No time wasted on searching or waiting for information to enable on-the-job learning 
  • No time wasted asking for help or even duplicating content 

 

3. Creation process and tools

Next to having an effective strategy and the key players to drive it, you’ll also need the right tools to create and maintain your learning content.

Process of creation and maintenance
When your employees take ownership of knowledge sharing, the creative process becomes straightforward. SMEs create, share and maintain the content themselves without the need for input or separate review sessions.

Value-added Cost saved
  • The business becomes responsible for the actual learning and knowledge sharing
  • L&D does not need to spend time and effort creating and validating learning content 
  • L&D saves time in the long run with low content maintenance needs 

 

Tools
With employees being both the creators and consumers of knowledge, there’s no need for complex authoring tools with fancy, interactive features. Under EGL, the goal is to be able to easily create content that effectively enables on-the-job learning. This means it’s more important for employees to have user-friendly authoring tools that also allow for hassle-free maintenance. Easygenerator, for example, makes it easy for anyone to start creating learning content, even if they aren’t trained instructional designers.

Value-added Cost saved
  • Accelerated content creation  
  • Simpler and more effective content 
  • No time wasted in learning fancy tools with complex features 

 

4. Content

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Lew Platt, once famously said, “If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.” This is the crux of EGL. By enabling those with firsthand knowledge of the business (SMEs) to create short content that shares specific information, they’ll be able to accelerate the circulation of relevant knowledge throughout the organization.

To give a form and shape to the way you can share knowledge, we propose three primary formats based on what our customers generally ask for:

  • Short courses
    Being able to create short courses allows SMEs to provide a quick overview of their subject in multiple, digestible chapters. Don’t forget that SMEs are experts in their subjects and not in teaching. So, you don’t have to aim for perfection in content. It’s more important that you provide a structure that makes it easy for them to capture their knowledge. With an authoring tool like Easygenerator, you can make use of course templates that are easy to fill in and tailor to a specific topic.
  • Resources
    Resources help accelerate on-the-job learning, which employees can easily refer to anytime and extract the information they need. For example, using Easygenerator, you can create short resources like this in the form of How-To guides of Checklists. Easy-to-consume resources are most likely to appeal to employees because they’re huge time-savers for performance support, so it’s worth enabling this format.
  • Assessments 
    In case L&D wants to validate employee knowledge for compliance or practice purposes, provide simple authoring structures of basic quizzes to roll out assessments.
Value-added Cost saved
  • A livetransparent body of corporate knowledge 
  • No time or effort wasted in storyboarding, planning content and graphics 

Check out our tips for writing an e-learning course.

 

The value of e-learning outweighs the costs

In short, e-learning leads to a lot of organizational value that far outweighs the costs. By replacing the time-consuming process of creating specialty e-learning courses with a scalable approach like EGL, you’ll be able to fulfill your employees’ learning needs more easily. In return, this empowers them to create more value for your organization, with lower costs at the same time.

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About the authors

Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently requested keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.

 

Videhi Bhamidi is a Principal Strategist overseeing the Didactics and Discovery projects at Easygenerator. With over 15 years of experience in e-learning, user-experience research, and thought-leadership projects, she is a regular contributor to L&D magazines. She is an Oxford alumnus and strives to fuse design, research, technology, and didactics in her solutions.

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