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Online Learning Technology Guide - how to deliver affordable online training

How do you create good quality online training, particularly if you want to do it quickly and you’re on a tight budget?

Here are 5 different approaches - the approach you choose will depend on your own circumstances and requirements. These should give you an idea of what’s available and encourage you to think a bit more about your long term goals for your online training offer.

Approach 1 Moodle & content that you create with a tool like Adobe Captivate
Key Features
  1. You host your own elearning courses in your own copy of Moodle (a free online learning platform).
  2. Moodle download, configuration and hosting can be done by your own IT people or you can get help from a freelance consultant.
  3. Adobe Captivate is an elearning content authoring tool. £34/month.
  1. Build capacity and expertise in house from the start - don’t rely on expensive third parties.
  2. Can run off-the-shelf third party elearning content in Moodle.
  3. You can sell your elearning content to other organisations.
  1. Moodle works best in a college or within an organisation - harder to use it as part of a commercial online service for external clients.
  2. Captivate is widely used - how do you create something different?
Could work for...
  1. An organisation that wants to create in-house staff training.
  2. An organisation that wants to sell standard elearning content (built with Captivate). Moodle could be used to showcase the content.

Approach 2 Use a cloud-based service like Teachable, Thinkific etc.
Key Features
  1. You get a complete online service - includes tips/tools to promote your courses. Also includes tools for creating interactive course content/materials.
  2. Nothing to download/install. Zero technical learning curve.
  3. Can support bigger training providers - multiple admin accounts, groups of students etc.
  1. Comprehensive tools & polished templates.
  2. Support with course marketing and sales.
  3. Good learner experience out of the box.
  1. You may have requirements/workflow that has to be outside the platform - assessments for example.
  2. Pricing may include per learner fee.
  3. How do you make a future switch to another platform/approach?
Could work for...
  1. Training providers looking for a complete online solution with a commercial focus - an alternative to Moodle.
  2. Small solo training providers that want to find learners online or supplement face-to-face training with online.

Approach 3 Find and pay a specialist elearning company to create and host your content.
Key Features
  1. You provide subject matter expertise.
  2. Expert elearning company does all the technical work/learning design/hosting.
  1. Up and running fast - your elearning partner will know about online learning platforms and they will also be able to produce elearning content quickly.
  2. They can share best practices with you - don’t repeat mistakes that others have made.
  1. How easy is it to build your own in-house expertise?
  2. More expensive in the long run, particularly if you want to ramp up course production.
  3. Maybe it’s harder to innovate - how do you get the elearning company to do something different?
Could work for...
  1. Larger organisation that wants to create training material for its own staff.
  2. Organisation that wants to get up and running fast, but has a plan for building in-house expertise in parallel.

Approach 4 Extend your website, create a ‘learning hub’ and use video.
Key Features
  1. Video hosted on YouTube, but embedded within a part of your website.
  2. Also build a YouTube channel. Encourage engagement via comments.
  1. YouTube facilitates social sharing of content.
  2. Users can watch via the YouTube app - so very mobile friendly.
  3. High quality video is easy to produce.
  4. Lots of examples on YouTube of short high quality training/instructional videos.
  1. It’s an ‘open’ solution - not easy to restrict access to content.
  2. Do longer courses (broken into 5 minute videos) become less interesting?
Could work for...
  1. Training organisation that wants to increase brand awareness, bring in more website traffic.
  2. Organisation looking for a format that works for more academic/information rich content.

Approach 5 Slowly build a bespoke platform
Key Features
  1. Tailored to your exact requirements.
  2. Needs software development.
  1. Can work, particularly if you’ve already got an established paper-based distance learning business.
  2. Integration with other back-office systems becomes more possible and may save significant admin time.
  3. Modern software development tools can make it more affordable.
  1. Up-front cost. It’s an investment and you need to be confident that it will pay for itself over time.
  2. Development needs management, need to find an experienced development team.
  3. Long term commitment - product becomes increasingly complex over time.
Could work for...
  1. Training organisation looking for a more innovative solution.
  2. Organisation that’s interested in selling a more complete solution to clients.

How do you choose the right approach? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where will your revenue come from - the learners, their employers or other training providers/organisations?
  2. Do you need to restrict access to the courses and track learner activity?
  3. Do you want to deliver an online qualification with some element of formal assessment?
  4. How much in-house technical expertise do you already have?
  5. Have you got ambitions to create online courses that you can then sell to other training providers? Do they want to run your courses in another third party learning management system?
  6. What’s your long term goal? If your ambition is to seriously ramp up the number of learners then a bespoke solution becomes attractive because you don’t pay a per user fee to a third party platform provider.

There are plenty of technology choices in the online training/elearning world. That’s a good thing - get your strategy right, work out your requirements and then you can find a solution that is a good fit.

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