We’d all love to start our day by scrambling from a bespoke mattress and into a tailored outfit before setting off in a private jet to your own personal island in the Maldives. But we can’t all be an A-list celebrity with a limitless Centurion AMEX card.
Those of us left contending with budgets (and a smidge of self-awareness) must instead grapple with the question: how much personalisation do we really need? Specificity is almost always preferable but it doesn’t come cheaply. Can you get away with just adding a company logo or is it time to assemble a cast of famous faces?
In this article, we examine the three options learning and development (L&D) professionals face when designing and implementing a digital learning programme so you can invest wisely in training content.
Option 1: Ready-to-go learning content
Ready-to-go learning content remains popular even though it has a reputation (perhaps unfairly) for being stuffy. Take a holistic view of product in context, however, and you’ll see its appeal.
Where it works
The cheapest and quickest option is always worthy of consideration. And that’s what you’re looking at when you’re looking at ready-to-go training solutions.
- Immediate deployability: Access to courses and resources can be granted almost immediately so you can get your learning plan underway posthaste. You can purchase entire libraries of SCORM-compliant materials so you won’t even need to think about upgrading your learning platforms. This option will be as seamless as it is cost-effective.
Suggested reading: Already thinking about an upgrade? Maybe check out this article on how to get more out of your learning platform.
- Ready-to-go solutions are also low risk: The absence of production fees means businesses know their outlay from the outset. They’re also almost always compiled by qualified experts so it’s very unlikely you’ll encounter any messaging issues.
Where it falters
This learning experience is designed for everyone. That means it can end up addressing nobody in particular.
- Blanket content: The lack of distinction and flexibility can lead learners in directions that aren’t of any great benefit to their role (and consequently organisational goals). Courses are rarely industry specific so ROI might be lower than you’d see with custom content.
- Impersonal: The absence of personalisation can also affect learner motivation. Engagement, adoption and progress are limited when learning feels like a soulless chore.
- Roll-out & business goal misalignment: There is no roll out or marketing plan linked to the content to match business goals. It leaves a lot of questions to be answered: who gets assigned what content? How will you drive traffic to the content so that the content is actually used? If you do manage to drive traffic, how do you ensure the content is actually relevant to the end-user? People have so little time you get one chance so content has to help them with their job not a huge long list of irrelevant courses to them…
Pro tip: It is still possible to configure ready-to-go solutions. You can, for example, introduce branding and tags. Just remember that slapping your logo on low-quality video content won’t make it resonate any better.
Option 2: Bespoke learning content
Personalised learning solutions are the ideal for many L&D managers — and any business that believes in the value of effective learning environments — as they enable total control over the output. However, it is vital to know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit.
Where it works
If time and money were no object, this is the learning experience everyone would strive towards as it enables the delivery of a laser-focused message that is specific to:
- Your industry
- Your company and its values
- The people within it and the challenges they face
- The latest legislature, market developments and trends
Headline material is pushed front-and-centre; extraneous material is banished.
Perhaps more pressingly, however, it gives companies greater scope to align their content with learner goals — and this is rocket fuel for engagement. After all, if you’re committing resources to teach Raj from accounting about the latest compliance updates, the bespoke outcome will be (if you’ve scripted and designed it correctly) naturally perfect for the end-user. Nail the user experiences and you are likely to see some very impressive results.
Ask David Perring, Director of Research at the Fosway Group, about customised learning pathways and he’ll tell you they’ve never been more important:
“Digital learning has provided many organisations with a life raft since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. But as digital learning fatigue has grown significantly during the pandemic, the quality of our learning experiences matters more than ever before. We need to find a more ‘human-kind’ approach.” 1
The most personal experiences will come from custom content that has been created specifically with the end user in mind.
Suggested reading: Feel like it’s time you assessed how your training content is disseminated? Check out this article on delivering workplace learning in 2022.
Where it falters
- Budget constrictions: To do this right, you’re going to need a healthy budget, a forgiving timescale, a small army of production professionals and an opinion at just about every stage of the process — and that’s true even when you outsource.
- High stakes: Given the number of parties involved, mistakes and delays will turn an already expensive approach into something that would keep your finance team awake at night.
- Content shelf-life: It is also important to remember that most learner content has a shelf life of around three years. Likelihood is you’re going to dedicate significant resources to revisiting what you have made to ensure it’s relevant and aligned with the zeitgeist.
This approach is really about risk and reward. It can have a significant (and positive) business impact but it’s a big commitment that won’t suit every outfit.
Finding the middle ground
Feel free to release that sigh of relief because we’re happy to confirm that it is possible to enjoy the best of both worlds. All you need is a competent learning designer, an authoring tool and access to an iFrame library.
Where it works
This approach offers many of the benefits of customised learning content without the expenditure. How? Let’s see…
- Versatile, high-quality content: Namely, unparalleled versatility of using high-quality content in a way that is custom to the needs of your business. However, it’s worth noting that it’s slightly more time consuming than an off-the-shelf solution but is an awful lot faster than starting from scratch.
- Creative learning designers: In this scenario, learning designers are granted access to a wide-ranging library of learning content to use with their existing authoring tool, like Articulate rise or 360 for example. These content-bites effectively serve as building blocks and they give designers the materials, the flexibility and the control required for high-quality, customised learner experiences.
- Simple deployability: Once designers have the iFrame embed code, the process is almost as straightforward as drag-and-drop. They can even add annotations, company logos and more to create bespoke online training courses that drive engagement.
Where it falters
The drawbacks lie in the fact that L&D professionals are required to retain some involvement in the processes, for example…
- You need a learning designer: Unless you have a savvy learning designer on staff (who by the way also has an authoring tool at hand, and can use it well), you won’t be able to effectively leverage the iFrame content and build personalised learning pathways.
- Business goal alignment: The personalised learning you hope to create needs to be aligned with wider business goals. Unless you have a team prepared to digest the bitesize content and formulate a wider strategy around it, you won’t be able to build effective personalised learning pathways that realise what you actually want them to achieve.
Video Arts can give you all three…
Ultimately, each approach has merit and what works for one organisation won’t necessarily work for another. As is often the case, the ‘right’ decision will be influenced by targets, budgets and timescales.
It is also important to consider what messages you need to communicate. Health and Safety videos, for example, may not benefit from the same level of customisation as those dedicated to industry-specific Compliance training.
The good news is that you have options. The even better news is that you can create a learning strategy that borrows a bit from all three. The best news is that we can help you no matter which route you choose. At Video Arts *cough* award-winning video learning content creators *cough*, we provide:
- Ready-made, SCORM-compliant courses
- Professional-grade, bespoke video production
- A ton of genuinely amusing videos featuring BAFTA-winning comedians that can be passed off as your own
And you thought we were trying to lead you in a certain direction…
Drop us an email, then, and let’s see where all this takes us.
1David Perring, Fosway Group, Fosway 9-Grid Digital Learning