The hidden eLearning costs you didn’t know existed
Whether developing highly interactive online training, or a simple static course, hidden costs can arise where you least expect them.
So, while there are the general categories of eLearning costs that should be obvious considerations in development as discussed in Chapter 1, it’s also important to consider what lies beneath.
These often indirect eLearning costs can be found hiding out in the content development, the learning platform, internal skills training, and even in the time taken to complete development.
In this chapter, we’ll unpack six of those hidden costs for you.
1. The Costs Of Making Mistakes
eLearning holds unquestionable benefits, like flexible and engaging learning in a fast-paced digital world. But the hard truth is that if you’re new to eLearning, or even just starting a new online training program, there can be some trial and error.
It helps to set out clear and realistic training objectives, to integrate learning systems with other internal business systems and to get the right development team on board. But some mistakes might still be made along the way.
And the time it takes to learn from these mistakes, to correct them and to deal with any impact they’ve had on the development process, will probably add to your eLearning costs.
To avoid these costly mistakes, it’s important to plan well, to use the best tools with the best support, and to arm yourself with a team skilled in eLearning development.
But, mistakes are inevitable. When they do pop up, use them as an opportunity to refine your course development process for the next time.
2. The Costs Of Technology
Choosing the right LMS and authoring tools for your training needs is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when developing an eLearning program. But if you fail to consider all of the fees that come with these tools, you may be surprised!
Because sometimes the best features are paired with additional costs hidden in the fine print. Costs that rack up quicker than you can say “eLearning”.
Besides the initial startup and signup costs of the LMS and authoring tools, fees for upgrades, licensing, storage, and even support can be the type of costs that sneak into your development budget and tip it over the edge.
Before committing to an LMS, one of the key questions to ask a vendor is, what is your pricing when it comes to the number of active users? And how do you measure active users?
Each LMS vendor measures an active user differently. For example, in TalentLMS, we measure active users as the number of users who log into the platform in a given month. Other LMSs measure active users as the number of users who access a course.
To make an informed decision, consider the number of learners (active users) that you’re likely to have in your eLearning courses. You don’t want to pay for more users than you actually have, or are likely to get in the near future.
So, make sure to choose a pricing plan that gets you the most for your predicted number of users.
3. The Costs Of Inexperience
The best paints and brushes in the world will do nothing for an artist who can’t paint. And something similar applies to eLearning.
Having great support staff and expert course instructors won’t matter if the course structure is confusing, the learning platform is difficult to navigate, and the learning materials are of poor quality. This is why it’s so important to have the necessary skills on your eLearning development team.
Some of the most significant contributions to eLearning course development costs are skills training and outsourcing. This includes employees involved in creating the course design and materials, like Instructional Designers, as well as the industry experts involved in creating content.
If your eLearning development team lacks the technical know-how to leverage all the features of your LMS, then they’ll require training. Training requires time and resources, ultimately adding costs to the development.
By assessing your eLearning team’s skills and abilities at the beginning, you’ll know where skills are lacking and how to close those gaps. The costs associated with closing those gaps can then be worked into the development budget.
This helps to avoid a pressurized situation where you’re rushed to upskill or outsource experts and specialists at a premium price, later on
4. The Costs Of Content Creation
Content creation is a basic cost of the development of an eLearning course. The reason we’ve included it in this list is because of how often the costs of content creation are underestimated.
Content creation takes time to create and usually requires expert knowledge. Sometimes, you may need to go outside of the business to find industry experts. Sourcing industry experts or experienced content authors tend to significantly and unexpectedly drive up the eLearning course development costs.
Besides the cost of their time and expertise, content creators form an integral part of the development process, and can unexpectedly increase costs through delays.
Why would there be delays? Well, often, those involved in designing and developing learning content have other roles that extend beyond content production, and sometimes even beyond the business.
Failing to meet deadlines, or delivering poor quality content, can create a bottleneck in the development process. These delays and revisions end up costing valuable time and money.
5. The Costs Of Maintenance And Revision
Do not make the mistake of thinking that development is a one-time thing. Rather, think of it as an iterative process, one where you’re continually aiming to improve the learning experience and ultimately improve your training ROI.
Some costs that you may not consider upfront are ones associated with revision and maintenance. For example, course materials need to be kept up-to-date and relevant, in order to keep both the training effective and learners interested. eLearning (like most technological businesses) is often open to technical issues. So, frequent maintenance of the online training program is a necessity.
This kind of ongoing revision and maintenance can be time-consuming and costly. When estimating your eLearning costs, don’t limit the budget to the first development. Work in the costs of ongoing maintenance, improvements, and revisions as you refine the quality and effectiveness of the eLearning course.
With an LMS that offers reporting and tracking, like TalentLMS does, you’ll be able to measure the benefits of these improvements, too.
6. The Costs Of Time
As the saying goes – time is money. And while it might not seem like the biggest cost, developing an eLearning course takes time – a lot of it.
That’s the reason you need to plan well in the development phase. Once you have your learning objectives down and you have an idea of the media and features you’ll be using, you want to also consider the amount of time it will take to develop.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll save time (and often money) by avoiding features that don’t benefit your learning objectives in any way. For example, if you’re running mandatory compliance training, you won’t need to activate gamification elements.
You can also save time by choosing an LMS that has time-saving features built-in, like automations. All you need to do is set them up once and forget about them. For example, you may use automations to assign a course to your learners when they complete a previous course. Or to end a learner’s “lease” of a course when their certification expires, so that they have to take it again and get re-certified.
Let’s recap this chapter:
You’ve already taken the first critical step to understanding the basic as well as the hidden costs of eLearning development. Now that you’re aware of the different costs that can appear, you’ll be ready to include them in your training budget from the start.