But there’s just one problem. Tools cost money, and you’ve got a budget. And it’s tight. But tight doesn’t mean impossible.
Securing a budget for eLearning programs can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in planning an online training program. And once you’ve secured it, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t exceed its limits on Instructional Designers, content development, fancy features, or any of the hidden costs that eat away your budget unexpectedly.
So, how do you get the most out of your budget for eLearning? We’ve got a few tips to help you maximize your budget, without risking the quality of learning or a positive training ROI.
Some of our tips will require difficult spending decisions, and others are as simple as taking a more DIY approach.
Employ Backward Design
One of the biggest and most wasteful mistakes when creating eLearning material is spending time, energy, and money on components that you’ll just never need; a mistake that accounts for a large portion of budget creep.
This is why it’s so important to decide on the purpose of your eLearning program before you dive into Design and development.
Backward is the new forward
When your learning objectives are crystal clear, you’ll be able to focus and prioritize your spending on the most critical design and development elements; an approach known as backward design.
In order to determine and choose the outcomes of an eLearning program, it’s usually worth investing in a thorough training needs analysis. This might seem like an expensive exercise, but it could save on costs down the line. A needs analysis might, for example, discover that your specific issue won’t be addressed by online training. Or that online training will be more cost-effective. Better to know that kind of information at the start.
Then, think about the practical knowledge and/or skills that learners should walk away with when they finish the course. Do they need to be able to apply the skills in real life situations, or should they simply be able to recall and recite information? At what level do they need to apply their new skills?
Once you’ve defined the measurable outcomes of your online training program, you’ll be in a better position to choose the most suitable LMS for your needs.
You’ll also know whether or not you need more complex features, like branching scenarios, or if static learning components will be sufficient for achieving your objectives.
This, of course, will ensure that you don’t waste part of your budget on any unnecessary eLearning ‘ingredients’, helping you to reduce costs for eLearning development.
Repurpose Existing eLearning Materials
There’s a good chance that you’ve conducted training before. This could have been in the form of eLearning, traditional training workshops, or even hard copy textbooks and assessments.
Start by collating all existing training materials and content to assess whether any of it could be utilized in the new online training program.
But, be careful not to use any materials that are outdated or irrelevant to the new learning outcomes. Trying to squeeze outdated content into new training might seem like a cost-saver today, but it will almost certainly reduce the ROI of the training program in the future.
Anything that applies can be re-purposed to the correct formats and optimal relevance for the upcoming training. This will result in fewer new materials for development, meaning more budget for eLearning development in other areas.
Create Materials Yourself
Once you’ve decided on the objectives of the program, and you’ve assessed and reviewed all existing materials available for re-purposing, the task of training development really begins.
Often, program design and development are outsourced to instructional designers, or at least someone with expertise in creating highly effective eLearning courses. But, again, this tends to add a lot to your budget for eLearning.
The good news is that today, there is a multitude of easy to use online and offline authoring tools that make it possible to create your own eLearning materials. Tools for creating videos, voice-over recordings, or even interactive quizzes are accessible to everyone.
Sure, the higher-quality tools might cost you extra initially, but they’ll make it quicker and easier to create your own materials without having to hire an Instructional Designer. Again, this will help your budget for eLearning.
Additional Reading: Download our Cheat Sheet: Content Tools & Resources for your eLearning Portal to find the right software and tools to create killer content within your budget.
Use eLearning Templates
The structure, flow, and design of your training program are critical to its success. Like the balance between didactic instruction and interactive application, and the gradual advance in difficulty as learners progress through activities and content.
As much as the individual components of your course are important, the way they fit together and guide learners through a process of building their knowledge is equally important.
Not only does eLearning design influence the extent of learning, but it also affects learners’ motivation and commitment to completing the program.
Using existing eLearning templates solves this problem by helping to design an eLearning program that flows well.
This also means that you don’t waste valuable time and budget on trying to build a course from the ground up, only to find that it could’ve been built better! Templates will ensure that your course is well-structured, and supports learners to successfully complete their training.
Encourage Further Learning And Collaboration
Despite appearance, most employees want to learn and appreciate opportunities to learn. But these opportunities don’t have to take shape as formal eLearning programs alone.
Sometimes, it’s best to let learners create their own opportunities, and let them find resources that interest them on their own. Recourses could be in the form of books, online videos, talks, or free seminars.
This type of learning can go a long way in supporting and reinforcing the objectives of formal training programs. In fact, encouraging participants to explore further learning materials outside of the course has benefits for both your budget and for the quality of the educational experience.
By combining self-motivated, informal learning with a valuable discussion forum or wiki components, learners will be able to add extra value to the course by sharing their new knowledge and skills.
This form of peer-to-peer learning can cost little to nothing while allowing learners to be far more engaged and autonomous in their learning experience.
Let’s recap the chapter:
Creating an effective eLearning course on a tight budget is all about finding the balance between spending money where it’s most needed, and saving where it’s not. If you plan your training with clear objectives in mind and make use of the tools available to you online, you’ll be able to create quality, engaging online learning programs that come well within your budget.