Off-the-shelf courses: The what, why and how
In today's competitive corporate landscape, investing in the continued professional development of employees is not an option, but a requirement for organizations worldwide. Good training programs benefit not only the employees but in turn, also help the company and its bottom line in more ways than one.
However, deciding upon a training program can pose an uncanny dilemma to a company’s L&D or HR department (considering some companies may not have a separate L&D department) with respect to creating its own learning content from scratch (custom-made) or buying it ‘off-the-shelf’ (ready-to-use).
‘WHAT’ are OTS courses?
Creating customized training programs can cost a large amount of money and time to a company, considering that it involves going the whole nine yards – from scoping out the requirements for outsourcing (or developing internally) course(s) that are unique to the company. Meanwhile, Off-the-shelf or OTS eLearning Courses, as the name suggests, are repositories or libraries of online learning material that are pre-created and available online for ready usage. These extensive suites of eLearning courses comprise training materials of all kinds, in various formats like HTML courses, videos etc, that are generic in nature and are designed with the help of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from the industry.
‘WHY’ OTS courses?
As a solution to the predicament of whether to go for the personalised content or opt for an off-the-shelf package, one can start by looking at some basic benefits of inexpensive OTS courses that can also be customized to meet an organization's requirements. Let’s take a quick look at why opting for an OTS course makes more sense:
1. Standard/ Common Content: Often companies need to train on generic topics like team building, change management, negotiation skills, customer handling, IT skills etc. OTS courses work the best in such cases because these topics are common across most companies and the courses are prepared by subject experts and are approved by authoritative organizations.
2. Faster Go-to-market: At times, the training requirements of an organization are urgent, calling for training rollout on an immediate basis. Since OTS courses are ready-to-use and can be deployed on (most good) Learning Management Systems easily, they are the best fit in such cases. Custom-build courses, on the other hand, take much longer to be developed and rolled out.
3. Budget Consideration: The investment required in training programs is a major consideration factor for choosing between custom-made and off-the-shelf courses. One of the biggest pros of OTS courses is that they are budget-friendly. With many vendors and players in the market and options of varied kinds of content topics abound, OTS prove to be cost-efficient.
4. Resource Management: OTS courses can be a good choice for small and medium organizations that do not have a separate L&D department or even an HR vertical for training initiatives as these courses do not require resources to overlook the designing, development, testing and implementation as opposed to custom eLearning.
5. Maintenance: OTS courses also prove useful because they can be deployed easily without any code alteration on a company's existing Learning Management System, whether home-grown or purchased. Furthermore, true to the nature of today's multi-device world, the off-the-shelf courses available today work across all devices and operating systems, making learning truly seamless.
‘HOW’ to choose the best OTS courses?
Now that the benefits of selecting an OTS course have been covered, let’s look at some key considerations to be kept in mind so as to enjoy the benefits of inexpensive off-the-shelf courses that may also be customized to meet an organization's learning requirements.
A. What does the Target Audience Need?
Training programs generally should focus on the 'learners' and what they need to learn from the module. So before deciding on the kind of training program, it’s a must to consider the type of learners the company has. Understanding their general demographics including age, designation etc. and then focusing on their learning needs and attitudes helps. An organization may have a mixed set of learners from different generations, so the training program should be able to meet the needs of a young, net-savvy professional as well as a slightly older person, who may lack the dexterity for online training.
B. Are the Courses Mobile Complaint?
Once the study of the target audience is done, an organization can take a call on whether the training modules have to be mobile-compliant or desktop- and laptop-based training could suffice. Providing learners the choice to access content from anywhere, anytime, on any device of their choice is a big consideration in today's multi-device world.
C. Opting for a Reliable Content Provider
While the market is inundated with vendors that offer all kinds of catalog courses, it is necessary to set certain filters before narrowing down on a service provider. It is important to check on the vendor’s credibility, background, customer service, ability to solve queries, troubleshoot problems etc.
Often, course branding is mandatory as part of a company's training policy. So it helps to look for a content provider that can upload the company logo, change the (basic) colors in the course to reflect its brand identity, which can be a great value add.
D. Getting the Team Ready for the New Training
The best testing ground for the OTS package is the company itself. All that’s needed is asking the service provider for a trial of the course(s) and running it through key personnel and stakeholders in the company to check the efficacy of the program. Once there are positive reactions from them, the training is good to go!
E. Testing the Courses
While most ready-to-use courses are LMS-agnostic, meaning the OTS courses work fine on all basic standard-compliant (SCORM) Learning Management Systems/ Learning platforms, it makes sense to do a dry run of one of the courses on the company’s learning delivery platform before initiating the buying process.
Off-the-shelf eLearning content libraries are the edifice of training and development and can go a long way in providing to the learning needs of employees. So, it works in the best interest of a company to go ahead and take their best OTS pick!