Because most corporate universities do not have additional staff to develop company-specific e-learning content, they reach out to external vendors. An increased number of organizations outsource their e-learning design and development to companies based in India in order to save 40 percent to 70 percent in development costs. Although a growing number of Indian firms offer e-learning design and development capabilities, the results do not always live up to the promises.
E-learning design and development requires specific skills and capabilities. You cannot expect a Flash programmer to master those skills. Some of the required instructional design capabilities include conducting audience analyses, writing learning and performance objectives, structuring courses, designing and developing content, conceptualizing graphics, animations and interactivities, and creating assessments, as well as creating training manuals, lesson plans and learning presentations. E-learning design and development is a whole different profession from developing software.
A number of e-learning development firms have had little experience in designing different learning solutions for different industries and on different subjects. For example, there are significant differences in designing a leadership program, a new-hire orientation or a course to teach people how to use software.
A number of e-learning companies experience significant development-and-delivery challenges. E-learning content must be developed under a cohesive and shared environment, working with developers, writers, subject-matter experts, project managers, programmers and clients. E-learning content has to be constantly shared, reviewed, critiqued, amended and distributed. This collaborative challenge is compounded when all these people are located across different countries and come from different backgrounds of expertise. Therefore, it is critical to have the following in place: proven e-learning design methodologies and tools, distributed and collaborative development platforms and effective project management and online workflow processes.
One can only project-manage an offshore e-learning development team with people who understand what it takes to design and develop e-learning. The quality of the deliverables is highly correlated to the quality of client input. Therefore, the client’s project management and involvement is critical to success.
E-learning development firms must show:
- Proven instructional design capabilities.
- Use of a proven e-learning design and development methodology.
- Experience in different kinds of solutions.
- Industry-specific expertise.
- Technology systems and workflow processes to manage development from different locations.
- Transparencies of development time for different deliverables.
- Language and cultural translation capabilities.
- At least three years of experience with e-learning design and development.
- Certified e-learning development processes.
- Embedded quality improvement approaches.
- Existence of sustainable client relationships.
There is a difference between firms that have made e-learning design and development their core business and firms that have launched e-learning capabilities as one of their services.
It is important to develop a long-term relationship with the vendor based on trust. There needs to be a desire from both ends to work through challenges and to focus on ongoing process improvements to reach the goal of creating the highest-quality e-learning courseware.
Nick Van Dam is chief learning officer for Deloitte and has held a variety of global learning and human resources development roles throughout his career in different countries. He is author of “The E-Learning Fieldbook,” published by McGraw-Hill. For more information, e-mail Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.