5 Things to Consider when Selecting Off-the-shelf CoursesEmployee training is a fundamental part of any industry and organisations around the world are integrating a variety of training solutions into their existing L&D initiatives. Training and development provides both, the company as a whole and individual employees, with paybacks that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment.

When it comes to choosing the content that best suits the training needs, companies are spoilt for choice since there is no dearth of content providers. In my previous post – The Business Case for Off-the-shelf Courses, I had mentioned about the dilemma HR and L&D departments face over creating their own content from scratch or buying it ‘off-the-shelf’.

Creating customized training programs involves hiring external consultants or putting together a dedicated internal team to design a course that focuses on the team’s unique needs. On the other hand, an off-the-shelf or OTS program is pre-created content available in the public domain comprising of anything from training videos to an eLearning course that can be purchased as a ready-to-use solution. While the former is a dearer option, the latter is lighter on the company’s pocket.

We have already established in the previous post the fact that if a company lacks the resources to create tailor-made courses, it makes sense to adopt OTS courses. Most of these are generic and may be used by various industries.

The quandary does not end here though. Once a company has decided to go down the off-the-shelf course route, the question is how does it make the decision of which one/ ones to select from the legion available online? Of course, it is essential that the HR or the L&D, as the case may be, view the online training courses and decide if they will meet the learning needs of their employees. This post throws light on some key considerations to keep in mind so as to enjoy the benefits of inexpensive off-the-shelf courses that are also customized to meet your organization’s learning requirements:

1. Understand your Audience: As I had mentioned in my previous post, the focus of training programs is on what the learners (‘learners’ being the key operative) have learnt and what they have gathered from it, rather than how the course was designed – whether OTS or custom-made. So, before buying an online training course, it is best to identify and know your audience. This includes understanding their general demographics including age, designation etc. and then focussing on their learning needs and attitudes. This is especially true for organizations that have a mixed workforce that comprises millenials and baby boomers. While the younger generation is net-savvy and will instantly be comfortable with online learning, the latter may time to adjust to it. The learning module needs to integrate the learning needs of the ilk of both.

2. Think Mobile (or not): Understanding your target audience will give you insights into their behaviour and preference patterns. Depending on this, you can look for off-the-shelf courses that are mobile-compliant or that run on desktops and laptops only. Now-a-days, almost all OTS courses are accessible from all devices, platforms and operating systems lending flexibility to the learners to learn anywhere, anytime from any device of their choice.

3. Choose the Right Content Provider: While the shortlisted topics, audience profiling and mobile compatibility factor will serve as the necessary filters for choosing the content provider, it’s imperative to check on the vendor’s reliability. It is important to know whether the OTS course provider has a good track record in serving OTS needs of customers in a similar industry/ role as yours.
Oftentimes, course branding is mandatory as a part of a company’s training policy. So looking for a content provider that can upload your company logo, change the (basic) colors in the course to reflect your brand identity can be a great value add. Further, an efficient customer support team at the content provider side is required too, because if things go wrong there have to be quick-fix solutions that do not eat into the precious training time.

4. Prepare your Team: Before finalising on the off-the-shelf course(s) and the vendor, getting a trial access from the content provider and circulating it to key managers and participants is a good idea. Incorporating their suggestions and feedback is a great way of mapping it with the needs of the organization.

5. Test on your LMS: While most (good) ready-to-use catalog 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 your learning delivery platform (whether home-grown or purchased) before initiating the buying process.

Taking into consideration the above points, a company can be assured of the best off-the-shelf courses that provide a good learning outcome, justify the requisites of its employees and can also be customized to a certain extent to suit the organisation’s environment.

Looking for ready-to-use, off-the-shelf courses on Management, Leadership, MS Office, Innovation, HR and a host of other topics? Check out our comprehensive library of OTS courses sourced from Cegos and Yoda Learning

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