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Is Custom eLearning Worth the Cost?

When you're on a budget, buying off-the-shelf (or pre-built) eLearning courses is pretty appealing, especially to your wallet. You want your learners to have the best learning experience you can give them. But, as with anything, you also want to save money when possible.

At first glance, off-the-shelf eLearning courses might seem like the best option. These courses are available on lots of hosting sites, and it’s simple to page through the options, check out reviews, and choose what fits best. OpenSesame, a popular hosting site for off-the-shelf eLearning, contains a catalog of over 17,000 courses.

Buying eLearning is a lot like buying a suit jacket. You might be able to grab a jacket from the rack, but it won’t quite fit you right. At least, not as well as a tailored jacket. As we all know, some clothes just need to be tailored for a good fit, while others are just simpler and cheaper to pull from the rack.

eLearning works a lot in the same way. That means it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to decide if buying an off-the-shelf, pre-built course is worth the cost, short and long-term. Let’s take a closer look at how to decide.

Pros of off-the-shelf eLearning

Time and budget friendly

When you’re pressed for time and working on a tight budget, off-the-shelf eLearning steps out as a quick and easy solution.


Standardized topics

If your learners need to learn relatively standard topics, such as compliance, safety, or soft business skills (such as organization), off-the-shelf eLearning might be the right choice. These topics are standardized across most companies and lend themselves well to a quick purchase.

Great eLearning partners

Great eLearning design companies take the time to get the right information, modern learning strategies, and device-friendly development, so that buying off the shelf doesn't put you and your learners at a disadvantage.

Cons of off-the-shelf eLearning

Uncomfortable fit

Content standardization can be both a pro and a con. If your company has specific standards for fire safety (for example), then an off-the-shelf course might not be the best option. It only confuses the learner when you have to say, “Take this course, but disregard the third section in the second chapter. That’s not how we do it here.”

Generalized audience

Learners love to be acknowledged, so if you provide a learning experience that seems generalized for all audiences, they might doubt if the information's really all that important.

Devoid of company branding and culture

Off-the-shelf courses won’t come in your company’s colors, include your logo, or communicate your company’s specific voice, tone, and culture. While the straightforwardness of these courses makes them easy to pull off the shelf, they usually lack a personalized touch.

Pros of custom eLearning

Specialized content and increased efficiency

Custom eLearning makes more sense for company-specific topics, like onboarding, company processes and procedures, and new product training. When your learners learn content that applies specifically to their company and position, comprehension and application increases quickly.

Custom development

As long as you're working with the right eLearning partners, custom development gets you the attention to detail that you and your learners need to be successful. And every topic is aligned with your company’s voice and culture.

Practical applications

Custom eLearning isn't just about reading text or watching videos—it involves practice and practical use. Great custom eLearning includes well-timed and written assessments, impactful interactions to stimulate memory retention, and experiential scenarios that mirror real, on-the-job situations.

Cons of custom eLearning

Bigger price tag

Customization and specificity takes time and money. But look at it this way. Even if it comes with a bigger price tag, the return on investment for modules developed and customized to your company and your learners is much higher.

Longer development time

When development is specialized to your company, a lot of time goes into developing content and collecting information. This might seem overwhelming at first, but the custom courses will be polished and tailored just for your learners.

How to choose between custom and off-the-shelf eLearning

What is the defining line between customized and off-the-shelf eLearning? The answer is simply, “What do you need?”

Take a second and think about the topic handling customer complaints. Does your company have a specific method of responding to complaints? If so, you’ll need a customized eLearning course. If your company just follows general guidelines for customer complains, such as using active listening, you'll be just fine with an off-the-shelf course.

Some great places to check out off-the shelf eLearning include:

  • OpenSesame: provides ready-to-buy eLearning courses for certifications, compliance, safety, and business skills.
  • Pluralsight: offers an extensive offering of IT related courses for businesses and individuals looking to learn more or stay relevant.
  • 360Training: has career development & offering courses for learners, educators, and business partners.

Take some time for research

If you’re not sure what type of eLearning is perfect for your company, dig into the topic you’d like the course for and determine if the content is unique enough to need custom development. If it is, find a good eLearning partner to jump in and design a course specific to you and your learners. Custom eLearning is worth the cost, the key is to determine the type of attention your module needs to be a success!

Looking for some great custom eLearning?

Check out this eLearning course we designed for Netflix!

Take a Look!
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