E-learning Companies: How To Find The Best Partner For Your Online Learning
May 11, 2022
In recent years the number of e-learning companies has exploded in response to the demands for online learning. How do you select from all the e-learning consultants and find the best fit for your organization? Which types are best suited to your project and your needs? And what are the pros and cons of the three significant types of e-learning companies? Learn how to find the best partner for your online learning.
What Are E-Learning Companies?
E-learning companies come in a few shapes and sizes. But there are three types of e-learning companies. Learning Management System companies provide software to build, host, and manage courses. Then there are online learning companies that supply off-the-shelf courses, such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy. And there are e-learning consultants that create custom online learning. These custom-built courses meet all your specific needs and requirements.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
An LMS is a software for the administration, tracking, reporting, and delivery of courses. Using an LMS, instructors can do a variety of things. Including
creating course materials
communicating learning goals
aligning content and assessments,
tracking studying progress, and
creating customized tests for students.
While an LMS (e.g., Moodle) may have the ability to create course content, often, this can be pretty rudimentary. Many LMS users use an authoring tool (e.g., Articulate Storyline or Rise) to create content. The course is then hosted on an LMS. Typically an LMS consists of two parts. Firstly an admin interface where the instructor can create and manage courses. They can also add learners, analyze reports, track progress and send notifications. And a user interface that runs on your browser. This is what the learners see when they enroll in a course.
With an LMS, you also have to create your course content. There are over 800 e-learning companies that sell LMS, and selecting the right LMS can be very challenging. An example of a good LMS and all-in-one course tool is Thinkific. It’s a software platform that helps organizations create, market, sell, and deliver their courses. Organizations in 190 countries currently use it, and 64 million Thinkific courses have been designed.
Massive Open Online Course Providers (MOOCs)
E-learning companies such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy provide a large selection of ready-made courses. For example, Udemy has over 185,000 courses and specializes in programming, marketing, and data science. LinkedIn Learning has over 16,000 video courses. They focus on providing basic professional development opportunities. For instance, one course offers weekly tips on MS Excel. These can be very helpful in some cases. But the downside is that they aren’t customized or specific to your circumstances. By their very nature, they are generic.
Custom Development E-learning Consultants
It’s not known how many custom development e-learning consultants there are. But in recent years, the number has grown significantly. These are companies that provide custom-built online training specifically for your organization. They don’t offer ‘off-the-shelf’ courses, which you can sign up for, as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy do. These are e-learning companies that work with you to design customized courses.
Custom development e-learning consultants vary in size. They range from one-person freelancers to small and medium-sized businesses. And to e-learning companies that have large multinational operations.
Pros and Cons of E-learning Companies
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of the three main types of e-learning companies.
LMS E-Learning Companies
Most LMS e-learning companies will sell you on the features of their product. If you’ve done an excellent job of determining your requirements and they match the LMS features, then this can be a good solution to host your e-learning
It allows you to create custom online learning
Most LMSs have only rudimentary tools for creating courses
In all but the most basic situations, you will need to hire a custom e-learning company to create specialized content for your courses. E-learning companies that create custom courses use specialist tools and have experienced instructional designers.
MOOC E-Learning Companies
If you need generic skills or knowledge, using e-learning companies such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy can be a fast and inexpensive way to upgrade skills
Good for enhancing skills about common, ubiquitous topics: such as improving your Excel skills
Costs can get more prohibitive if you have many people to train. In such cases, you may want to explore building a custom course. While there is an upfront cost, the ongoing costs are much cheaper if you are training lots of people
The content of these courses is generic and often might not be relevant to the knowledge you need to gain
The content is not specific to your organization’s circumstances
The look and branding of the courses do not match your organization’s brand. In some cases, this will not matter. But in many instances, having courses aligned with your organization’s brand is essential.
Custom Development E-Learning Consultants
Custom development e-learning consultants can build courses for you that are specific to the content you need
The courses they create are fully customizable, so your organization’s brand elements can be incorporated. And they look consistent with your products, services, and website
The costs of delivering the training are low once the course has been built. So if you have many people taking the course, costs are lower than going with MOOC e-learning companies and their generic courses
E-learning consultants can create courses on complex topics, have unique knowledge, or focus on niche topics. These types of courses aren’t often available from MOOCs
E-learning consultants have access to many experts. For example, instructional design, graphic design, animation, videographers, writers, illustrators, and more. They also use expensive authoring tools to create higher-quality interactive courses.
Creating a custom course takes a few weeks to a few months, depending upon the complexity and size of the course. So it takes longer to launch your training than signing up for a generic course
There is an upfront cost to creating a custom online course, but once created, the delivery costs are inexpensive. And courses created by e-learning consultants are scalable for increasing numbers of participants.
When To Hire Custom Development E-learning Consultants
If you have any of the following requirements for your course, you will likely need to hire one of the many e-learning consultants.
The topic is complex or requires specific information that isn’t available in generic courses
The topic is niche and isn’t served by generic courses
You have to train many people, and the costs of taking generic courses are prohibitive
Your course needs to be customizable and includes information specific to your organization
The course needs to have the same look and feel as your organization and use its brand standards
You want to create exceptional, interactive, and engaging courses. These need the expertise of instructional designers and the sophisticated tools that e-learning consultants use.
Tips on How To Choose Between E-learning Companies
Until recently, custom development e-learning companies were a small but growing number. But the Covid19 pandemic was a catalyst that resulted in organizations rapidly shifting to online training. This demand resulted in a vast increase in the number of e-learning consultants. So now more than ever, it’s critical when hiring an e-learning company that you complete your due diligence. The last thing you want is to hire someone inexperienced and poorly equipped to deliver your online course.
Below are seven tips to help you select between the many e-learning companies. And help you find one that will deliver you a high-quality custom course.
Proven Expertise – A Strong Portfolio of Clients: Whichever e-learning consultants you work with, you want to ensure they have the capabilities and experience for your project. One way to do that is to look at their list of clients and the types of projects they’ve completed. Have they worked with five clients or 100 clients? Have they worked with similar size organizations? Having worked with organizations in comparable industry sectors to yours is an advantage. But an e-learning consultant that has worked with organizations that span several industry sectors can also be a significant benefit. They can bring innovative knowledge, ideas, and best practices to your course.
“The best e-learning companies may be the ones that turned down your project.”
Proven Expertise – Length of Time In Business: Another indicator of proven expertise is how long each of the e-learning companies has been in business? If the company is only 2-3 years old, you might want to be wary of its delivery ability. The demand for online training is high currently, and some of the newest e-learning consultants may be stretched too thin. Try to look for a company with a decade or more of proven experience.
They Turn You Down: E-learning companies that know their limits and capabilities are often a good choice. For example, if they turn down your project because they are too busy or can’t fit it into your schedule, that’s a good sign of integrity. Rather than take on a project they don’t have enough resources for, it’s better for you and them in the long run if they tell you they can’t do it. These are the e-learning consultants that you want to go back to next time you have a project. Or, if you can delay the project, have them do it later.
Tech-Savvy: Building online learning and instructional products requires high-tech experience. So, the e-learning companies you are considering need to be tech-savvy. You need a person who can explain it to you in a common-sense, straightforward manner. You don’t want the typical tech geek. However, you do want someone who understands what’s possible. And who has access to technical experts for any challenges that come up.
Experienced Project Manager: Making online learning requires managing many moving parts. For example, gathering content, input from subject matter experts, creating the design and branding, integrating comments and revisions from stakeholders, coordinating graphic designers, illustrators, narrators, videographers, IT and LMS people, and communications and marketing support. Then there’s getting appropriate levels of sign-off and managing timelines and budgets. At the same time, you want a great product that meets your objectives. So make sure that the e-learning companies you are considering provide you with an experienced project manager.
It’s More Than Designing And Creating The Course: Although your desired outcome is an online course, there are many aspects to creating a successful course. What about the marketing and communications plan, for instance? How will you ensure that the intended audience is motivated to sign up? Or what about helping the user during the course, and after completion, by offering companion workbooks or coaching? Also, is there support documentation for those managing the course in the LMS? Similarly, have you developed a pricing model and strategy if you are selling the course? These are all aspects of creating a custom training product, which may not be top of mind. Yet, do the e-learning companies you consider have capabilities in these areas?
Beware Lists Of The Top E-learning Companies: There are several online articles purporting to list the top e-learning consultants. Sounds good, right? A peer or customer-reviewed list ranking the leading e-learning companies would make your task much more manageable. But there’s a catch. Unfortunately, there are two concerns with many of these lists. First, some of the lists are produced by an e-learning company that includes their firm in the top spot. Secondly, many of the lists aren’t reviews and rankings of e-learning companies. But instead, inclusion requires the e-learning company to pay the author a fee! In the end, there’s no better substitute than your due diligence.
Find Out What’s Unique About Each Of The E-learning Companies
When considering e-learning consultants or companies, it’s essential to consider the factors that make each company unique and different. Some e-learning companies specialize in working for large multinational corporations. If that’s your organization and your online training program reflects this, then focus on those companies. Or, if you’re a small or medium-sized organization, you don’t want to hire one of the top four consulting firms globally!
Similarly, some e-learning companies focus exclusively on creating academic courses for Universities. If you’re looking for a traditional academic University course, focus on those companies. These course structures differ from online courses for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. These organizations are looking for more engaging and interactive courses for their learners. Each e-learning consultant you are contacting should have information about what makes them unique and different, such as this page at Spark + Co. Use that to help gauge if they’d be the right fit for your organization.
Final Thoughts On E-Learning Companies
E-learning companies come in many shapes and sizes. From large multinational companies to software technology providers (LMS). To providers of generic courses, to those e-learning consultants that build custom courses for their clients. It’s important when engaging them to decide what type of company you need to help you with your online learning. And can select amongst all the e-learning companies available the one that is the best fit for your organization. Now with the information and tips above, you’re better prepared.
Need to create custom online training? Perfect, that’s what we do, and we’re ready to help. Spark + Co has worked with over 70 clients since 2007, providing custom online courses. We help businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to achieve their training goals. Book an initial consultation now, send us an email, or find out more from our website.
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