A Second Look: The Initial Findings of the eLearning Vendor Landscape Report
OMI’s full report on eLearning vendors will be out in the coming weeks – but until then, I’m sharing some of the initial findings, in hopes that they’ll prove useful for decision-makers in this critical area. You’ll find the first half of this report preview here on the OMI blog; it focuses on the 5 categories of eLearning vendors, and the benefits and drawbacks of choosing each for your business.
Here, we’ll look closer at our major takeaways from the early stages of the report, and sum them up with critical questions you should be asking any eLearning provider before you commit to their services. For some businesses, choosing an eLearning provider feels a bit like checking off a box, necessary but not a priority. These questions should help connect your business with the provider that can really engage your employees and create the results you’d like to see in your team.
1. Customization is the Killer.
Q: Can you customize (and to what degree)?
It’s not great news – we’ve definitely noticed that customization is completely missing from most eLearning subscription providers. Those who do offer it charge exorbitant fees for the privilege of tailoring your service. There are few businesses that wouldn’t benefit from customized eLearning over a general subscription to a vast library of classes, but it’s unfortunately hard to get.
The Numbers: 9 out of 11 eLearning providers offer little to NO customization.
2. Nice Dress, but – How Deep is Your Soul?
Q: How focused on digital are you? Can I see a full course on _____<fill in blank>?
Lip service from trainers is still the common denominator in eLearning. Every provider will show you a flashy demo to wow you into opening up the checkbook – but have you really seen what they offer below the surface? Many have nothing at all in the way of depth when it comes to content, offering only limited libraries. Ask careful questions (and ideally watch a few classes yourself) to see if they are more than a pretty face. Ask how many classes they offer that are ‘how to’ vs. ‘strategy,’ or ‘101’ vs. ‘advanced,’ and go into sub-topics like Facebook Analytics for Social Media.
The Numbers: 8 out of 11 eLearning providers don’t have more than 20 online classes (as a video of 15 minutes or more).
Related Class: Metrics that Matter in Social Media
3. Don’t Host a Party if Nobody’s Going to Come to It.
Q: What’s the typical Engagement Rate for your customers?
If you’re investing in an eLearning provider, you should expect that they’ll help you achieve your goals. This should definitely include getting your employees engaged with your program. Many businesses try to create excitement and engagement in-house, but be realistic – doing this internally will kill you (and we’ve seen the bodies to prove it). Without a team to see it through, your investment will end up in the LMS License Graveyard.
The Numbers: 100% of all LMS providers told us they really don’t specialize in how to create a great learning environment to drive engagement and demonstrate success. They are just a platform to place content.
4. Allowance is for Kids.
Q: Will my employees actually learn something if I give them $1000 allowance?
Allowances are for teenagers, not a professional education program. You can’t just give your employees a stipend to take classes or do a course, and feel good about providing for their career development. Without goals and measurable achievements, it won’t go anywhere.
The Numbers: 7 out of 10 folks said that this is how they solve the need for learning and development (agenices were 8.5 out of 10).
5. One Man Band vs. a Full Orchestra.
Q: How have you done this successfully before, and what resources did you use?
Many businesses are hiring a Learning & Development Manager, or relying on an HR/Talent Staffer. The results are pretty underwhelming. One trainer or talent professional is not going to bring company-wide learning and engagement, and certainly can’t provide certificate programs or other measurable successes. A provider that can cover all your bases – rather then just one – is better in almost every case.
The Numbers: Of all learning, training, and talent professionals, almost no one has built a successful program start to finish that has shown clear results.
And don’t forget the biggest rule of all…
You Get What You Pay for… Times 10!
Your options are not exactly endless, unfortunately. Often decision-making between eLearning providers can feel like choosing the lesser of two evils. If you buy a license or subscription to pre-canned classes and courses, it’s affordable but you’ll have a hard time getting even the most minimal engagement from employees. Or, you can pay the big bucks for bespoke, totally custom content – but with no parameters to define an outcome, you’ll get an initial uptick without long-term results to show for it (besides that big hole in the budget and some explaining to the boss!). Semi-custom solutions like digital eLearning providers exist and can be a great, economical solution, but they’re few and far between.
These initial findings show a lot of the limitations (and possibilities) of eLearning providers in general. It’s up to us, at the end of the day, to ask the right questions to be sure we get what’s best for the business, employee development, and the budget.