How to Buy eLearning Content for Your LMS (And Not Regret It Later)

How to Buy eLearning Content for Your LMS (And Not Regret It Later)

Buying eLearning content is easy, but shopping for content can be a nightmare. There are so many options and factors to consider to ensure you’re getting the right off-the-shelf courses for your learning management system (LMS), your training program, and your organization. And, if you do not already have an LMS, when you buy our content, you’ll get the HSI LMS for free!

How many times have you made a purchase only to find yourself regretting it later? It could have been a new car, a computer or new furniture. How did you make your purchasing decision?

Couch-hunting is a great analogy here. If you’ve ever purchased one, chances are you did not just stroll into the first store you saw and buy the prettiest or cheapest model on the floor. You considered your purchase from every angle. If we are willing to put that much thought into a couch for our home, why wouldn’t we put that same thought into buying eLearning content for your employees?

Using couch-hunting as our guide, let’s look at some best practices for buying eLearning content:

What categories of content do you need?

You wouldn’t walk into a furniture store and tell the salesperson “I need a piece of furniture” without specifying what you needed (a couch, loveseat, or sofa sleeper). Likewise, you don’t just “buy content” without having a specific category in mind.

So, your first question when buying online courses should be “What categories do I need now?” You might consider what categories you will need in the future, as well. Here are some common categories of eLearning content and business skills you might consider:

Does it make an impression? (Memorable visuals)

College students across America buy the standard “functional futon” for their rooms every year, but there’s a reason they don’t hold onto them into adulthood. They’re ugly, they’re unwieldy, and they represent a time in our lives when we just couldn’t afford better.

Video content is the same way. If you’re using voice-over PowerPoint, you have the eLearning equivalent of a futon. On the other hand, a video that uses thoughtful visuals will be more likely to grab and hold a viewer's attention. For example, are there unexpected and surprising design elements? Creative and professional-looking graphics? Does the video feature live presenters to keep the content personal and relatable?

It doesn’t matter if a topic is boring, detailed, or abstract (or all three). Just as the perfect taupe couch can really bring together a room, memorable visuals can really pull your information together, even if the topic is less than sexy.

What size do you need? (Microlearning)

An acquaintance of mine once went through the nightmare of returning a bed to the store because the king-size mattress he purchased was too big for the room. (Try getting dressed in the morning with only 5" of clearance around your bed!)

When buying off-the-shelf eLearning content, as with furniture, size matters. There is a scientifically proven optimal length for training videos, and any content you are considering should be around that duration. For example, the microlearning content we create here at HSI follows these guidelines. You can read more about the Science of Microlearning in our white paper.

How easy is it to get it in the door? (SCORM/AICC compliant)

Ever try to get a 47" wide couch through a 38" door? Ever wonder why they didn’t just make couches in standard sizes to fit through doors?

In essence, this already exists in the eLearning industry. It’s called SCORM compliance. (AICC is another standard in the industry as well.) When a video is SCORM/AICC compliant, it is already compatible with a host of Learning Management Systems (LMSs). This means you can be confident that your video content—as well as student materials and exams—can be accessed and tracked no matter what system you are currently using (as long as it, too, is SCORM/AICC compliant).

Another “fit in the door” issue has to do with file size. Large videos can take up a lot of server space. When HSI provides training content to our clients, we send pointers to videos instead of the actual video files. This means less room is taken up by the content on your servers, plus you are guaranteed to always have the most up-to-date versions available.

How current or fashionable is it? (Updates)

Just how important are those updates? Very. If you’ve ever laughed to yourself because someone had a floral-patterned couch straight out of the ’70s, you now know how employees feel when they see your outdated content. (Was the woman in that customer service training video wearing dated clothing, such as, a blazer with huge shoulder pads?)

A good content library should be updated regularly. HSI updates both our content and our graphics, both by adding new courses and by refreshing older course content, all at no additional cost to our clients. Our instructional designers lead this process, so each video is created in line with the latest theories of adult learning.

Also, pay attention to how you are informed about updates. Are you notified when a video is refreshed? Or, when new content is added? Does the vendor make it easy for your administrators to incorporate those changes, or is it always a hassle? These are all things you need to consider, too.

Does the couch have high-quality, structural integrity? (Expertise)

With your couch, you may be looking for a sturdy foundation of solid wood and not particle board. Are you looking for a cushion with goose down, fiberfill, or maybe foam? Don’t forget about the quality of the upholstery when you consider leather, velvet, microfiber, etc.

Similarly, the design and structure of our off-the-shelf training content is based on adult learning theory, instructional design, and proven science and research:

Science of Microlearning: Research shows employees are interrupted every 11 minutes. So, our courses average 7:12 minutes.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve: The theory that the human brain has a decreasing ability to retain information over time. Therefore, we offer training reinforcement with a series of quizzes days, weeks, and months after the training event using our HSI LMS. (We include it for free when you buy our content!)

Saccadic Bilateral Eye Movement: Research showed participants had superior memory recall when they made a series of horizontal saccadic eye movements during the memory encoding phase or the learning event. This supports our graphic design style and the pace at which the artwork changes on the screen.

What unique attributes does the couch include? (Features)

Modern couches can come with a surprising variety of features:

Our employee training videos also come with a variety of features for your modern learners:

Can you try it out? (Previews and trials)

You typically don't buy a couch without first seeing it in the showroom, sitting on it, and even laying on it. Showroom salespeople know that folks like to try before they buy.

This is why it is odd that many eLearning content vendors do not provide free content up front, either through free videos on their website or free trials. Here at HSI, we offer both: We have 30+ sample training courses you can view for free right on our website, or request a free trial. You can’t get more upfront about your eLearning content than that.

Does it work with the rest of the room? (Blended learning)

When you buy a couch, you do so knowing it isn’t the only piece of furniture in the room. It must fit with the pieces that are already there. The same goes for training: eLearning content must “fit” with other kinds of training and instruction you plan to use (instructor-led courses, webinars, and so on).

One way to ensure this fit is to have actual training professionals and instructional designers develop content, guided by the latest theories in adult learning. This is the approach we’ve taken. And, HSI has found not only that it leads to better content, but instructors themselves appreciate and use the content more frequently because they see the benefits of blended learning.

We never want to replace your internal trainers. HSI wants to partner with you to create effective learning experiences for your employees. Your learners may watch a series of videos as pre-work before they attend an instructor-led session. A trainer may use our videos during a live session to reinforce key concepts and break up the lecture time. Most of our clients combine our training courses with their own internal classes for a blended-learning experience that better supports personal development.

If you’re curious about how blended learning works in general, or about how HSI lends itself to a blended approach specifically, I highly recommend downloading our free eBook on Blended Learning.

Who can you call if there is a problem? (Support)

Have you ever had something delivered and the retailer makes it a point to give you the customer support number? How awesome is it to know you can speak to a live person?

We try to capture that feeling, too, through personal support. HSI makes sure each client knows the name, phone number, and email of their assigned Customer Success Manager. Behind them is an entire team that helps support the client through the complete process, from decision-making to implementation and all through the contract period. We work to understand your training needs and future goals. HSI wants to provide a truly effective solution.

To give you an idea of how far HSI takes this idea: We’ve joined conference calls between a client and their LMS provider to help resolve an issue. We provide our own HSI LMS, but the client was committed to their current LMS, and we were committed to them. We lent a hand to make it work so our client could succeed.

So, ask: Who can you call when you are having an issue with your content? How far are they willing to go to help you?

Can you have it tailored to your needs? (Custom content)

Any store can sell a couch, but the best stores have the means and the willingness to customize a piece to exactly fit your requirements. While that might be a rare need when it comes to a couch, it’s a common need when it comes to training content.

Many eLearning content providers offer standard libraries but will not customize any content—or, if they do, it comes with an outrageous price tag. What happens, then, when you need custom courses on your company’s history, mission, and values? Or has safety tips specific to your equipment and processes? Or uses case studies from your own sales team to drive home the sales process to new team members?

Ask about custom content, and remember, it should still be SCORM compliant!

How to Buy eLearning Content for Your LMS

Checklist for buying eLearning content for your LMS.

There’s a lot to consider when in the market for eLearning content. This handy checklist will help make things easier:

  1. What categories of content do you need?
  2. Does it make an impression with memorable visual and creative design elements?
  3. What size/how long are the videos? (Is length determined by the science of microlearning?)
  4. Are the videos SCORM/AICC compliant?
  5. Are the videos up-to-date, both in their look and in their information?
  6. Can you try it out? Are there previews? A free trial? Both? (If neither, why?)
  7. Can you use it with current training in a blended learning environment?
  8. Who can you call if there is a problem?
  9. Can you get custom content made? Will it be SCORM compliant?

Want to take this checklist with you? Bookmark this page or download this handy PDF here.

Additional considerations when comparing online learning library providers.

We hope you have enjoyed a comparison to buying a couch! There are a few more items to consider as you research online training solutions.

Additional Resources

Download Checklist

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2018 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.

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