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Can Companies with Small Budgets Use E-Learning too?

Yes, e-learning doesn’t always require a large budget.

One approach is to "lease" or "rent" your e-learning capability instead of building it and maintaining it yourself.

Another approach is to operate a Chevy instead of a Porsche.

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You might get the impression that e-learning is only for the really large corporations with really large training budgets. But there are inexpensive ways to do e-learning too.

The first thing to do if you have a small budget is to look at “renting” or “leasing” your entire e-learning solution instead of building it yourself. Or you might want to “rent” a part of your e- learning solution and build only part of it. This is just like many other business decisions you’ll make—do you buy the trucks for shipping your products around the country or do you send things via Federal Express and UPS? Do you rent your office space, or do you buy the building? Do you create your own workshops for all your training needs or do you send employees to training companies and associations?

There are a number of learning vendors who have e-learning courseware available from an existing Web site. You should be able to contract one of them to deliver e-learning courses to your employees at subscription (discount) prices. The key consideration here is whether the learning vendor already has the courseware you want to use to train your employees. If you need training in Microsoft Office, and the vendor has that training, then it’s a good fit. If you need training in your own company’s policies and practices for new hires, then the vendor is not going to have that sitting on the shelf.

Another approach is to run a Chevy instead of a Porsche. There are lots of ways to implement e-learning, some more expensive than others. (Specifics about e-learning costs are covered later .) The effectiveness of a training course is related, but not strictly related, to the amount of money you spend on it. It’s not always true that you automatically get more effective training by spending even more money on it. Think of the film industry. What makes a good film is the story, and sometimes an action- oriented story can be enhanced with special effects. But there are many instances of action-oriented films spending lots of money on special effects yet having a poor story. These films usually fail at the box office. In the same way, if you have sound instructional content, you might have a variety of e-learning methods (and a range of costs) for implementing it with e-learning. Going back to the film example, you might not have all the special effects, but you’ll have an effective movie.

Let’s make that more specific: For little incremental cost, you can run a short correspondence course using e-mail. You can send the assignments to the students as e-mails or as file attachments to the e-mails. The students can complete each assignment and e- mail it back to the instructor for comment and feedback. This is a rudimentary use of the technology, but if the assignments are constructed in a sound manner so the student learns the material step- by-step, then this shoestring budget approach can be very effective. There are obvious drawbacks to this approach, and you wouldn’t want to do everything this way, but it can work in selected instances. (In fact, I know it works because I’ve done it myself.)

The following table summarizes some key questions to help you scope your learning problem. But will e-learning help you solve your learning problem? It depends on a lot of factors, which you’ll be better able to judge after you read Let’s Be Specific—Some E-Learning Case Studies, What Does E-Learning Cost?, and What Else Affects Your E-Learning Solution?.

Question

1.What is your  learning problem?

Answer

It might be providing “product updates” to your sales force. Or, it might be to provide a general  e-learning solution for all employees taking any kind of course.
It’s very important to write down the learning problem so that everyone involved with solving it can see the same thing.

Question

2.How many students are  affected?

Answer

Are you training one hundred people every quarter or thousands of people every day?

Or do you only have thirty-five people to train once a year?

Question

3.How fast does the problem need to be solved?

Answer

Do you need it next month or next year? Do you have a deadline for getting everyone trained?
Is this a strategic direction for you? Or is it tactical leading to strategic or just tactical?

Question

4.How much time can students spend in the course?

Answer

Can students attend for only an hour a day? Or can they spend all day for a matter of weeks?

Question

5.How much interactivity do the students really need?

Answer

Is an instructor necessary or just “nice to have”? Is interaction with other students necessary or just “nice to have”?

Question

6.How fast will the material go out of date?

Answer

How will you:
Update course content?
Handle problems? (Will you have a help desk?)

Question

7.What kind of tracking and measurements are needed?

Answer

Do you need daily reports of who took what? Monthly reports?
Do you need to know who passed what test?