The Only Time You Should Deliver Mediocre eLearning

I have spent most of my career attempting to deliver captivating learning experiences. But are there times when we should sacrifice process and relinquish high standards to deliver mediocre content? In this article we'll look at when delivering lower quality content can be an advantage.

Organisations can be hesitant to invest in an eLearning program until they have some proof that it will ultimately deliver a return on investment.

Delivering quick results is often the difference between a successful or failed project.

Waiting for a carte-du-jour of perfectly designed courses to be ready to launch an eLearning program is a sure-fire way to guarantee you will never be ready to launch.

Or maybe your program is already up and running, but you are struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for fresh, new content.

Luckily there are several quick-wins you can implement to achieve success with relatively little effort.

All or nothing

I’ll admit it, I am a bit of a perfectionist. This character trait was something that hindered the progress of the first eLearning program I ever delivered. 

(It still plagues me today - getting 90% complete is easy, its the final 10% that kills me).

I wanted my audience to experience beautiful, shiny, engaging interactive courses, which dazzled employees and left them wanting more. I wasn't prepared to add any old content to our beautiful new LMS that wasn't designed to the high standards that I had set myself.

But from a strategic point of view, this was a mistake.

If I wanted our strategy to succeed, I needed to let go – deliver more content, to more people, in a shorter amount of time. The only way to guarantee people will come back to the LMS is to constantly add new and useful content.

(How often would you login to Facebook or use YouTube if there was never any new content?)

But I had very limited resources and an even smaller budget. So how was I able to add useful content regularly?

I wanted my audience to experience beautiful, shiny, engaging interactive elearning. But from a strategic point of view, this was a mistake.

Is a full design process always required?

Well, I had to start deciding which content needed to go through a full design process and be developed into high-quality interactive eLearning.

This meant I also had to decide which content didn’t.

I realised that making a list of content that wasn’t going to be high-quality was just as important. This also meant that I was going to be consciously delivering content that wasn’t as effective.

I struggled with this. It went against my principles. From a Learning and Development perspective, I was always meticulous over planning my lessons and courses to ensure learning and engagement were maximised.

Yet here I was consciously deciding to deliver content that wasn’t as effective or engaging as it could be, because I just didn’t have the time or budget to deliver everything to that level.

Something is better than nothing was the mentality I had to quickly adopt in order for the program to succeed and for my project to be deemed a success.

Maybe you are already comfortable with this concept?

If so, you are ahead of the game. But if you’re anything like me, you may have to rethink your opinion of ‘acceptable’.

I was going to be consciously delivering content that wasn’t as effective as it could be. I struggled with this. It went against my principles.

One caveat

Now it’s important to be liberal with your lower quality content. I’m definitely not advocating that the majority of your content is lower quality – if you log in and see a really crappy course, then you’ll probably assume they will all be of a similar quality and never log back in again…

But strategically choosing content that doesn’t need to be perfectly produced may allow you to achieve success quicker.

Quick ways to create content

So I’m going to stop talking about the psychological barriers that many of us experience and start looking at ways that we can quickly create new, acceptable content that is ‘good enough’.

There are a number of ways to create content quickly. Let’s take a look, starting with those that require the shortest amount of development time:

1) Record training and demonstrations currently being delivered via WebEx

Nearly all modern day web conference services have the built-in functionality to record each session. In fact, some LMS even have web conference functionality built in. Most companies will have a web conference administrator who can see a list of all upcoming scheduled web conferences.

If any of these are training sessions, product demonstrations or anything else that could be useful to a wider audience, contact the conference host and ask if they would be happy for you to record the session.

You can upload the web conference directly to your LMS and make it available to the masses within minutes.

2) Find training courses currently delivered in the classroom and ask the trainer if you can record them

All you need is a decent quality camcorder, a wireless microphone and the permission of the trainer. You can set the camera rolling and then ask the trainer to contact you once they’ve finished.

Editing may take a few hours, but you instantly have a full training course accessible to your audience.

If you don’t have the time or knowhow to edit this yourselves, you can outsource this at a relatively low-cost (we'll talk more about this in a moment).

Bonus points if you have 2 cameras, you can film from different camera angles and splice the footage together to give your learners more variety in the final production.

Double bonus points if you use screen capture software to record the presenters screen and edit everything together to provide a really impressive production.

Triple bonus points if you break the content down into two to five minute videos. We’ll discuss this in a moment and you cvan learn lots more about how important this process is by clicking here).

3) Ask the SME to write a script to accompany a PowerPoint presentation, and then record the presentation as a screen recording with narration

Whether you record this yourself, or ask an SME or trainer, it’s a fairly straightforward procedure. You can buy a good quality podcasting microphone (this one is excellent) and a piece of software called Camtasia Studio to record the presentation in a quiet office or at home.

The quality is excellent, and this recording can be uploaded directly to your e-learning platform or LMS. For a step up from this, you can send the script to a voiceover artist to record the audio.

Please note: Numbers 2 and 3 are interchangeable – if the audio is recorded in a studio environment rather than live, the quality will be better and the overall production will be an improvement on recording live training.

However you could use a combination of this type of content and upgrade individual lessons as and when you have the capacity to do so.

Benefits of outsourcing

One trick I have repeatedly used to speed up the process of any of these ‘homemade’ techniques is to use a freelance marketplace website to outsource the video editing phase of the content development.

Websites like Upwork are free to join and you can outsource projects for a fraction of the price that you would pay for a professional video production company to edit the content.

Just send over the video, screen capture and audio files and ask them to edit the material together.

For an even better result, you can ask them to splice up the final material into 2-5 minute chunks that can be individually uploaded to the e-learning platform to enable you to create a comprehensive structure of videos.

(If you're interested in learning more about how I outsource eLearning content development, please click here).

One trick is to use a freelance marketplace to outsource the video editing phase of content development.

But is this real eLearning?

It could be argued that all of these forms of content creation go against the modern principles of eLearning i.e. a needs analysis, followed by course design and development.

I agree that a fully interactive eLearning course using this process would provide a more effective end result.

But they would also take a lot longer to develop and we are looking for relevant, useful content that can be created in a short amount of time with limited resource.

Creating a degree of low-budget content provides you and your organisation with a quick win - employees will start engaging with the platform and you will be getting an immediate return on investment, rather than waiting for all content to be immaculate.

Which due to limited resources may never happen if you don’t get your program off the ground to begin with.

By following this strategy, you are also empowering other people to develop content - people will start to see that they can create their own and that will create a snowball effect.

Before you know it you will have content coming at you from all angles.

Waddya reckon?

Have you ever delivered lower quality content to save time? How did the audience react?

If you enjoyed this article, you'll probably get a little giddy about my free, 5-day email crash course - 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an eLearning Project.


Ant Pugh

108A Tooting Bec Road, 108A Tooting Bec Road