Outsourcing the development of learning courses has become a savvy business decision
Some people choose to outsource custom learning development because they do not have the expertise in-house to create ILT, VILT, or e-learning programs. Others, use outsourcing partners because they do not have the bandwidth with internal resources.
In fact, when you factor in the total cost of internal development, you often find that it is cheaper to outsource learning development than it is to develop learning in-house.
The benefits of using vendors to develop your customized learning are clear
But there is one obvious drawback. That is, how do you know the program developed by your vendor is effective at improving performance? The bottom line for any learning program is creating new skills and capabilities in the workforce. Therefore, you need a way to measure the results from your learning programs. Measurement is needed so you can enact improvements and/or justify the budget.
So, how would you know the courses you are paying for are well designed? How do you confirm that learning happens, and skills are developed?
What we have learned through over 50 years of combined experience
As experts in learning effectiveness and performance improvement, we help organizations across the world incorporate measurement into their learning practice. We enable them to quantify business outcomes from their learning programs (critical thinking skills and behavior) and measure against those outcomes.
In essence, we provide learning departments with the means to infuse quality control into their process. We do this by using measurement to verify outcomes and identify improvement areas. Additionally, we provide them with the tools to report on the impact of learning in terms of both employee performance, and organizational success.
It has been a joy working with learning professionals. It is wonderful seeing them elevate their practice and improve their results. Yet, I have been amazed by how little they know about the effectiveness of the programs developed by their vendors!
It seems to me, if I am paying money out of my precious budget, I am going to want to know the value of what I am buying.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe many vendors are providing good programs and making positive changes for the employees. But shouldn’t there be some type of measurement done by these vendors? Shouldn’t they be able to tell us the impact of the programs they design?
Challenges with Vendor courses
As part of our engagement with customers, we are often asked to measure vendor-created courses. When we review these courses, these are the things we find:
We may see learning objectives (expected outcomes). But, they are often broad and ambiguous.
We may find some formative questions (to help learners absorb the material). But, we rarely find a final assessment.
Sometimes vendors do include a final assessment (which they charge extra for). But, there is no way to determine how the assessment links to the objectives. So, we don’t have direct information on critical thinking skills or behavior gains.
When we buy products or software from vendors, we have an expectation that they perform as intended. We expect products not to have defects. We expect software to perform their promised function. Why would we expect any less from our learning design vendors? Shouldn’t we expect a course developed by a vendor to deliver on the expected skill development?
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, when you hire a vendor (for anything) there is an agreement. This agreement usually includes deliverables, timing, and budget. When considering a learning program as the deliverable, is it enough that the course includes the information, the materials look good, and it is delivered on time? Is that the key outcome we are buying? Or do we outsource to vendors expecting them to provide us with an effective learning program? One that creates the intended skills/capability?
The simple truth is all training vendors should be designing programs that include a way to verify outcomes. Best practice in instructional design teaches us to always focus on job requirements. It teaches us to clearly identify the skill outcomes (critical thinking and behavior). Additionally, it teaches us to connect those outcomes to corresponding assessments. A valid and reliable assessment clarifies the level of the performance and provides a benchmark for showing results.
Adding a valid and reliable assessment for each of the skills you are developing in a program is not difficult. In fact, just creating the assessment helps ensure clarity and transparency of expectations for the stakeholders (students, facilitators, and business leaders).
Learning design vendors who do not provide a valid assessment are not delivering a complete program. They do not include any means to verify outcomes and therefore hold no accountability for the results of their programs.
Raising Your Learning Standards
Based on my experience, vendors who deliver assessments as part of their course have a much higher success rate in creating skills. Our data has shown the simple act of building direct measurements for your outcomes creates programs that are more targeted toward job skills and more effective at developing capability.
So, I challenge all learning professionals using vendors to require learning programs to include skill objectives/outcomes and corresponding evaluations as part of the requirement for their deliverable. If you pay for a learning program, a valid and reliable assessment should be a part of it (at no extra charge).
And… if you find your vendor pushes back and says they will not give you a valid and reliable assessment, call another vendor. Or, better yet, call us. We can create a measurable learning program for you (or measure your vendor’s course). We can show you exactly which learning methods were successful and which targets were achieved. In our minds, anything less is simply incomplete!
Let’s start a conversation
If you have questions about how to measure your training against business outcomes or how to run analytics on training, we’d enjoy scheduling a call to discuss. Use the form below or call us at (919) 882-2108.