When it’s time to buy e-learning off-the-shelf

By Brendan Nagle
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/28/2005

Off-the-shelf training software is starting to look and act a lot alike. This is not surprising given that most vendors have the same goal in mind: credible, self-directed course content using an almost universal “info-byte” presentation style — PowerPoint-looking screens with three to five bullet points each — punctuated by interactive events of varying complexity.

Most vendors develop content by hiring writers with reasonable credentials in a subject, who then merge content with instructional design and spice it up with crowd-pleasers like video, audio, simulation and games, dimensional graphics and other gadgets. And voilà, course produced.

But as Martha Stewart likes to say, “It’s a good thing.” With more than 400 vendors of off-the-shelf learning content, offering thousands of courses, it’s nice to see some predictability even if the end product is not that sophisticated. Modest offerings can serve modest goals, and those using generic e-learning products are catching on. Restraint is the watchword these days. At the overflowing e-learning buffet table, the right provider, with the right courses at the right price is a welcome treat when you’re hungry and pressed for time.