Many organizations have long based their decision to create eLearning materials on costs. But this is an old-school, defensive perspective. eLearning initiatives shouldn’t be based on price lists, but on the added value to the organization.

In this article, I’ll pay attention to that cost perspective but I’ll also focus on the more constructive outlook of value.

Creating eLearning costs a lot

Creating eLearning costs a lot of time and money. Research by Raccoon Gang shows that it can take 100-160 hours and incur $8,150-$36,205 to create just one hour of content.

But the costs don’t go away once you’ve published your course. The need to update content over time is inevitable in a business. In fact, it would be a costly mistake to invest heavily in content that can only make an impact once. To create content worth the time and money, we'll need to think about value creation.

Time and knowledge are the new currency for any organization

A report by Panopto revealed that 60% of employees find it hard to obtain necessary information, spending 5.3 hours a week waiting for it. Imagine the value of adding two or more productive hours to each employee's week just by providing the right information at the right time. From our perspective, that’s a more productive pursuit than calculating the cost of eLearning.

We understand that L&D can’t meet every learning need bubbling up each minute. Still, these knowledge gaps exist. So how can we identify the right learning intervention needed to fill them?

Reframe the content creation process

The solution I suggest is to change the way we view the content creation process by considering a bottom-up learning approach known as Employee-Generated Learning (EGL). Under EGL, any employee can create and share their tactical knowledge with their team and beyond. In return, this shifts L&D’s role from being a central team that pumps out content to one that’s responsible for overseeing the knowledge-sharing process instead.

With EGL, there’s no longer a need for the following:

  • Seeking input from SMEs to validate content
  • Using a complex instructional design authoring tool
  • Involving trained developers, instructional, and graphic designers

Instead, subject matter experts (SMEs) will serve each other, accelerating the circulation of knowledge throughout the organization while saving L&D time and money. L&D can, instead, take on a more supportive role, providing infrastructure and guidance to empower SMEs.

For a closer look at the value of EGL, I'll break it down into four main components: strategy, people, tools, and content.

1. Strategy: EGL streamlines your organization’s learning strategy in multiple ways, all of which leave a positive impact on your business:

Bottom-up approach: Unlike the top-down approach where L&D is responsible for creating learning content for the organization, EGL enables a bottom-up approach where employees create content for each other. Employees can apply their firsthand understanding of their peer’s needs in a way a central L&D team can’t. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Relevant content created by SMEs who share the same viewpoint as their learners
  • Up-to-date information because the business maintains the content
  • No time wasted on exhausting business planning and designing learning

Employee-driven: When employees create learning content based on their experience on the job, their peers have immediate access to tried and tested information. This also significantly reduces the time taken to transfer knowledge. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Correct information at the right time in a suitable format
  • No time wasted on hard learning

Time to market: When information comes straight from SMEs, there’s no need to validate its accuracy externally, which can be time-consuming. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Timely delivery because content is created at the speed of the business
  • No delay in launches due to unfinished learning content
  • No time wasted on validating the efficacy of information

Business impact: Because EGL empowers employees to meet their own learning needs (and more accurately so that L&D can), this leaves a positive impact on their jobs, associated KPIs, and the business. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Learning content aligned with business goals
  • No time wasted on mapping business goals to employee performance

2. People: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt once famously said, “If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.” This is the crux of EGL.

L&D: As employees take the lead on content creation, L&D can take on a more supervisory role, providing employees with any support they may need along the way. This also gives L&D more time to focus on other projects. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Knowledge is captured and shared openly and transparently, which ensures business continuity even when SMEs leave the company
  • L&D gets more time to focus on important projects that can’t be handed off to employees
  • No time wasted on hiring instructional designers, developers, graphic designers, or third–party vendors
  • No need to liaise with SMEs for input

Employees: As subject matter experts and active players in daily business operations, employees are more qualified to create, publish, and maintain the knowledge ecosystem organically. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Up-to-date information for employees, by employees.
  • No time wasted searching or waiting for information on-the-job
  • No time wasted asking for help or even duplicating content

3. Creation process and tools: Next to having an effective strategy and the key players to drive it, you’ll also need the right tools to create and maintain your learning content.

Process of creating and maintaining content: When your employees take ownership of knowledge sharing, the creative process becomes straightforward. SMEs create, share and maintain the content themselves without the need for input or separate review sessions. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Business takes responsibility of knowledge sharing and learning
  • L&D doesn’t need to spend time creating and validating learning content
  • L&D saves time in the long run with low content maintenance needs

Tools: With employees being both the creators and consumers of knowledge, there’s no need for complex authoring tools with fancy, interactive features. They'll need authoring tools with a zero-learning curve in order to create effective content quickly and meet on-the-job learning needs. Value-added/Cost saved:

  • Accelerated content creation
  • No time wasted learning fancy tools with complex features

4. Content: To add structure to the way you can share knowledge, I propose three primary content formats based on experience:

  • Short courses: Provide a quick overview of a subject in short, digestible chapters
  • Resources: Provide short and focused job aids that help accelerate on-the-job performance
  • Assessments: In case L&D wants to validate employee knowledge for compliance reasons, provide basic quizzes to assess learners’ knowledge

Value-added/Cost saved:

  • A live, transparent body of corporate knowledge in multiple formats
  • No time or effort wasted in storyboarding, in-depth content planning, graphic design, and content maintenance

The value of eLearning outweighs the costs

In short, eLearning can bring major organizational value that far outweighs its costs. By replacing the time-consuming process of creating specialty eLearning courses with a scalable approach like EGL, you’ll be able to fulfill your employees’ learning needs more easily with a fraction of the costs. In return, this empowers them to create even more value for your organization.