A recent conversation emerged on Twitter between several participants that (seemingly) came from two different camps of learning development. One set of people had access to large budgets, could use any tool they needed, and purchase any resource they desired to be incorporated into their projects. The other set of people had no budgets and had to find creative low-cost ways to produce the same, or similar quality, learning experiences.

An interesting perspective came from one of those on the “have side”, and that was that it was hard for them to imagine that the organizations and the stakeholders of the “have-nots” actually valued their work because they did not afford them any budget. Another asked if it was a matter of “L&D not scoping and planning properly?”

Neither of these is a true assumption for organizations where the L&D clients, SMEs, and learners are all part of the same organization. Often the organization’s budget goes first and foremost to the organization’s customer and their experience. The training departments are often left only with reliance on creative ways to create and design meaningful learning opportunities. Typically the available budget dollars for learning projects are assigned to the people resource that is employed to create the learning.

“Even though I don’t have a budget I am committed to the use of staff time. What solution can we provide that meets their needs and is the most efficient & effective way to use our limited time and resources?”
— Melanie Sobie, Wisconsin (@sobiemel)

Often the L&D budget—being so small—must be used with caution and frugality, but in doing so some great benefits emerge. The easiest to explain is that if you can work on many projects and ensure that limited (low-cost) resources are used to produce the desired results, the next time you truly need dollars to spend on resources, you often will be approved. You might need to prove the case for the expenditure, but it’s easier to come by.

"If you can get results with a small budget, it becomes easier to get a larger one. The thing to remember is that the money WILL be spent. If you want some of it, you have to provide more value than something else it could’ve been spent on."
—  Simon Blair, Ontario, Canada (@SimonBlairTrain)

Another benefit of a limited budget is that it forces the designer/developer to become more creative. Creative in their ability to find workarounds, and new, perhaps unintended, uses for tools or resources being used. The ability to break resources into reusable components becomes second nature. These designers also tend to find ways to “mash-up” tools and use them in ways that together become succinct learning opportunities for their clients. Their list of resources, although low-cost, tend to become more diverse and they have to look to many different sources to accomplish the same task that someone with a more robust budget might be able to create.

The need to produce results in a constrained environment—be that no budget, time, limited resources, etc.—often ends up creating the most creative end results. It is when we are limited that we tend to see more unique and interesting ways of how we can complete the project. I believe it is when this occurs that the real value of those of us that have limited budgets and constraints become evident.

It’s certainly not always easy to accomplish and complete these projects with no budget and only limited resources. You might need to use the same picture in multiple scenarios. You might have to skip adding in background ambiance music and professional voice overs. However, regardless of how we get there or how much it costs; it’s when we are able to engage our learners, teach them something new, and ultimately change performance that our value shines because we were able to still do it with no extra money involved.

From the editor: Want more information?

Shrinking budgets and constrained resources do not mean less effective professional development content. There are hundreds of tools and resources available to create and design learning experiences—it's just a matter of knowing where to look.

Tracy Parish will present "Inexpensive Design and Development Tools: Innovation for Less Than a Cup of Coffee" on April 22, 2020 during The eLearning Guild's Online Conference L&D On A Shoestring.

Tracy's session will focus on some of the most popular and useful free/low-cost tools available that will ensure you can manage, design, and develop your entire learning projects. Explore tips, tricks, and practical applications of everything from initial planning and management to finding just the right assets to enhance your work, and even options for final delivery and tracking.

In this session, you will learn:

  • Which inexpensive tools will help you manage your project development process
  • How to find all the assets you need to create your eLearning project
  • Tips and tricks for distributing and tracking your eLearning projects
  • Unique ways to merge tools to meet your project needs

Registration is open!