In the training industry the term content means different things to different professionals. For instructional designers, the “content” is the information that needs to be delivered via the training solution. Instructional designers define objectives based on audience, business needs, and other factors. Based on the objective and desired outcome instructional decisions are made on what content should be included in the training course. Then it is designed, developed, and delivered to the those employees who need it. And while instructional designers see content as the information and media contained WITHIN a course, training leaders and CLOs refer to the entire course, or set of courses, as the content. For them content is the courses that sit inside the LMS. So that gives us 2 layers of understanding. The media content that makes up the course, and the courses that make up the contents of the LMS: Content within content within platform.
Training Content for Instructional Designers and Developers
If you are a business leader, or training manager, requesting training be produced, or scheduled for a particular topic, the ID will often ask, “is there any existing content?” And as a training manager or business leader your response may be, “No. There currently aren’t any courses on the topic. That’s why we need you to create them.” This is where the semantics of the training industry can cause problems.
When an ID asks for existing content they are asking for any media that currently exists on the topic. The content can be anything like books on the subject, current product specification documents, recent powerpoint files, photographs, articles, and the information trapped inside the head of the subject matter expert. And yes, it can also mean existing or older courses that have already been created. To the instructional designer, all that other stuff is all content they can use to learn how best to design, develop, and deliver and training solution that will meet the required objectives.
One of the best parts about being an instructional designer is that you get to learn new things all the time. A good, experienced, designer will be very good at consuming lots of content, and begin formulating some assumptions based on that content. A picture will begin to form in their mind and usually have some gaps. The gaps are filled by interviewing subject matter experts. The idea is to learn as much as you can BEFORE you engage a subject matter expert, and make the best use of your time with them. This may be a small thing, but should be respected as a good business decision. Subject matter experts are often highly paid professionals who provide value when they are working to solve business problems. It’s important that they spend time mentoring others, but that time should be limited not expanded. So, as a training leader you should support and encourage every effort made by your team to minimize business impact with limited disruptions to the business when seeking the content they need.
Training Content for Training and Business Leaders
If you are in a leadership position and determine that training is required, then you have a need for training courses. But your version of content comes in the form of courses. Your conversations will often include questions like, “can we buy the content we need for training?” But that’s not the same content that your designers need. In your case, content means courses.
Today, you can buy most of the courses you need. In fact, a one-person training team can easily launch an LMS loaded with content faster than ever before. You, as the training manager, have a significant number of options for loading your new cloud-based LMS with content. And now we’re talking about course content, not media content.
Generic off-the-shelf courses will often be looked down upon by your training team. However, you’re in the business world and you need solutions that get the job done fast. The reality is that you can very quickly have dozens, or even hundreds, of courses loaded and ready to deploy faster than any designer can create just ONE course…and at a fraction of the cost. I wouldn’t have made this recommendation 10 years ago. But today, always buy before you build. If you’ve got time to kill and nothing better to do, then go ahead and create your own custom courses. But I have yet to meet the training manager with spare time on their hands.
Using Content to Build Content
If you insist on building your own content, then why not be efficient in your efforts? Find off-the-shelf content that can be modified, like lego blocks. If you have a modern cloud-based LMS like Litmos, then you have the ability to create modular training solutions. This sets you up for the perfect eLearning content mix. You buy a course to get the training process started quickly and add business value. Then after getting some feedback you realize that there are some nuances to your business that are, obviously, not covered in the purchased course. So you engage your team and have them build ONLY the content specific to your line of business. That custom content is then put into a module and positioned within the course you purchased. It give you ultimate flexibility and support for iteratively updating and improving your content over time without the need to completely redo an entire course.
All The Content Options You Need, in One Platform
Content within courses should be well designed. And the content/courses within your learning management system should provide business value. Many LMSs cannot handle the flexibility required by today’s business, but with Litmos LMS you can buy and build, and even combine what was bought with what you built. Not to mention the other amazing functions like Learning Paths, eCommerce, user management, reporting, and everything else you need to run a 21st century training department. Stop struggling with your training, and enjoy the process of developing your employees for success again.