Posted by Caveo Learning ● August 11, 2016

Developing Quality eLearning on a Budget

cheap_elearning.jpgThe company wants you to keep costs down. You want to keep the eLearning interesting. You really can create eLearning on a budget—if you’re willing to be a little creative.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money and still deliver effective, high-quality eLearning. Don’t cut corners on getting the content right and having effective instructional design... but where can you save?

Start by considering your organizational culture and conducting a basic audience analysis. In an organization that promotes a casual and fun work environment, an eLearning course that looks homemade and features amateur photography can fit right in—in fact, it may even be preferred. On the other hand, if the work environment is more structured and formal, that sort of do-it-yourself aesthetic would appear out-of-place and might seem inappropriate.

Assuming your company culture allows for a little bit of informality when it comes to training initiatives, here are a few ways to cut down on development costs without negatively impacting the quality and effectiveness of eLearning deliverables.

Keep Audio In-House

There are plenty of standard options for audio recording—studio and voiceover professionals, voice talent who does their own recording and editing, and offshore or onshore choices. 

The most cost-effective option, though, is to use internal talent for audio. Send a note to selected colleagues or even members of your target audience asking for volunteers. Give them a sample script, and ask them to call your phone and read it. Voila—you've just conducted an audition. Choose articulate people who have voices that are full of inflection, who speak naturally even when reading a script, and who have voices that are easy to listen to for long stretches. It's also nice if they're able to take direction. If you happen to know people who sing, they often have a good voice and are less likely to get stage fright. And if any re-recording is needed, you know where to find them!

As you're selecting the voice talent, don’t just audition for the current project; think about future voiceover needs, and file people you don’t need this time for possible use on future projects.

Shoot Your Own Photos

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Taking your own photos or video is pretty easy to do these days. Professional-quality image capture used to require an expensive camera and equipment, but modern tablets and mobile phones can take very-high-resolution photos, and decent digital cameras aren’t terribly expensive.

Besides cost, another advantage of do-it-yourself photography is the ability to create images that match your particular work environment. For instance, the models in stock photos may be dressier than your workplace, particularly if your audience is in a distribution or manufacturing center.

When capturing images, have a legal release handy at the time of shooting, to avoid having to track people down after the fact. Be sure to label and file images well, because in the future you may not remember all the details. You don’t want to have to open 20 files to find the image you're looking for.  

There's a Wellspring of Fonts

Along with images, scour the web for free fonts that can add some visual interest to an eLearning course. For example, convey coldness with a free font like Snowtop Caps. Breaking out of the corporate template can sometimes be difficult, but it can be very attention-getting and memorable.

steps.pngLikewise, you might try to minimize the use of bullet points, and instead use graphics and visuals to deliver the larger point, letting the voiceover read the details. Get creative by incorporating imagery in lieu of text, like displaying a picture of “steps” rather than writing out “Next Steps.”

Honey, Shrink the Course

An important consideration for costs is course size. Trying to put everything into a course costs more with design time, development time, and everyone’s time! It may be that keeping the course skinny is beneficial, meanwhile providing additional resources for when learners want or need more details.

In the area of sales training, there used to be a tendency to create huge product binders; not only were they poorly read, but they were often outdated by the time they were distributed. Today it is possible to give more just-in-time information, training on the essentials and making relevant details available when they are needed. Make sure to train audiences on where the information is stored, and then use the direct training time (ILT or eLearning, or resources) for the salient messages.

Beware the Downsides

Of course, going the budget route means there are going to be some tradeoffs. For example, using internal talent for audio may lead to more re-recording, plus the added time of integrating the edited audio. People may not get it exactly right the first time, so conducting quality reviews of audio-intensive courses may be helpful. And it takes time to stage and take the photos, so think about who will plan for the photo or video shoot, and be sensitive to their time. Sometimes, you just need a shot of an employee standing in front of product with a clipboard; that’s generally quick and easy to get.

Free and Cheap eLearning Resources


Sound Effects

Stock Photography

Crowdsourced Images

Public Domain Images

Audio Editing Software

B-Roll Video

Animation Software

Topics: Learning Technologies, eLearning