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Building online courses has never been easier, thanks to rapid development authoring tools. With WYSIWYG editors and no knowledge of coding required, today’s authoring tools allow you to upload pre-existing content (such as PowerPoint decks), create new templates from scratch if you wish, or use provided templates which are easily customizable to your content needs.

As schools and businesses adjusted their operations to account for the COVID-19 global pandemic, many people with no prior instructional design experience found themselves being asked to either purchase or create online courses. There are several factors to consider when faced with the decision of creating your own course versus purchasing pre-made courses, which we’ll explore below.

Advantages of Creating Online Courses

  • You can make your course fully customizable: The beauty of creating your own course means that it is truly your own. Every aspect from the colors, to the font, to the logos, to the images used, and even the course verbiage will reflect and represent your organization. Not only will custom-made courses help reflect your organization’s brand, but they may lead to higher learner engagement and retention. Using images that seem true-to-life, as well as personalized scenarios and course content that speaks to your learners’ experiences is much more meaningful than the stock images and generic content that is sold to commercial audiences in mass-produced courses.
  • You can update the content when needed: Purchasing courses off the shelf locks you into that content. Besides being unable to customize it, you’re also unable to update it. If you work in an industry where customs, practices, or laws frequently change, or if you work for an organization with a high growth rate, off-the-shelf courses may not meet your long-term needs.
  • No annual subscription or maintenance fees: Some off-the-shelf courses are maintained and updated as needed, but this comes at a cost. If you’re trapped into a subscription service to keep your course up-to-date, that money may be better spent on purchasing a course authoring tool, which would allow you to simply create your own courses and not rely on a third-party vendor to maintain your content for you.
  • Upskill your employees: Gaining instructional design expertise is a beneficial skillset for your employees and can be a valuable development opportunity for them. According to Business Insider, “A new survey found a third of employees who quit their jobs did so because they didn’t learn new skills or better performance. A lack of career growth is one of the biggest reasons workers leave, second only to low pay.”
  • Rapid course development is cost-effective: Many authoring tools such as Udutu have free options or low-cost subscription plans. Developing internally may cost less than purchasing external content, and furthermore, the time and money spent building courses internally is a worthwhile investment. The course quality will be higher and is more likely to meet both your learners’ and organization’s needs.

When it Isn’t a Good Fit to Create Your Own Online Course

There may still be times where purchasing a pre-made course makes sense:

  • The content does not truly need customization: Common compliance topics such as bloodborne pathogens and harassment in the workplace may not need to be customized to your organization, as long as they adhere to your relevant policies and laws. It may be possible to find off-the-shelf content that meets your needs for these topics, which will allow you to spend your time and energy creating bespoke course content in other topics that are more unique to your organization or industry.
  • You simply don’t have time: Don’t forget, rapid course authoring tools are, well, rapid. They allow you to upload and copy-paste pre-existing content, make use of pre-built templates and interactive features, and create interactive courses with a few clicks of your mouse. However, if you simply need a course now, then off-the-shelf courses are the immediate answer.
  • The use case is very selective: If you are going to pay for many people to take a course year after year, then it is certainly less expensive to build and own a course. However, if only a very small number of people need to complete the course, it could take a long time to recover the development cost versus purchasing one off the shelf.

You will likely find that creating courses using rapid development authoring tools is a feasible and optimal solution to meet your learners’ and organization’s needs. Having the ability to customize the look, feel, and content of your course is time and money well spent because this ensures your course is tailored to your learners. Customized courses will reflect your organization’s values and messaging, as well as organizational objectives. Personalized learning experiences are also more likely to engage your learners, which will lead to higher retention and improved performance. Finally, learning to create online courses is a valuable skillset for your employees to develop, and learning new skills on the job even correlates to higher employee retention.

With all of these reasons to create your own customized online courses, there’s no time like the present to get started!

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