eLearning ROI

June 4, 2006 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

As a consulting company we are often asked to participate in RFPs or to make bids for projects. The client comes to us and, with the best of intentions, hands us a thick 200-500 page book of documentation on the subject and say, “There you go, that should be everything you need. And remember, we need your final bid in 2 weeks.” A whole lot of written words, sacred words even, words that have been agreed on by many people are in that 200-500 page book. Now all we have to do is translate that into an interactive medium that might use audio, video and animation – no sweat, right? Surely there couldn’t be any disagreement about how to interpret this written content into the interactive world. This is the same problem with storyboards or design specs. Text can communicate, but not nearly as much as a working functional prototype of the actual content.

Now we could play a game with our clients, and many of the companies in our industry do. They leaf through the 200-500 pages of written content and then take a stab at how much “stuff” there is or use some Industry Standards such as 8 hours of Instructor-Led Training (ILT) = 1 hour of Computer-Based Training (CBT) “seat time”. Then they take the other Industry Standard, 1 hour of CBT costs $35-50K to produce, and decide to bid $X and hope like hell that they aren’t way off.

But what if they get the project and they were way off, what happens then? Having been on this side of the guessing game we can tell you the truth, but it ain’t pretty. If we’re going to be way over (which happens in this guessing game very frequently) then we start trying to find things to cut, ways to save our skins on the deal. In the middle of prototyping we may discover that a particular interaction could be dramatically improved if we made some changes…but we’re already over budget on this thing – do you suppose we suggest that change? That’s right, anything that might improve the end result but will cost more than the guess doesn’t get done.

What about the other side, say we are coming in under the guess, (something which happens less often than you might think, but does in fact happen), then a company can play the game of trying to make as much profit as possible by again not making any changes that might cost more. Same thing.

Guesses almost always result in the client not getting the best result.

And what about those standards?!? 8 hours of ILT = 1 hour of CBT? Is that because the ILT was so empty and devoid of value that in 1 hour you can read all of the PowerPoint slides that were presented and get the same outcome? Could 1 hour of CBT really replace 8 hours of dance instruction? 8 hours of ILT is not the same from place to place and content to content.

Neither is 1 hour of CBT. What if we could get the same results from your students in 40 minutes? 20 minutes? Considering that most CBT is done on the job during regular working hours (don’t fool yourself, few people will ever actually do it at home) isn’t it better if it takes less time? And this isn’t a movie, the user is controlling the pace of the training and good CBTs are designed to challenge different users differently; it may take 20 minutes for an expert and 2 hours for a novice. So, do you still think that hours of seat time is a good way to evaluate or bid on CBT?

And $35-50K per hour? We could dump some text into a template for a whole lot less than that, a WHOLE lot less. On the other hand, a single, very deep interaction that simulates the actual work environment of your users could cost hundreds of thousands, even millions…and be well worth it. $35-50K per hour says nothing about the quality of the media, the analysis or the instructional design and it certainly doesn’t take into account the interactivity. Do you really want to pay someone $70,000 to create 2 hours of people reading pages of text with clip art next to it? How about $100,000 for that same two hours but the graphics are prettier and there is animation? Let’s get really wild and make it a two-hour video with stop and start buttons and some multiple choice questions – woo-hooo! How much would you pay for that?!?

The truth is that none of those things are worth a single dollar. It would have been better to just print a book or make a videotape…though the value of either of those is also debatable. If you truly want people to learn something they have to have a chance to try it, to practice, to risk failure and get good, realistic feedback when they do. And the cost of good interactive learning varies.

Reference: Alleni.com


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Good enough What’s after google?

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