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E-learning courses: Which is better, creating your own or acquiring from a third party?

6 min reading time

At the heart of any online L&D strategy are effective e-learning courses and training content designed to inspire and engage learners, as well as assist with the acquisition of skills and knowledge in order to help organisations achieve learning outcomes. Whether building an e-learning content library from scratch or expanding an existing collection, organisations are left with two principal choices when it comes to adding content: create new e-learning courses and content in-house using the functionality provided by e-learning platforms or acquire content from a third-party source.

In this blog, we’ll explore why some organisations choose to make their own e-learning courses, along with how they can achieve this with the right e-learning platform. Alternatively, we’ll discuss why many organisations acquire bespoke e-learning content, taking key points from our conversation with leading content developer Ben Reeves.


Examples of e-learning courses

One of the most significant benefits of using an e-learning platform such as a learning management system (LMS) is the ability to diversify learning materials and offer a range of content types for learners. This content can be presented as formal educational courses with multiple lessons and end-of-course assessments, or quick microlessons that take under 15 minutes to consume.

E-learning content and courses can be made up of videos, audio clips, quizzes, gamified lessons, simulation lessons, and much more. When organisations leverage the powerful content delivery capabilities of an e-learning platform, learners are more likely to remain engaged and motivated by an exciting and diverse range of content.

Looking for ways to boost learner engagement with a range of content types and LMS features? Read our top tips.


So, how do organisations deliver the desired content library for their learners? They can choose to create training courses and content internally using their chosen e-learning solution or acquire it from a third-party developer – let’s explore this in further detail.


Why do organisations choose to create their own e-learning courses?


Some key reasons are:

  • Save on costs – Developing content internally can be more cost-effective as it doesn’t require paying additional third-party creators for resources or licence fees. Additionally, if in-house teams are using their e-learning platform’s tools to create this content, it increases the ROI of their chosen solution.
  • More control over content – When e-learning courses and content are created internally, organisations can address specific learning needs and ensure they align with the company’s unique goals and objectives, along with ensuring that the language and tone is consistent with company culture. Additionally, creating content in-house gives creators greater control over design and branding.
  • Protecting sensitive information – Many organisations will be creating L&D content such as business strategy training which is made up of sensitive or confidential information. Creating content in-house provides reassurance that this information will not get into the wrong hands.
  • Continuous updates – When internal team members are responsible for creating e-learning content they soon become proficient in using the appropriate tools and features. With this knowledge, they can easily update existing content to ensure it always stays relevant.


Should you create your own e-learning training materials?

There are no rules when it comes to delivering internally developed e-learning content or externally developed e-learning content and of course, many organisations choose to combine both. When deciding which direction to take, it comes down to budget, time, resources, and the functionality of your LMS.

If looking to create content in-house, you’ll need to ask whether your chosen platform has effective content creation tools. And, if you’re looking to acquire content from external sources, you’ll need to find out if your platform is compatible or SCORM compliant.

If you already have existing digital training materials and L&D content, an LMS such as Totara Learn allows admins to upload existing resources and images and easily turn them into e-learning content rather than having to start from scratch.

lms e-learning courses creation

It’s worth noting however that creating your own e-learning courses come with limitations. In-house content creation is incredibly time-consuming which can be problematic for organisations working within a set timeframe. What’s more, only professional e-learning developers have a good understanding of the pedagogical elements involved in creating truly effective learning content. Creating something ‘on a budget’ in-house is unlikely to have the same impactful, engaging and long-lasting effect as professionally produced courses. They might be adequate for shorter, simpler modules, but for important, core knowledge courses a professionally produced course will deliver better engagement and knowledge retention.


Creating e-learning courses and content from scratch:


Steps to consider

  1. Conduct a needs analysis – Identify desired learning objectives and outcomes.
  2. Plan out content – Identify topics, subject matter, audience etc. Create a structure and determine the format.
  3. Practice – Ask teams to familiarise themselves with content creation tools and authoring tools in the e-learning platforms.
  4. Create content – Bring your plan to life by developing content.
  5. Review and test – Bring in additional team members and SMEs to review content for accuracy and coherence. Ask key stakeholders to test elements such as UX and device compatibility.
  6. Feedback – Using LMS tools such as end-of-course surveys, admins can ask users to give feedback on the quality of content.
  7. Continuous monitoring – Once content has been launched, using LMS reporting tools admins can monitor the effectiveness of e-learning training materials and update/adjust when necessary.

create your own e-learning training materials


Consider your e-learning platform’s functionality and capabilities

Before you embark on creating your own e-learning courses and training materials, be sure to test out your platform’s content creation capabilities. This should ideally be done prior to choosing and implementing your platform by researching its functionality and integration options.

Find out whether creating your own e-learning content will require training from an e-learning provider on how to use the platform. Consider course creation tools such as Totara Learn’s easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality which streamlines the process of creating courses.

It’s worth making a note of which content authoring integrations your chosen platform is compatible with. For example, our Totara and Moodle solutions are integrated with H5P, a powerful content authoring plugin which allows users to easily create and share rich, HTML5 interactive content. Find out more about this powerful open-source solution here.

With a learning experience platform (LXP), content creation doesn’t have to be carried out by dedicated teams; functionality such as user-generated content tools allow anyone with platform access to create and manage their own e-learning content. User-generated content comes with its own benefits such as a wider distribution of labour, increased platform ROI and creating a better sense of ownership and engagement for learners. Find out more about our LXP offering by visiting our Totara Engage product page.

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When should you consider acquiring bespoke e-learning courses from a developer?

While many organisations may look to purchase ready-made content from third-party sites, this is only suitable for generic training materials that don’t need to be specific to their unique L&D requirements. Here’s what Ben Reeves, our talented e-learning content developer, has to say about why an organisation would consider acquiring bespoke e-learning content over purchasing ‘off-the-shelf’ content.

“In situations where off-the-shelf content doesn’t really meet the client’s needs, it’s better to produce exactly what is required rather than bending existing content to fit. Businesses can fall into the trap of relying on existing content exclusively, believing that it’s more cost-effective than bespoke. This means that they don’t realise the full potential of their LMS platform until they see the results delivered by course content that reflects their brand and learning goals exactly.”

bespoke e-learning courses developer


Some key reasons for acquiring bespoke content are:

  • Lack of internal expertise and resources – Creating effective e-learning training materials requires dedicated team members with the skills and knowledge required to produce good quality content. However, not every organisation will have the personnel and resources required to achieve this.
  • Lack of time – If an organisation is looking to get their online L&D activities up and running as soon as possible or to meet strict deadlines, acquiring bespoke content can often be much quicker than producing it in-house.
  • Delivering complex interactive elements – Bespoke content can be highly interactive and of a higher quality and complexity than content made by those with less experience.
  • Acquiring content with a longer shelf life – professionally produced content tends to have a longer life due to quality and engaging elements - ultimately delivering a better ROI.
  • Volume of content – For larger organisations in need of a huge library of diverse e-learning courses, working with a third-party developer will lead to fewer issues around scalability and efficiency.


When acquiring bespoke content, here are some steps to consider according to Ben Reeves:

“I recommend that anyone considering acquiring bespoke e-learning content follows the below steps to ensure they have all they need to begin the process"

  1. Agree on clear course/project topics and learning outcomes.
  2. Determine the audience being catered for and what device/s they will use to access the learning.
  3. Set a budget and obtain any necessary sign-off.
  4. Collate all learning content into a document, such as a PowerPoint file.

“With this information in place, work can begin more quickly. Collation into PowerPoint is a useful way of laying out what you want learners to review at each stage of the course. It also provides an indication of length and running time and the level of interactivity required. Knowing what you really want to convey helps distil reams of text into powerful, engaging content – delivered in the most effective way.”

For more information on the process of acquiring bespoke content, along with some additional benefits to consider, be sure to read our full interview with Ben.


The next steps

Hopefully having read this article, you’ll have a better understanding of whether your organisation's L&D requirements demand bespoke e-learning courses and content, or whether you can successfully create your own content – or both. Whether creating in-house or looking at a third-party source, you’ll need a powerful LMS or e-learning platform with effective content creation capabilities, integration and SCORM compatibilities, and the flexibility to allow admins to update content when necessary. Our Totara and Moodle solutions offer everything you need to provide your learners with an inspiring, diverse, and well-rounded library of e-learning courses.

Get in touch with one of our e-learning experts today to find out more about our available solutions.


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