Course Content In Learning Outsourcing: From A Point Of Failure To A Position Of Strength

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At Greyhound Research – the Technology & Innovation Research, Advisory & Consulting arm of Greyhound Knowledge Group – the year has started on a rather interesting note.

We’ve just closed our annual study, Global CLDO Priorities 2017, and the results are a mix of both, things that organisations will continue investing in and those that they intend to change. To give you a perspective, consider these findings – while 89% Chief Learning & Development Officers (CLDOs) plan to continue with end-to-end Learning Outsourcing to a single Learning Services provider, 70% are considering using mobile devices as the mainstay for disseminating learning courses to their employees.

For reference,  Learning Services Providers (LSPs) include the likes of NIIT, GE, Accenture, IBM, Cognizant, Sapient, Lionbridge, Cornerstone OnDemand, Thomson Reuters among others.

From my extensive experience in the Learning and Development (L&D) industry, I can confirm that end-to-end Learning Outsourcing contracts have been the norm for the longest.

A typical Learning Outsourcing contract includes services spanning Course Content, Instructional Design, Graphic Design, Voice Overs, Language Translations, Courseware Packaging among others. While the study confirms that this trend isn’t expected to change anytime soon, it’s critical to point out another trend that seems to be missed by many. Nearly 35% organisations in the last 3-5 years have extended these contracts to include the use of Learning Management System (LMS) from the same Learning Services providers.

Albeit an end-to-end Learning Outsourcing contract offers CLDOs multiple benefits including having a single point of contact, at Greyhound Research we believe this arrangement comes with its own set of challenges.

High dependency on a single vendor for all aspects of Learning can potentially result in multiple points of failures. To cite a few, these can include Instructional Design and Graphic Design misalignment, Courseware Package rendering & tracking issues on the LMS, Language rendering issues among others. While some Learning Services providers do an exceptional job in executing certain areas (like Graphic Design), they are not able to deliver up to the mark in others (such as Language Translations) where they further sub-contract to a third party due to lack of in-house expertise. Having said that, it’s not uncommon for Learning Services providers to fail to deliver on such contracts despite having most resources internally.

An advisory call with the CLDO of a global Bank earlier today pointed to multiple delivery issues (hence possible points of failures) with their current provider.

From the long list cited by the L&D team, one reason particularly stood out – failure in delivering exceptional course content. The recent Greyhound Technocrat study, Global CLDO Priorities 2017, confirms the same – 78% CLDOs identify quality and depth of course content as one of the key points of failures in their existing Learning Outsourcing contracts.

At Greyhound Research we handhold hundreds of CLDOs each year to help ensure success and outcomes from their Learning Outsourcing contracts (both existing and new). Among other areas, we assist L&D teams in addressing potential points of failures related to course content. Here’s what we advise.

Greyhound Standpoint: Dear CLDO, Have Your Team Focus On Quality Not Quantity Of Course Content

The traditional practice of defining page quantities as the key (or sole) outcome for course content continues to dominate the CLDO mindset. Dear CLDO, if you have already made the leap on this one, many congratulations, you truly deserve no less than The Medal Of Honor. At Greyhound Technocrat, we believe that CLDOs and L&D teams must re-strategise course content on quality and not quantity. Measures of course content quality can range from Static Content to Interactive Content, Check Your Understanding (CYU) Quiz to Assessment Quiz, Game Based Activities to Case Studies among others. Do take note that not having a mix of diverse content type can result in simple page turner (read boring) courses that fail to catch learners’ attention and meet the organisation’s Learning & Development objectives.

Greyhound Standpoint: L&D Team – Not The Learning Services Provider – Is The Subject Matter Expert.

At Greyhound Research we believe that L&D teams know their business and its nuances the best. Hence, it’s critical that they share important topic-specific data, use-cases, policies, case studies and other relevant information with the Learning Services provider right at the start of the contract. From here on, the Instructional Designers (at the provider’s end) are responsible for ensuring content is stitched together logically with clear instructions across all device types. Not following this discipline can lead to fundamental content being left out of your learning course. A word of caution, band-aid effort to inject new content at a later stage is painfully evident to both learners and curators of the course content.

Greyhound Standpoint: The Onus To Review, Share Feedback And Steer Direction Lies With L&D Teams.

Organisations (read their L&D teams) often commit the mistake of waiting too long to review their course content. At Greyhound Technocrat, we believe that waiting to do a review until the Instructional Designers (at the provider’s end) finish writing the entire course is nothing short of committing suicide. To ensure fruitful outcomes from the contract, it’s critical that L&D teams plan and conduct tollgate reviews. We believe not following this approach can potentially derail projects due to possible differences between content design strategy followed by the provider and the L&D team. Critical to note, while L&D teams must take onus to share consolidated feedback and steer the contract in the desired direction, the onus to correct and implement content changes lies with the provider.

Lead Analyst:

Anshoo Nandwaani:  Anshoo serves as a VP and Principal Analyst with Greyhound Research, an Award-Winning, Global, Independent Technology Transformation Research & Advisory firm. She also serves as Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Greyhound Knowledge Group, a Global, Award-Winning, Digital Transformation Research & Advisory Group. To read more about her, click here.

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Copyright © 2017 Greyhound Knowledge Group. All rights reserved.


    1. Thanks Sanchit. While there is a lot of ongoing talk about learning transformation, I believe it is critical for organisations and their L&D teams to be aware of two important aspects. One, where to start from and Two, how to measure outcomes of this transformation.

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