Should You Recycle Training Content?

questionmarkOrganizations are always looking for ways to save both time and money. Naturally this makes a lot of sense in most cases. Why re-invent the wheel if you already put in the effort at a previous point in time.

By leveraging what we have done in the past, it allows us to be more efficient.

From what I have experienced, today’s companies are obsessed with leveraging previous efforts. Praise is often given wherever you can eliminate unnecessary spending and time to increase the bottom-line. The priority is efficiency, sometimes at the sake of quality.

Nowhere is this more true than in training and elearning.

Leveraging Previous Training Content is Okay… Right?

Over the years I had the opportunity to create and deliver elearning for some of the world’s largest organizations. They hired our team to come in, create the training, deliver it, and be on our way.

Without exception, every single one of these companies said the same thing (and I paraphrase):

Hey, we did a training on a similar topic seven years ago, so be sure to leverage that content.

The client believed that by rehashing old materials, they could save both time and money, yet still get the same results.

On the surface this seems logical, but when you really start to look at the ramifications of using dated content, you can see that it actually will cost more money in the end.

First, consider technology changes. The elearning courses that were made in the past will not always be the best-practice of today’s instructional design standards and technology.

It’s kind of like trying to fit a square block into a circle hole – it’s not going to happen unless some significant core changes are made.

Taking training content from a live course and making it into an elearning course isn’t always the best way forward.

I always wonder why this is suggested. If the training was administered live at one-point, why change the method of delivery? Certainly there was a good reason in the past to deliver the content in a live setting.

I think the perception here is that the live training was wasted-money. In reality, it may have saved money since elearning isn’t always the answer for more complex content.

I could list off 20 other scenarios why leveraging old content presents problems, but I think that there are two factors that encompasses them all.

Objectives & Audience

Every training program is unique in its objectives and audience, even one administered at the same company (a lot can happen in seven years). If the objectives and audience are the same, then why bother creating new training in the first place?

Objectives and audience drive training program design and build. Trying to take content that was built around an entire different sent of objectives for a different audience is a massive waste of time and money. Ultimately the training will suffer, and the new audience will not be trained effectively.

I’m not saying ignore previous training efforts entirely. You should certainly look at what worked in the past as well as what didn’t. Improve upon areas that were weak and continue with the concepts that did resonate.

What you don’t want to do is drop all of that content into a new training design and start working backwards. It’s confusing, wasteful, and a sure way to have terrible training.

If you are in a similar situation where you have been asked to re-use old training, you may want to share some of these considerations. If the training fails because the content is bad, all fingers will point back at you. Make your case now and save yourself in the end.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

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