The Cost of Learning Content

Guest Contributorby Julie Harrison | Posted | Learning

The Cost of Learning Content

The other day, I was flipping through a home décor magazine. (I enjoy this a great deal, despite it having no observable impact on my ability to actually pull off a room that doesn’t feature Lego strewn on 98% of its surfaces.) I noticed what I think has become a bit of a trend. A trend that actually turned what is generally a very relaxing activity for me into one that caused some irritation.

Take a look at this and see if you can spot what has made me feel a tad rant-y.

Living Room

Do you see it? The books are displayed with their spines turned in.

This has effectively turned what could be a very functional item—the bookshelf—into something rather unusable. Because, really, what is the point of even having the bookshelf if it’s not to showcase books? Seems like a waste of money to me. You could simply just paint the wall and call it a day.

Granted, I am a big bookshelf fan and an even bigger book fan. So perhaps it doesn’t irk you as much as it does me. But it did get me thinking about Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Your LMS as the bookshelf

If your company has recently invested in an LMS, you’re not alone. In 2014, this market grew by 21% and hit $2.5 billion. But companies that report being fully satisfied with the value they’re getting from their LMS are not quite as common.

This is where the bookshelf in the home décor magazine comes in. A company’s LMS is like a well-polished bookshelf sitting in your living room, while the content for your LMS is like the mind-enriching books on its virtual shelves.

Yet, I suspect that many a corporate LMS is low on content offerings. Perhaps this is because it’s book owners who buy bookshelves; so the books come first in this equation. But it’s not always in this sequence for a company that wants to provide learning and development for its employees.

Your content as the books

Now, I mentioned earlier that I thought a bookshelf that didn’t effectively showcase its books was a waste of money. In this particular home décor photo, it’s a rather nice, solid-wood bookshelf. For the sake of argument, let’s say that this bookshelf costs $500. To me, that’s a great investment. It’s solid, so it will last for many years to come. And it allows the whole family to pick and choose books easily because they are all organized and accessible (as opposed to stacked in boxes in the basement).

But, actually, the real cost is not in the bookshelf, it’s in the cost of all the books. On the top shelf alone, I can count at least 25 books. If each book costs, say, $20, the top shelf represents $500 worth of books. Multiply that by five shelves and the cost of books on this single bookshelf equals $2,500.

It’s an eye-opener, even to me, to see how much a bookshelf of books is really worth. In our little example here, the books cost four times as much as the bookshelf itself. So really, the significant investment on my part is not in buying the bookshelf, but in buying all the books. (I must have at least $10,000 worth of books in my house! Although, at least I use them — not like my poor gym membership.)

Budgeting for an LMS

If you’re in the market for an LMS, I hope that this might give you some pause. Have you considered content as part of your budget? To achieve full value out of an LMS, you’ll not only need the strategy and expertise to devise learning paths for your organization, which you might have in-house, but you’ll need the content to populate these paths.

At the end of the day, your employees will remember the value of the learning opportunities granted to them, not the technology that enabled it. So it makes sense to ensure that you’re offering quality content that can actually contribute to their development. And, like most things, quality doesn’t come for free.

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