Implementing an eLearning solution can be a daunting proposition for many businesses and associations. Whether they need to upgrade an existing system or launch a new program from scratch, organizations face a number of difficult questions. Which learning management system (LMS) should they use? How will they develop and deliver course content? What is the best way to track and measure engagement? The decisions made during this process can have a profound impact on an organization’s long-term health, which only increases the pressure to get things right the first time.
What Is an eLearning Consultant?
Fortunately, launching an eLearning program doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. Securing an experienced and capable eLearning consultant can help organizations avoid common mistakes while also identifying the best tools and processes for a successful learning strategy. In very simple terms, the consultant helps to solve problems by providing advice and guidance. This could be as straightforward as providing recommendations on how to implement a new LMS platform to as complex as overseeing the creation and implementation of multiple virtual learning courses.
An eLearning consultant typically comes in one of two forms:
- Internal eLearning Consultant: These specialists are typically employed within the organization to provide ongoing guidance and strategic execution. They not only help identify specific learning needs, but also oversee the teams or external vendors building the solutions that deliver them.
- External eLearning Consultant: More in line with the traditional consulting model, these consultants are contracted to engage with an organization for a limited period of time. They evaluate existing technology and processes before providing recommendations that will enhance eLearning capabilities.
Regardless of their relationship to an organization, eLearning consultants will typically perform many of the same tasks, which could include developing new continuing education strategies, identifying appropriate technology or software tools, assessing the efficacy of existing eLearning systems, or developing new courses and content assets.
How Instructional Design Consulting Works
Instructional design is a specific service that many, but not all, eLearning consultants offer. It entails the actual creation of learning materials and the courses that utilize them. While instructional design requires a great deal of subject matter expertise and best practices for education, it also incorporates the latest trends in user experience technology and data reporting.
Far from simply designing a course, these eLearning consultants also know how to build learning systems that promote beneficial engagement. Designing a course that delivers basic information and then tests participants might be a good way assessing what they’re retained, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to apply what they’ve learned. Good instructional design builds a learning ecosystem that reinforces specific behaviors connected to meaningful results and measurable goals.
When Do You Need an eLearning Consultant?
While there are many reasons why an organization might choose to bring in an eLearning consultant, there are a few situations where they’re most likely to do so.
Implementing a New eLearning Strategy
Launching a brand new eLearning program can be a massive undertaking, even for smaller associations and companies. There are serious technical and methodological questions that need to be addressed, not to mention the matter of individual credentialing and regulatory requirements. An eLearning consultant can help organizations select the appropriate LMS technology, formulate courses that will provide meaningful benefits to learners, and implement best practices for assessing engagement and performance.
Expanding Existing eLearning Programming
Many organizations make the mistake of thinking they can expand their current eLearning solution by simply delivering more of the same. But learning needs change as they grow, and accommodating those demands often requires entirely new technologies and learning experiences to be integrating into existing programs. Experienced consultants can help organizations upgrade their LMS capabilities and build more complex course offerings. They can also provide guidance for organizing virtual, multi-track learning events that are engaging and beneficial for participants.
Evaluating an Underperforming eLearning Program
As with many other forms of consulting, eLearning consultants are often brought in to determine why a learning solution isn’t meeting expectations. Perhaps the costs of training remain stubbornly high or overall engagement levels are lower than expected. While it’s usually easy to see that a learning solution isn’t working as intended, it’s often much more difficult to understand why. An eLearning consultant can assess the available data and evaluate user feedback to identify problem areas impacting performance.
How to Evaluate eLearning Consulting Firms
When assessing an external eLearning consultant, there are a few important areas to consider before making a final decision. The first step should always be determining exactly what sort of consulting service is needed. If an organization simply needs to choose new LMS technology to deliver existing eLearning coursework, engaging a consulting firm that specializes primarily in instructional design is probably not an ideal fit.
Another important factor to consider is the firm’s area of expertise. While there are many common eLearning practices that will apply to all types of organizations, most industries have unique educational requirements that must be taken into consideration. A legal association, for instance, faces very different credentialing and compliance standards than a healthcare association. When an organization is considering an engagement with an eLearning consulting firm, it needs to make sure that the firm has relevant experience its industry and understands the learning goals associated with it.
It’s also crucial to think about how an organization’s education and development needs will change in the future. Partnering with an eLearning firm that’s capable of servicing those evolving requirements by implementing additional LMS tools and designing new coursework ensures that learning systems will keep pace with demand. That growth potential and flexibility is essential for associations that need to manage member certifications and credits while also providing personalized learning paths that keep engagement high.
Enhance Your eLearning Strategy with Freestone
Designed specifically for the needs of associations, the Freestone LMS helps you take the learning experience online with a combination of interactive live and on-demand course content. Featuring an intuitive interface that streamlines every aspect of the learning process, the award-winning platform allows you to deliver live webinars, webcasts, and dynamic content that keeps learners connected and engaged.
Our eLearning consultants work closely with your association to build unique course material that meets the specific needs of your members. To learn more about Freestone’s industry-leading capabilities and our instructional design consulting services, contact our team today.