Think You Need a Big Budget to Design Quality eLearning? Think Again!

Without a large budget, elearning is doomed to fail, right? That’s not necessarily true!

Think of your favorite films. Go ahead, list them in your head and visualize them. I’m willing to bet that among your favorite films, there is at least one that was made with a small budget.

Movies created with a budget equivalent to 1% of the average budget for Hollywood blockbusters:

  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Rocky
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Resevoir Dogs
  • Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show

And while most of us are willing to forgive a movie’s lack of special effects or big star names in exchange for a great story or cinematography, we are often unwilling to do so for educational products. Why is this?

I recently took a great elearning course on writing cold emails that was obviously made on a shoe-string budget.

  • The videos were visibly shot from the instructor’s living room – no fancy studio
  • The instructor used a dull slide deck with lots of dead screen time – no fancy design
  • There were no graphics, music, or anything else that would have made the viewing experience more enjoyable – no fancy video production

From this perspective, this course should have been a disaster. Instead, it delivered. Here’s why.

Reason #1: Real-World Scenarios and Actionable Content

Nothing is more engaging than real world scenarios and actionable content. Even though the course wasn’t designed or produced with any real technical sophistication, overall it still followed the “tell, show and do” mentality that Tom Kuhlmann lays out in his post, Three Techniques For Building Effective Online Training.

First, the instructor laid out the greater context, setting me up with a clear end-goal for what I was trying to achieve. Then, the instructor showed me exactly what to do, with caveats for specific situations. And finally, he encouraged me to apply the same techniques to my own cold emails.

By the end of the course, I was able to:

  • Find just about anyone’s email address as long as I could find their first name, last name and the company they work for (crazy!).
  • Understand where my previous cold emails were going wrong and craft emails that got much higher response rates. 
  • Apply actionable scripts to overcome likely obstacles.

Although the course wasn’t able to physically involve me in the process, the scenarios presented were embarrassingly easy to recall from my own past emailing experiences. So despite having no special interactive program or technology, I was engaged by the concrete scenarios and solutions, and therefore able to learn effectively.

Reason #2: Over-Deliver on Value

Delivering value above and beyond someone’s expectations is the key to convincing people to invest in you, time and time again.

Tom Kuhlmann mentions in his free ebook, “The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid e-Learning Pro,” that the best thing you can do in elearning (and in life in general) is to “under-promise and over-deliver.”

Here are few examples where the course I took over-delivered: 

Warren Buffet once said that “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Although Warren was talking about investments, the statement holds true for any product or service. If we strive to provide value above and beyond the price of admission, our customers will be fans for life.

A Big Budget Won’t Save You

So back to Hollywood. When thinking about elearning, it’s often good to remember the blockbusters. High-end animations and special effects are cool, but they don’t make or break a movie; the content does, and elearning is the same.

Although I can’t argue that bigger budgets won’t make things easier, hopefully my shoe-string budget elearning course serves as a reminder that, at the end of the day, high-quality and relevant content is what will turn your students into lifelong fans.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever been impressed by the high quality of a low budget elearning course? If so, what made it stand out in your mind?

Let us know and join the conversation below!

Don’t miss posts #1 and #3 in Taylor’s The eLearning Chronicles series!

Taylor Croonquist is the co-founder of Nuts & Bolts Speed Training which delivers actionable PowerPoint training courses for working professionals who spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours a year using the program.