This is a question and topic we in the LMS business run into on a regular basis. There are different schools of thought on this and varying opinions, of course, which I imagine may be slanted towards whichever side of the fence you work for, considering which is better: an LMS company that provides content or one that doesn’t.
From my research into different LMS practices, I am going to objectively offer insight into my views on this subject. I come from a company that doesn’t specifically offer content built into our LMS. We do, however, offer options for catalogs to our customers that deem eLearning (SCORM content) mandatory to meet their organization’s training needs. We have partners who are experts in this area.
Here is some food for thought that might offer valuable insight when deciding this nagging question:
Point one is just what I mentioned above, we have partners who do nothing but content. They are experts in their field and rightfully so. You wouldn’t go to a mechanic who specializes in repairing high-end European cars because he is going to also throw in….”umm let’s say” free lessons in how to be a sports car driver! Just because it’s kind of related to his field because there is a car involved doesn’t mean he has any idea what he is doing on a race track with that car. The same analogy stands for LMS companies who offer free content in their LMS.
They know the LMS business but you wouldn’t expect them to be experts in the area of course content related to you and your industry or business. You could end up with loads of free stuff (catalogs) that have nothing to do with what you need or want and are of little benefit to you or your organization. The LMS Company understands you have a need for content and wants to entice you with a free offering. Personally I want them to be an expert in that LMS and make sure that is going to fit exactly my company needs rather than trying to pose as an expert content provider for my field. I don’t need them to be a “Jack of all trades”, just the Master of one: their LMS.
Ok. So that was my view on point one. Are you with me so far? Good! Let’s move on.
The next LMS content misnomer is free built-in content. Kids let’s be honest. We, as adults, know there is no such thing as a free lunch. There is always SOME type of catch. In essence, it’s kind of like a magic trick, a slight of hand, if you will. It’s sort of a “Look over here and don’t pay attention to the hidden costs behind the curtain” type of thing. But from what I have seen these costs are passed down to the customer somewhere, someplace, somehow. The customer just doesn’t know how to find it and maybe blinded by the fact that they are getting course content for “FREE”. Many times these free courses have been stockpiled by the LMS and just aren’t relevant to your company’s business needs.
MS PowerPoint is one example. While I am sure it’s helpful for many employees to know PowerPoint, I don’t think you’re going to push out mandatory training to your staff on PowerPoint. In fact, you can already find multiple free PowerPoint training videos on YouTube. But this is generally the kind of built-in content you can expect for free. Anything that is specific to YOU, YOUR industry, or YOUR Business model, nine times out of ten isn’t going to come in a COTS package.
There is a reason companies whose sole purpose is to deliver course catalogs and content for eLearning are a thriving industry. This takes expertise and dedication to developing specialized courses and delivering that content to provide to the consumer. Content needs are usually very business, industry, and regulation specific. LMS companies just can’t logistically provide those free of charge. It’s simply not feasible for them stay up on all of the compliance regulations and catalogs. That would represent a considerable investment of time and resources, with associated costs. If they did this, it certainly wouldn’t come to you, the customer, for free on their LMS. That company would not be in business very long if they were giving that kind of information away.
If an LMS is providing you with very industry-specific content, then they are inflating your cost per user, or charging you by how much content you add to your Platform once you’re under contract. There are numerous ways these costs are hidden or inflated to cover content free inclusion into an LMS.
So in closing, my advice to you as the consumer is to be mindful and precise in evaluating your true needs for your course catalog. Don’t get taken in by the word “Free.” Sometimes it’s better to partner with an expert content provider in their field to get the content for your LMS. Spend a little more to be able to get what you, your company, and your organization can actually use to better your training and keep your employees on the cutting edge of your business field and industry. Your employees deserve it and your company will profit from it in the long run.