Is this how you arrive at your project budgets?

“I promise, it’s not us!”. Let’s meet the common Scapegoat:

Don’t we hear the following statements very often?

“The training wasn’t very effective since we had very small budgets and couldn’t do a lot of stuff we wanted to.”

“We couldn’t afford good quality animations in our eLearning since this is a low-budget project and hence the impact is not great”.

Being a freelancer, most of the times I get to work on projects with very small budgets. In fact, a lot of my clients have an opening statement that goes like this “this is a low-budget project. We do not have many funds, but we’ll try to do our best to make it effective.” The first point to be noted here. Budgets may not necessarily have a great impact on the learning experience as long as you’re not the Master of Resource Utilization. In fact, it is the biggies that often fail to impress. The best example would be the recent “Justice League” feature film which turned out to be the lowest-grossing DC universe movie ever.

It seems the easiest thing to do is to throw the blame on budgets whenever a training fails. But is this justified? Let’s see if there any other culprits responsible.

Free Background Music? Sure, why not!

Do you know what’s more important than the budget allocated for your project? The way you’re going to spend each penny out of it. Just yesterday, I was watching an explainer video on YouTube created by an edtech startup. While I loved the discussed topic, I noticed that the voice in the video is not very clear. The reason behind this is that maybe a professional microphone is not used for recording (which can be understood since it’s a small startup) and above

this, a background music has been added, which kept taking me away from hearing the voices. Being an ID, I couldn’t stop myself from contacting the people behind the video. When I told them the voices in the video aren’t clear, they replied, “we’re sorry but we couldn’t afford a good quality microphone. Hence, the quality isn’t that great”. I suggested that they remove the background music and see if it does any good. Guess what! It did make a huge difference. The voice is loud & clear and most importantly, the message you wanted to pass is going straight to the audience in an even more efficient way without the music.

Check out this video from IBM Think Academy:

Do you seriously think IBM couldn’t afford better music than this? The question is “Do we need one?”.

$0.99 Stock Images? Oh, I love them!

I love GoAnimate! I recommend it to most of my clients. But can everyone afford it? Maybe not. So, what do we do? What’s the next best thing? The most commonly used theory when someone cannot afford something costly is to try to mimic it with a cheaper alternative. While GoAnimate itself is a cheaper alternative to complex Flash-based character animations, it’s funny that we try to get it a lot cheaper using stock images.

But I don’t like it when someone says, “let’s just use characters from stock images and try to add a wonderfully emotional voice over (since its in-house and free) over these images with limited emotions (happy, sad, neutral, angry)”. I have nothing against stock images, except that they need to be used in the right place in the right manner. As we know stock images provide you with fewer options to choose from for your courses and above this, if we try to somehow forcibly suit the images in our stock library (the ones you’ve purchased for your previous project and the one before that) you’re only making it worse for your learners.

Remember that in an eLearning screen, your media is either relevant to your content or it’s just not. There’s no middle ground here.

So, don’t we use stock images at all? Not really. Stock image sites are like Google search engine with even lesser intelligence. It provides you with literally what you search for. Our learners are now experienced enough to walk into a bar and then point at the wall & say, “Hey! There are our learning objectives”. You get what I’m saying? You search for objectives – they give you dart boards. But the “THEY” here, are not IDs, are they? You read what your objectives are, figure out what the goal of the program is and then use that term to search for an even more relevant image.

What can be done to get a better-quality output from a low-budget eLearning?

1. Choose Relevancy over Availability: It doesn’t matter if you have a huge library of resources from your previous courses. What matters the most is how many of them are relevant to your current project.

  • Relevant + Available = Use it
  • Relevant + Not Available = See if there’s a way to get it or else ignore.
  • Not Relevant + Available = A big NO

2. Do not spend it all: Just because it is called a “low-budget” eLearning, you do not have to spend everything you have to get the best quality output. No matter what the budget of the course is, spend each penny wisely. You got to be even more careful when your budgets are low because most of the time, you’ll end up purchasing irrelevant/mediocre stuff which you can do without. Instead of spending little amount on every screen, try to identify places where learners could really use something good and spend your money only on those. Then, with the same money, you could get some good stuff.

3. Simplicity never even killed a cat: Grandeur might impress your Boss/Clients, but not necessarily Learners. Nothing looks better than a simple eLearning screen with well-written content. You may want to impress your clients by using those visually rich media even though they’re paying you less and hence prove to them that you’re doing your best. But the fact here is that you’re not. Instead of overwhelming the learners or confusing them with unnecessary grandeur. Try to keep it simple and to the point.

A while ago, I was reading an article from an edupreneur who wrote “I like designing the courses instead of selling them based on commercial calculations. According to me, eLearning is a creative field and all we are creative artists of developing eLearning content”. While I agree that eLearning is a creative domain, I say commercials are what differentiates us from an artist working on an indefinite timeline to his utmost creativity with unlimited resources (inside the brain).

To conclude, budgets should have little influence on learning effectiveness if you know:

  • your resources,
  • how to utilize them, and most importantly
  • how not to.

One of the questions asked in my recently launched L&D exclusive social platform triggered me to write this post. I hope you found it useful. Have something to add? Please use the comments section.