"How many titles are in your training library?"
As a provider of e-learning solutions, I get this question a lot, and people are surprised when I don't give them a number in the thousands. Usually, I refuse to answer entirely because it's not the right question to ask.
The problem is that people have come to equate volume with value. Many vendors advertise thousands of titles as part of their value proposition, and in-house training programs spend a good deal of time focusing on building or purchasing expansive libraries of content.
But in our research, we've found that there are diminishing returns when it comes to the size of a content library. At a certain point, impact matters more than volume, and building the best training programs becomes less a matter of accumulating content and more a matter of organizing it, focusing on core areas, and investing in technology.
To understand why this is, here are three phenomena I've discovered behind those diminishing returns, and how you can avoid them.
Knock Out Decision Paralysis
Vendors in the e-learning space (ourselves included) have discovered that, within any given contract period, only a few hundred titles will be viewed. They tend to be the same title, and most of them will have been accessed by just a handful of employees. This is true whether the overall content library has several hundred titles or several thousand.
Why do employees tend to stick with a short list of content? Decision paralysis is partly to blame. Everyone with cable or satellite TV has run into the issue of having thousands of channels but finding it nearly impossible to choose what to watch. The same thing happens with large content libraries: Employees need to go through a time-consuming process merely to find information that might help them. And when they find items of interest, they often put off viewing and completing a course until they are sure they have made the right decision. When there are thousands of titles available, that decision never gets made.
Good training programs, on the other hand, combat decision paralysis by narrowing down the vast array of options. This can be achieved by implementing organizational tools to help employees hone in on only the topics they need, or simply by offering far fewer titles in your library.
Avoid Topic Overkill
The 80/20 rule applies to massive course inventories: About 80 percent of the content an organization needs is covered by approximately 20 percent of the videos in a given library. This makes sense when you consider that most of the titles in any given library will either be duplicate content or specialized topics.
This means that, in a collection of a few thousand videos, a mere hundred might cover most of your organization's needs. The trick is finding which videos fit the bill. Unfortunately, experts in the e-learning industry often focus on helping companies find the right tools for presenting or authoring content, but rarely talk about finding the right content itself.
The best way to think about the content your organization needs is to start with job descriptions for all of your key roles. Think about the competencies needed for each role, then look for overlapping skills and themes. Focus your search on the most common themes first: We've found that compliance topics and soft skills are at the top of our clients' lists for most-needed courses. Then, find or create the best titles for those skills and invest in them once.
Focus on Helpful Tech
When companies decide where to invest their training dollars, there are basically two options: expand the current selection of titles, or invest in newer technology and delivery methods. Again, many companies assume that more content is better, and so they invest there.
Multimedia tools for video capture, comic-making, storyboarding, mindmapping, and so on can help integrate visuals into training. This in turn makes presentations easier to remember and more likely to influence workplace habits. Tools for posting, organizing, sharing, and commenting on titles can also help employees find the information they need more easily and make connections between the material and their own work situation.
An organization that integrates these into their training programs -- whether through free tools alongside their content or by ensuring their vendor has them built in -- will have a leg up.
Overall, good training programs should offer ways to combat decision paralysis through organizational tools, should focus on the most commonly-needed themes and topics, and should invest in technology to improve learning outcomes. When they do that, the question, "How many titles are in our library?" tends to fall by the wayside.
Ryan Eudy is CEO of ej4, an award-winning e-learning company.