Tip 13: Cost-cutting

If your boss hasn’t asked you how you’re cutting costs in e-learning yet, it must be because your name is towards the end of the alphabet – because believe us, the conversation is coming. So, there are three quick tips from us for making your e-learning more cost effective.

1. In a commercial LMS vendor relationship? Get out

One of those line items that sits precious in many a training department budget is the LMS annual licence fee. Paying an LMS vendor for their proprietary system is getting more and more like a shopping trip to the old rope emporium. Vendors tend to charge colossal amounts for a service that you can easily get for considerably less by going open source. There are at least 25 open source LMS tools out there. We’d recommend looking at Moodle and Dokeos for starters but there are loads – find out more about them at Kineo Open Source. These tools provide high levels of customisation, the ability to brand specifically to your requirements, and most of them have all the reporting functionality you’ll need. Beyond this they have a range of rich features that beat many of the commercial proprietary LMSs.
If you’re in an ongoing contractual relationship with a commercial LMS vendor, you could do a lot worse than reviewing what a few of these open source tools can do, comparing to your current situation, and asking yourself – or rather them –  just what you’re paying for. It might be the single biggest cost-cutting action you can take this year.

2.   Is your WebEx too web-expensive? Look elsewhere

We’ve talked in previous tips about virtual classroom and webinars, and the cost advantages they provide compared to the hard costs of travel and the opportunity cost of downtime. But let’s go even further – do you even have to pay for the virtual classroom service? Have a look at some open source tools for this too. DimDim is a good place to start. It does most of what a WebEx or an Adobe Connect offers, but at no cost for the basic edition. With DimDim you can:
  • Share presentations
  • Use a whiteboard
  • Screencast your desktop to show any application you have running
  • Use audio
  • Have public and private chats
  • Record sessions
If you’re looking to move more of your training into webinars and virtual classrooms, you should definitely see if you can achieve a double whammy by making sure you don’t pay for the technology either.

3. Survey says: pay less

We find a lot of organisations still paying bewilderingly large sums to organisations to design and run online surveys. This is one area that you should definitely be looking at free and open source tools for. Survey Monkey is a great tool. You can do anything you’d want to in an online survey, and for up to 100 responses it’s free. For unlimited use it’s $20 a month – so pretty close to free. The surveys are very quick to create and with a choice of 15 different question types you have plenty of control.  You can fully customise your survey with the professional version, adding logos and branding it to match your requirements is a doddle. Also worth a look is Lime Survey, which is an open source survey tool and completely free.
So think about it: You could run a webinar using DimDim, record it, put it on a branded Moodle LMS, and run a Survey Monkey survey to ask people what they thought about it, and you won’t have reached for the piggy bank yet. Not a bad start to 2009…