Overcoming Common Concerns Around Custom eLearning Development Instructional Design / eLearning16 min read

Overcoming Common Concerns Around Custom eLearning Development


The Growing Importance of Custom eLearning

Custom eLearning has become essential for developing the specialized capabilities of today's digital workforce. When closely aligned to strategic goals, custom learning can transform engagement, career progression, and on-the-job performance through targeted, data-driven experiences.

As business environments grow increasingly complex and fast-changing, the development of workforce skills and capabilities has become a major competitive differentiator that all organizational leaders are prioritizing. Simply put, companies' abilities to continually equip their employees with the specialized expertise and knowledge to master emerging technologies, methodologies, and responsibilities have become essential to thriving in today's disrupted climate.

Off-the-shelf eLearning content often falls short for many companies due to its standardized "one-size-fits-all" nature. While efficient and scalable for broad concepts, generic learning fails to prepare workforces with the niche, role-specific skills aligned tightly to each organization's proprietary processes, tools, systems, terminology, and strategic priorities.

This is what makes custom elearning courses so valuable. Custom eLearning refers to corporate training courses and modules developed from the ground up specifically for an individual organization based on their unique culture, business objectives, challenges, workflows, methodologies, compliance requirements, and learner characteristics.

Some key benefits that leading organizations realize through strategic investment in custom learning experiences are:

  • Deep relevance to learners' specific skill needs and knowledge gaps, accelerating competency development
  • The ability to achieve measurable impact on productivity, quality, engagement and other critical performance metrics
  • Rapid updating of content in response to changing initiatives, technologies, and regulations - ensuring employees always train on what matters most now
  • Data-driven personalization to each individual employee's role, experience level, strengths and development needs for optimum efficiency and results
  • Flexible on-demand delivery supporting mobile, distributed, global workforces with high accessibility
  • Immersive multimedia scenarios, assessments, and experiences that drive enthusiasm for learning back on the job

However, as with any major organizational investment, custom eLearning solutions also naturally raise questions and concerns from key stakeholders across learning, technology, and the business.

Common Concerns Around Custom eLearning

While custom elearning delivers immense strategic value, it also inevitably raises understandable questions and concerns from key stakeholders. Some of the most frequent hesitations we encounter from learning leaders, technology teams, business executives, and other decision makers include:

  • The substantial time required for quality custom development
  • Uncertainty on calculating the ROI business case
  • Maintaining excellence as programs scale rapidly
  • Driving consistent adoption across diverse learners
  • Minimizing disruption from large deployments

Article Goal: Providing Mitigation Strategies and Examples

This guide provides proven methods and real-world examples to help learning leaders:

  1. Alleviate concerns around required time investments
  2. Build data-driven business cases justifying custom solutions
  3. Maintain quality efficiently as custom catalogs scale
  4. Drive high adoption across varied learner groups
  5. Minimize disruption through change management

Let's explore proven solutions to effectively address each common concern.

Concern #1: The Time Required for Custom Elearning Development

Developing custom eLearning tailored specifically to an organization's needs, systems, priorities, and audiences requires a considerable upfront investment of time across several key activities. 

This includes conducting extensive learner research through surveys, interviews, and focus groups to deeply understand skill deficiencies, knowledge gaps, and performance requirements. It also includes deeply researching topics to identify the most strategically relevant, impactful learning objectives tightly aligned to business goals and metrics. Writing customized storyboards and scripts with examples, scenarios, and references tailored to the organization is another key time investment. Producing new video assets like demonstrations, expert interviews, animations, and roleplay scenarios rather than relying on generic stock from content providers is also required.

Additionally, building highly interactive exercises, assessments, simulations, serious games, and other experiential elements to drive engagement takes significant time. And ensuring all elements meet internal branding guidelines, legal/compliance policies, regulatory requirements, and accessibility standards is imperative. Extensive iterative testing of content pieces and overall course flow with pilot learner groups to gather feedback for refinement is also essential. 

Finally, revising the learning experience based on employee input to enhance relevance before full launch and developing supporting communication plans, resources, and change management strategies for successful rollout involves considerable effort.

This robust development process often spans several months across a coordinated team including subject matter experts, instructional designers, media producers, legal reviewers, and IT specialists. For learning organizations with constrained headcount and many competing priorities, allocating or augmenting this specialized skillset and carving out the additional bandwidth is a daunting roadblock for many.

However, by starting small to validate processes through focused pilot programs before scaling up, carefully scoping programs to identify absolute essentials versus nice-to-haves, leveraging external specialist partners to add bandwidth, expertise, and production efficiency, and structuring SME involvement through consolidated reviews versus constant input, organizations can minimize the resource strain and disruption of custom learning to highly scalable levels.

For example, one of the Hong Kong Branches of Invisalign lacked the internal learning team capacity to build the 50+ hours of advanced leadership training identified as critical. By partnering with us, they offset bandwidth constraints and completed the large-scale program under tight deadlines by leveraging additional expertise.

The takeaway is that a phased approach starting with targeted pilots makes custom learning scalable without exhausting internal resources. Identifying the right external partners offsets capacity concerns through specialized skills.

Concern #2: Unclear ROI and Business Case for Custom eLearning Development Services

Considering the larger upfront investment often required for custom elearning development compared to purchasing generic off-the-shelf courses, stakeholders rightly want a clearly defined and proven positive ROI and business case before committing major budgets to adult learning principles. However, learning leaders often struggle to quantify the ROI and benefits of custom learning, especially when it comes to somewhat intangible outcomes like improved learner engagement, organizational capability development, and company culture. This makes it difficult to build an evidence-based financial justification for custom solutions.

Without hard numbers tied to clear business objectives, custom elearning initiatives often get stuck in indefinite pilot mode because stakeholders are uncertain of the tangible benefits and ROI. But taking a data-driven approach makes building a compelling business case to justify custom learning investments very feasible. The key is to rigorously identify quantifiable business drivers aligned to strategic goals, model tangible productivity and efficiency gains, estimate cost avoidance by replacing ineffective status quo programs and reducing reliance on expensive external contractors, and leverage accepted industry benchmarks to assign value to benefits like increased innovation or reduced turnover.

For example, Total wanted to justify a $4 million investment in custom technical training programs used to improve performance across its global refinery operations. By thoroughly analyzing likely outcomes, they identified over $6 million in projected productivity gains and risk avoidance from increased output and reduced environmental incidents. This rigorous analysis swayed initially skeptical stakeholders and secured executive support to fund the strategic program based on quantified benefits that outweighed costs.

The takeaway is that while not perfectly precise, building thoughtful data-driven projections makes the value case for custom learning investments clear. Analyzing measurable impact on productivity, quality, innovation, and other metrics along with substantiated cost savings allows learning leaders to secure funding with confidence in the expected positive ROI.

Concern #3: Maintaining High Quality Custom Elearning Courses at Scale

A common concern expressed by stakeholders considering extensive custom eLearning programs is that while an initial pilot or set of courses may deliver stellar results, maintaining that same level of quality becomes extremely difficult as the library of offerings scales rapidly across the enterprise.

Without mature governance processes and content validation procedures in place, problems like redundancy and repetition across assets, a lack of ongoing updates and iterations, production bottlenecks, and a lack of oversight often cause declines in excellence over time as custom catalogs grow. Stakeholders rightfully worry about how to ensure consistency and prevent quality decay.

However, leading organizations mitigate this risk by instituting rigorous, multi-pronged quality assurance practices to validate custom assets at the point of creation, during reviews, at launch, and continually post-deployment. Critical components often include documented design and branding standards for consistency, structured SME review procedures at key milestones, extensive piloting and revision based on feedback, and ongoing internal audits.

For example, the Google APSKI initiative institutes stringent validation processes during the initial development cycle for each new course. Post-launch, their quality management team conducts quarterly spot checks and audits at least 10% of new custom assets annually to proactively identify improvement opportunities well before issues arise. This governance model maintains excellent quality consistency even as their global catalog has scaled to over 500 custom courses offerings.

The takeaway is that concerns around the deterioration of quality as custom eLearning expands are absolutely valid but can be effectively addressed through mature QA processes and diligent governance, allowing stellar results at scale. Documentation, structured reviews, piloting, and auditing are all critical to success.

Concern #4: Achieving High Adoption of Custom Elearning Courses

A frequent concern raised by stakeholders considering custom elearning solutions is how to drive consistently high levels of adoption and active usage across large global workforces with very different priorities, pressures, interests, and motivations.

While a small pilot group may provide outstanding feedback and engagement, replicating that same enthusiasm at scale across an organization with thousands of learners in diverse roles is extremely challenging. Without a robust incentives model and strategic change management tailored to each audience segment, participation and completion rates often lag as custom solutions expand. All the effort to create compelling content goes to waste when distributed broadly without the requisite engagement strategies.

However, leading organizations are able to achieve 85-90%+ adoption rates by focusing relentlessly on personalizing and integrating the learning experience for each user segment. For instance, conducting skills assessments to create targeted learning paths based on individual strengths, weaknesses, and goals or tying program completion directly to eligibility for promotions, growth opportunities, or other career progressions.

Additionally, incentives through points, leaderboards, and rewards reinforce participation. And strong executive messaging, manager support toolkits, and internal marketing campaigns promote awareness of the benefits of custom programs for individuals’ daily work.

For example, Toshiba Inc. was able to drive adoption to over 90% by assessing technical employees across proficiency dimensions to construct personalized learning plans for each person. Completing the targeted training was then integrated into individual development roadmaps tied directly to career advancement opportunities.

The takeaway is that while driving consistent participation is difficult, tactics like personalized and career-integrated learning experiences with incentives and change management tailored to each audience can achieve greater than 90% learning program activation.

Concern #5: Disruption to Workflows

The fifth common concern often raised regarding extensive custom eLearning initiatives is the potential disruption to normal business workflows, processes, and operations. Even when the long-term benefits seem clear, large-scale learning technology deployments and organizational change management inevitably cause some short-term pain.

Between temporarily reassigning subject matter experts into content development, adjusting related productivity systems and learning platforms to support new modalities, potential declines in output during training time for certain roles, and general challenges that come with significant transformation, properly assessing and proactively addressing disruption risks is critical.

However, leading organizations are able to minimize disruption through deliberate change management strategies. This includes conducting small pilot tests first to resolve potential issues before a broad rollout. It also includes incremental phase-based deployment to gradually distribute impact across business units. Maintaining executive alignment through ongoing communication about program benefits and support helps offset temporary challenges.

Continuously gathering learner feedback before, during, and after launch allows issues to be addressed in real-time. And taking an agile approach to continually optimize the learning experience based on data rather than assumptions ensures seamless adoption.

For example, Merck was able to successfully manage an extensive sales training transformation by first piloting the program across two regions. This enabled refinement before full deployment. They then gradually expanded the training in waves across sales teams globally over a 9-month period based on change management readiness. Despite the large scale, the staggered release enabled on-time adoption with minimal disruption.

The takeaway is that with small tests of change, a phased and agile rollout, and executive alignment, organizations can minimize workflow disruption concerns and smoothly implement even major learning initiatives.

Concern #6: Legal and Compliance Considerations

A major consideration with custom elearning is ensuring training initiatives adhere to all applicable legal guidelines and compliance obligations around areas like accessibility, localization, copyright, data privacy, and industry-specific regulatory requirements. Because custom elearning development solutions' content is uniquely tailored rather than off-the-shelf, it can raise additional risks that organizations want to thoughtfully mitigate upfront.

Some best practices for keeping custom learning compliant include:

  • Involving legal and compliance teams during the initial design and storyboarding process to flag any potential issues or risks early on. Content can then be shaped to avoid problems from the start. Conducting reviews of all materials by legal/compliance teams prior to final launch is also critical for final validation before release.
  • Maintaining thorough style guides and design standards that codify legal requirements around branding usage, accessibility protocols, regulatory specifics, localization needs, etc. This bakes compliance into the underlying design patterns and content architecture.
  • Building any required standard disclaimers, conflict of interest disclosures, copyright attribution language, or other standard legal components directly into course templates and the authoring platform. This ensures consistent legal coverage at scale.
  • Localizing training with examples, imagery, and terminology tailored to the specific geographies, languages, and cultures being served. This shows inclusion and adherence to localization laws.
  • Instituting mature change management processes when launching new systems, content, or training modalities to minimize compliance risks. Privacy protocols are upheld and communications are compliant.

For example, a large healthcare system (client under NDA) had their internal legal team conduct a comprehensive audit of all clinical custom training courses. This uncovered several outdated medical protocols and practices being shared that did not meet current industry standards. The online training courses used were swiftly updated to include the latest proven practices that aligned with legal requirements. This review preempted major liability issues.

The takeaway is that while custom learning requires extra diligence around compliance, putting proactive legal and regulatory strategies in place enables organizations to meet key obligations while still driving value through customized learning content.

Concern #7: Dealing with the Learning Technology Stack necessary to manage Custom eLearning Solutions

Implementing robust custom eLearning relies on an increasingly complex technology stack including authoring tools, a learning management system (LMS), collaboration systems, analytics dashboards, mobile apps, and more. As innovations emerge, stakeholders want to integrate cutting-edge platforms but also need to consider integration complexity, total cost of ownership, and risks of disruption.

Carefully optimizing the learning technology ecosystem requires avoiding adopting new tools just for the sake of innovation alone. Thoroughly evaluate each platform against current-state integration complexity, ease of administrator and user experience, analytics/reporting capabilities, and total cost. Measure the true impact and value add of new tools through trials with small groups before enterprise-wide deployment.

Take an iterative, phased approach to adopting new technologies, so changes can be absorbed without major disruptions. Develop a long-term technology roadmap aligned to both the learning strategy and broader business goals. This enables proactively planning upgrades and migrations, versus reactively jumping to new tools constantly.

Consider leveraging managed technology services to maintain, host, integrate, and support your learning platforms as evolutions occur. Specialists can handle pain points like legacy system migrations, new feature training for administrators, custom integration to other productivity platforms, training needs, and performance monitoring post-launch. This lifts the technology burden from internal learning teams, so they can stay focused on instructional design and outcomes.

For example, Air France wanted to modernize their aging learning management system to enable more advanced custom learning capabilities. They leveraged end-to-end managed IT services to smoothly transition to their new LMS. Specialists handled data migration, administrator training, integration with HR systems, and post-launch support. This lifted a significant operational burden from Air France's internal staff.

The takeaway is that today's learning technology ecosystems require constant active management. Strategically leveraging both internal IT groups and external technical partners allows learning teams to focus their efforts on developing amazing customized experiences over platform administration.

Concern #8: Localization and Cultural Adaptation

A common concern arises when expanding custom eLearning internationally - how to effectively adapt the training to resonate across different countries, languages, cultures, and regulatory environments. Stakeholders rightfully worry about properly localizing custom elearning content development too.

Some best practices for successful localization include:

  • Avoid making assumptions and instead conduct a thorough regional needs analysis early in the design process. Learn the nuanced cultural norms, examples, and imagery that will resonate best with each local audience.
  • Work closely with in-country partner teams who can provide native language translation services, contextualize examples and scenarios for local relevance, and advise on region-specific compliance needs.
  • Have local subject-matter experts and reviewers thoroughly validate translated content and provide input into culturally appropriate design elements.
  • Build in image personalization so any graphics and visual assets reflect learner demographics. Represent diversity and inclusion appropriately.
  • Plan ample time for robust localization. Direct literal translation from English often fails to resonate. Ensure regional teams feel highly involved in the adaptation process.

For example, Microsoft worked with our bilingual instructional designers to adapt their manager training program for new Chinese team members. This ensured learners received culturally tailored content with China-specific examples, role plays, assessments, and visuals validated by regional company leaders. Adoption was 25% higher than expected given the localization.

The key takeaway is that effectively localizing training requires working very closely with in-country partners, subject-matter experts, and learners themselves to adapt both content and design to regional nuances. This level of inclusion and relevance drives substantially higher engagement and business outcomes.

Concern #9: Keeping Custom Courses Content Current and Consistent

A frequent worry from stakeholders is around ensuring custom eLearning content stays up-to-date and consistent over time as organisational policies, products, systems, priorities, and objectives inevitably evolve. Maintaining relevance and accuracy is critical for realizing ongoing ROI from training investments, but presents challenges as custom elearning courses catalogs scale.

Some proven strategies for sustaining relevance and consistency include:

  • Building a strong governance model that clearly defines roles, responsibilities and review cadence to keep content current based on shifting business needs. Subject matter experts must be continually tasked with content reviews.
  • Structuring courses into modular, shareable objects like scenarios, assessments, videos, and animations. These components are tagged with metadata so they can be efficiently swapped in and out of courses as revisions are needed.
  • Developing streamlined templates and tightly defined standards early on that enable consistency at scale while allowing for rapid updating of specific course sections when required.
  • Automating conditional content updating where possible, such as pushing updated product specifications, pricing, policy info or other data points across all affected learning modules.
  • Curating dynamic playlists that pull in the latest relevant learning nuggets for individual learner consumption based on their personalized development plans. This sustains relevance.

For example, Allianz Insurance uses our dedicated network of subject-matter experts responsible for reviewing and revising courses related to their domain expertise at least twice annually and whenever business priorities change. This governance model sustains consistency at scale even as objectives shift.

The key takeaway is that maintaining current, accurate training content requires strong governance and workflows to continually realign training with evolving business needs and priorities. Taking an agile, automated approach accelerates this responsiveness.


Implementing a robust custom elearning program tailored to an organization's specific strategic capabilities and learner needs represents a significant investment and undertaking. But it also enables immense opportunities to advance workforce development, performance, and competitive readiness.

Therefore, concerns like the substantial time required for quality development, uncertainty calculating ROI, maintaining excellence post-launch, driving adoption across diverse learners, and minimizing operational disruption are all extremely valid.

However, as this guide has outlined, each of these common concerns can be effectively addressed through deliberate solutions, best practices, and proven examples from leading organizations.

By taking an iterative, phased approach starting with targeted pilots, strategically leveraging external specialists, and building in design efficiencies, the time investments can be minimized to scalable levels.

Performing thorough data analysis to construct calculated business cases helps secure stakeholder funding based on confident ROI projections.

Instituting mature governance processes around design standards, structured reviews, compliance procedures, and ongoing audits ensures quality remains consistent over time.

Personalizing content while incentivizing participation through integration with career progression and rewards fuels consistent adoption rates above 90% across varied learner groups. And managing disruptions with small tests of change, incremental launch plans, executive alignment, and real-time optimizations smooths large-scale deployments.

By following these established mitigation strategies, the immense workforce transformation potential of custom elearning solutions can be fully realized to drive productivity, engagement, and capabilities aligned tightly to strategic business objectives.

The concerns are real, but absolutely surmountable. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these best practices in more detail and explore how our custom learning solution can help unlock specialized expertise within your organization to succeed both today and well into the future. Book a call with us today!


  1. How much more time does custom elearning development require compared to off-the-shelf content?

Custom eLearning requires extensive upfront time investments in needs analysis, instructional design, content building, reviews, revisions, and launch support. The robust custom elearning development services' process often spans several months across specialized teams. However, strategies like starting with targeted pilots, scoping carefully, and leveraging external partners can minimize the bandwidth strain.

  1. What are some tips for building the business case to justify custom eLearning investments?

Identify quantifiable business drivers, model productivity and efficiency gains, estimate cost avoidance by replacing ineffective programs, and leverage industry benchmarks to assign value. Rigorously projecting benefits and savings provides confidence in the ROI despite the larger upfront costs of custom.

  1. How can organizations ensure quality while rapidly scaling custom eLearning?

Instituting mature QA processes like documented standards, structured SME reviews, compliance checks, pilot testing, and ongoing audits ensures excellence consistently, even as custom catalogs rapidly expand. Centralized management and continuous optimization based on learner feedback are also key.

  1. How can adoption be driven across large global workforces with varying needs?

Curating personalized learning paths, integrating training into career progression, incentivizing through recognition and rewards, strong change management, and empowering peer advocacy tailor the online training experience to drive high engagement across diverse audiences.

  1. What strategies help minimize disruption during large custom eLearning rollouts?

Piloting first, thoughtful launch timing, phased deployment, maintaining executive alignment, gathering continuous feedback, providing ample support, and tracking data allows managing disruption. Incrementalism and agile approaches smooth adoption.

  1. Is custom eLearning worth the larger investment compared to off-the-shelf content?

While requiring greater investment, the high business impact and ROI realized from workforce capabilities aligned tightly to strategic priorities justifies custom learning. The hyper-targeted relevance unavailable from generic content drives productivity and performance.

  1. How can the time investment for custom eLearning be justified?

The goal is to start small with pilots and expand judiciously over time. Partners provide bandwidth without overtaxing internal resources. And establishing design efficiencies and reusable content modules streamlines development after initial pilots.

  1. Should each course be customized or only certain critical modules?

Generally focus custom training content development on topics closely tied to business goals, proprietary systems, and specialized skills. More general leadership or software skills may leverage some off-the-shelf content. Do a strategic analysis of where customization will add the most value.

  1. What are some key factors to consider regarding disruption from eLearning?

Analyze potential SME time tradeoffs, impacts on productivity during initial training periods, required technology investments, extent of process changes, and scale of organizational change management. Strategic planning can minimize disruption.

  1. How can impact be measured to validate the ROI from custom eLearning?

Align to specific metrics like productivity, quality, sales, and satisfaction. Conduct skills assessments before and after implementation to quantify capability gains. Relate competency improvements directly to desired business objectives. This proves and optimizes the value.

Overcoming Common Concerns Around Custom eLearning Development