The Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Inventory for eLearning
As an eLearning content developer, you already have your work cut out for you. Between needs analysis, building learning objectives and managing internal (company-based) and external (consultant) resources, you often wonder when you’ll have time to produce the content required for the course!
Well, don’t worry…help is on hand. By following the advice provided below, you’ll not only be able to produce exceptional eLearning courses in record time, but you’ll also come in well within your budget. All you need to do is get organized!
Knowing What You Have
Elearning content developers are not any different than, say, software developers – including the Microsofts and Googles of the world! Some of their best Apps and Operating Systems were built by leveraging content they’ve previously created. Why? Because:
- Already created content does not need to be as exhaustively tested as newly developed material
- Existing content often needs just some basic tweaking and refining to fit well with other newly designed content
- A fresh idea, course or software application can quickly garner inspiration from existing content, leaving developers more time to produce the course instead of going back to the drawing board
For all of these reasons, it makes perfect sense for eLearning content developers to know exactly what they have in their inventory, regarding existing content, before starting out on any new project. The opportunities for reusing and repurposing existing course modules, text, images, and video are endless, once you know exactly what you currently hold in your repository.
Best Practices: How to Conduct a Training Inventory
Here are a few best practices that you can adopt to ensure that you always keep track of your content inventory:
A good start would be to do a company-wide review of all of the existing content resources that might be available. These could be sales brochures, product manuals, PDF’s, PPT presentations, marketing collateral, photographs, videos, and other existing training content.
Next, you need to ensure that all of that material is collected and stored in a central repository. A great training manual residing on someone’s PC, locked behind a password, will be of no use to the company (or to you!) when you need access to it.
The next step in creating your eLearning content inventory is to collate the materials that you have assimilated. A good start would be to use a spreadsheet-based tool to start capturing information about these assets. You may use something that’s freely available online, or you can create your own. In any case, the type of information needed is:
- Name of the content
- Type of media (Text, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, QuickTime video clip, etc.)
- Type of content (categorize by words like “How to…”; “Safety Inspection Policies”; “Sales Training” etc.)
- Created by (individual, groups, external consultant, etc.)
- Date created
- Copyrighted (Can it be used freely; Used by permission; Modified etc.)
- Purpose of creation
- History of use (which course was this content used for, and when; was it delivered on-line, in-class, hybrid)
- Detailed description of contents
- Keywords and tags (for subsequent searches)
While the digital content might seem like the only asset that eLearning content developers should inventory, that’s not entirely true! You should supplement this data with other assets that the company might leverage, including:
- Presentation devices, such as projectors, screens and broadcasting infrastructure
- Training facilities, like classrooms, board rooms, and conference rooms
- Networking equipment, servers, and workstations
- Content Management Systems (CMS), Learning Management Systems (LMS) and eLearning authoring tools that the company might be using
- Details of existing eLearning content development partners, contracts, and agreements in place
Having an inventory of such information will help enhance your effectiveness when it comes to subsequent development and deployment of eLearning content.
Making Use of The Content Inventory
Whenever you start a new eLearning project, the very first thing you should do (once you have a good handle on the requirements), is to browse through your inventory of existing content to search for re-usable content. To do this:
- Sort your list by “Type of Content” and match against your current course needs. For instance, if you are developing a course on Health & Safety, perhaps the “Safety Inspection Policies” content may be of use?
- Match the History of use to see if there are other related digital assets in your inventory that you can also leverage in your course.
- Search your eLearning Content inventory database (spreadsheet) by Type of Media. If you have to develop a board-room-presentation type course, then search for particular types of content, such as PowerPoint presentations or Videos, that you can quickly leverage within this course.
Once you’ve found digital content in your inventory, which you may feel might be of use to you in your next course, pay careful attention to the Copyright aspects of your inventory database. If the content in your repository has copyrights, you need to reach out to the original owners and discuss the use of that content first, before repurposing it.
As part of your content reuse strategy, you should put processes in place to make notes in your inventory database (spreadsheet) on what you re-used/re-purposed the content for, and how you used it (i.e. update the History of use).
There are three significant considerations to making eLearning content inventory pay off for you in the long run:
- Make the inventory accessible to anyone that should have access to it – NOT to everyone across the company!
- Whenever an inventory item is re-used, updated or upgraded, make sure your inventory reflects those changes.
- Put processes in place to ensure the inventory is frequently backed up and copies stored in a secure (off-site) location.
A great idea is to institute an annual eLearning content inventory, where decisions can be made on whether to retire older content or update it for potential re-use with newer operating systems, devices or upcoming applications.