Custom built or off-the-shelf, coursework pros and cons

If your organization has recently obtained a learning management system (LMS), or about to, there is no doubt you are thinking a lot about how you are going to obtain all your courses. One crucial decision is deciding between custom built or purchasing off-the-shelf courseware.. Reviewing the pros and cons of each will help you decide which option is the best fit for your business.


Custom Built Courseware

As the name suggests, custom courseware is built for your organizational challenges. It is designed specifically for you and, when utilized correctly, it can provide you with the perfect solution for your training challenges.


  • Built to exact specifications
  • Can be modified as your needs evolve
  • Complete ownership and control


  • More time to develop
  • More upfront costs to develop

Additionally, it will take time. If you are in the market for something quick and easy, custom courseware may simply not be for you. It really is a long-term solution wherein you will face a development phase that can last several months, which, while eventually delivering a great course, simply might be too long a time frame for your situation. Once the content is developed to your needs, you will own it and can implement it thereafter in whatever fashion best fits the environment. It also means that while you do have the upfront costs and time to develop the courses, after this, the only cost is the maintenance and updates. With custom designs you can meet every requirement necessary, even as those requirements mature or develop. Custom courseware can be easily modified and as such it can be expanded concurrently with business growth or business changes.

Who is it best suited for?

Custom courseware is best suited for those who have the time to wait for development, the funding to cover the initial investment, and truly want ownership over something that can be customized and modified.


Purchasing Off-The-Shelf Courses

With off-the-shelf options, you can get very high-quality courseware that is ready to load and use immediately. However, the key is, do these purchased courses meet your training needs? For generic topics like business or software skills, there is a very good chance they will. However, if the requirements are more specific to your business, they probably will not.


  • Fast
  • Lower initial cost
  • High quality


  • Will be more generic and not cover your specific training requirements
  • Difficult or impossible to modify
  • Typically not branded to your organization

In general, if the pre-built off-the-shelf courses meet your training needs, then you will be able to get better quality for less cost – and able to start your training program very quickly. The downside is the courseware might not meet all of your training requirements. To that end most off-the-shelf courses cannot be modified or branded for you.

As with any product sold in a competitive market, the vendor assumes all the upfront development cost and will usually invest in producing high quality. Their investment is rewarded by then being able sell the courses to a large audience. Consequently, you can typically get very good quality with pre-built course products at a very reasonable recurring cost. Off-the-shelf courseware is faster than custom courseware. They are packaged and designed for quick installation and use. You can be up and running in a matter of days.

Who is it best suited for?

Off-the-shelf courses are best suited for those who have more generic training requirements, need something fast, and want to keep their upfront costs low.


Finding The Right Fit

Of course, one size does not fit all. Once you have analyzed your training requirements, you may discover that much of what you need can be best purchased as off-the-shelf courses that are ready to go. You may also discover that there are some topics that are specific enough to your situation that they must be built as custom courses. Regardless of what your mix is, it can help to have professionals on your side to give you advice regarding what is possible for both.

At HireRoad, we help our customers with both. We have very good relationships with courseware providers such as EJ4 and OpenSesame (a content aggregator) and can provide an analysis of your needs and make suggestions on off-the-shelf course options. We also have an award-winning courseware development team that consists of creative talent, instructional designers, and technical experts with many years of experience.

We have honed our processes and technology to maximize quality and minimize hassle and cost for custom courseware. We know what it takes to develop great eLearning solutions.

Whatever you decide, HireRoad is here to help, contact us today to see how.