Bespoke Vs “Off the Shelf” E-learning Courses

So you’ve decided that e-learning is the best training route for your business (Good Choice!). With this decision made, you’re now faced with another question, do you choose off the shelf or bespoke content? Before we delve into the pro’s and cons let’s take a quick look at each;

Off the shelf courses are generic in nature, and cover their topics with the mass market in mind. Generally you can visit an e-learning seller, purchase a licence, and sit the course within minutes. There are thousands upon thousands of courses available online, covering almost any topic you can think of (We even have a few ourselves! See here).

Bespoke courses are completely custom designed for the client to meet their exact objectives and specification. These can be designed by in house staff, or by specialist e-learning designers, like Educate Me!

So which is best, and which route should you go? Unfortunately, there’s not a straightforward answer to that question, so let’s breakdown some of the factors that may sway your decision.

Quality training for your business

There’s no doubt that off the shelf courses can be extremely high quality and great learning solutions. However, when it comes to quality, a bespoke course is always going to outperform off the shelf content. Why? The simple answer is bespoke content is specifically designed for your business, ensuring the course meets your exact specification. If there are technical areas to your business workflow, it can be difficult to find suitable off the shelf content, which is where bespoke courses really excel! Off the shelf courses are great, but they might not go into the specific detail your staff require which leaves gaps in their knowledge.

As an example; a generic Manual Handling course might cover the best technique to pick up a heavy box from the floor, but how worthwhile would this be for someone working in the care sector? Surely it would be more beneficial for them to look at more realistic scenarios they might encounter day to day, like helping someone in or out of a chair or bed etc.

Engaging content for staff

Off the shelf courses can sometimes be a little un-engaging for staff. They cater to the mass market, so you can almost guarantee that some of the content won’t be relevant. If your course is branded to your business, includes photos and videos from your premises, your staff will instantly be more interested and engaged in the training. If your staff aren't interested, they won't learn, and ultimately the point of sitting a course is lost.


Without doubt there can be massive differences in cost when you compare off the shelf and bespoke courses. Off the shelf courses are already made, so there's no paying for development costs. Usually there is a set price per licence (or discounted for bulk purchases), and that's it.

With bespoke courses, there are a few areas you will need to consider with regard to cost. First you have the development costs, essentially the cost to design and build your course. You may also have to consider hosting costs if you choose to host your course on a managed learning management system (LMS). When it comes to value for money, there are strong arguments for off the shelf and bespoke courses, with the best option option being decided on a case by case basis.


If you're short of time, off the shelf courses might make more sense as they are finished and ready to go. If you want a bespoke course, but have little time, it is still worth contacting an e-learning designer (like us!) to see what the project turnaround would be. You may be surprised how quickly a bespoke course can be created!

As you can see there are pros and cons to each option, and it's most definitely not a one size fits all scenario. It's important you establish your objectives and have a good look at the options. Should you need any more guidance please get in touch with us to discuss further!

To learn more about our bespoke e-learning design services, click here!

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