Last updated: 05.03.18

What type of e-learning is best for housing providers?

In the last few years, e-learning has gone from being a relatively new concept to a mainstream fixture of modern approaches to training within the housing sector.

Aided by recent advances in technology and connectivity, organisations across the UK are embracing the added convenience and reduced costs provided by digital learning platforms that can be accessed any time and from any device.

However, the ever-growing range of e-learning solutions can sometimes leave training managers with difficult decisions to make regarding which option will work best for their organisation. Many housing associations find that developing a bespoke training programme specifically for the needs of their workforce or residents delivers the greatest benefit, while others yield similar results from off-the-shelf solutions.

So, which of these two approaches will work best for your housing association? The answer depends on a number of factors.

The pros and cons of off-the-shelf courses

For many, off-the-shelf e-learning solutions will provide everything that is needed and more – without the requirement to pay extra for extensive customisation.

There are undeniable benefits of off-the-shelf e-learning solutions. If they are designed well, this form of training can support your organisation and workforce in a variety of ways. As ready-made e-learning courses are ready to buy, organisations are able to get up and running with the bare minimum of setup time. The content, look and feel, and the assessment have all been created by a trusted provider, with your sector in mind.

Such solutions can be ideal when providing training on relatively general subjects, as the courses will have been designed by experts to align with industry best practice and compliance standards; since they're also much more affordable, they're often favoured by smaller housing associations with less to spend.

However, the inevitable trade-off is that off-the-shelf solutions will not be tailored to fit the specific needs of your business model and workflow, meaning the content may not necessarily meet your training goals as precisely as a course designed in-house. If you anticipate that your requirements are too specific for an off-the-shelf option to address, then a bespoke approach may be more suitable for your organisation.

The pros and cons of bespoke training

The single biggest benefit of a custom-built training programme is the relevance it will have to your housing association. With a bespoke option, you'll be able to tailor every aspect of the course – from the content and the learning materials through to the choice of vocabulary and the values it embodies – to your individual corporate needs.

Because your organisation will have full ownership of a bespoke course, it will be possible to make changes, updates and revisions when necessary. It also means the course can be provided to any number of employees and remain in use for as long as you need it.

However, companies that choose to go down this route should be prepared for higher upfront costs and time spent getting the solution up and running. Since bespoke training needs to be carefully designed to address specific needs, it can be challenging for companies that lack experience in e-learning development to realise the potentially considerable benefits without the help of a trusted external partner.

A blended approach?

It’s also worth considering a blend of both off-the-shelf and bespoke e-learning, as many organisations decide to cherry pick the best of both to create a training offering that fits perfectly for their organisational needs.

For example, you might want to create a training programme that includes pre-packaged modules on industry best practice, with sections that focus on how those guidelines apply to your operation. Alternatively, you might be happy to pair a mostly off-the-shelf programme with bespoke refresher resources specific to your organisation and its processes.

Making the right decision for your circumstances

Ultimately, the question of whether you should choose an off-the-shelf or a bespoke e-learning approach doesn't have a simple answer – you need to consider your organisation’s requirements and select the option that represents the best fit.

At Virtual College, we provide off-the-shelf, bespoke and blended training solutions. Depending on your requirements, training goals, timescales, budget and resourcing availability, we can consult with you to identify the most suitable solution.

We can:

  • Make minor, yet significant changes to our existing range of catalogue courses, tailoring them to your organisation’s policies and procedures.
  • Develop a course for your organisation based on our pool of existing templates, which have been created by our award winning graphic design team.
  • Create a bespoke course for you which would be unique to your organisation and underpinned by specific pedagogical techniques that match your training requirements perfectly.

Whether you’re interested in exploring off-the-shelf options or bespoke themes to support your training and save valuable time, we’d love to hear from you. To discuss how we can help, please get in touch via our website or contact Fiona Sheen at


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