#FELTAG – buying or not buying resources conclusion

This is the 4th and last post in a series looking at the issue of should we buy off the shelf resources or produce resources in house. The previous posts have been:

  1. #FELTAG – to buy or not buy resources?
  2. #FELTAG – Considerations when buying off the shelf resources
  3. #FELTAG – Considerations if not buying off the shelf resources

My intention in this series is to provide the decision makers in organisations with ideas and considerations to help them make an informed decision in this area of work – a decision that is not easy or straight forward, yet the consequences of making the wrong decision are huge.

Every organisation is different, so there certainly isn’t a one size fits all answer. What is right for one, will be totally inappropriate for another, and when a decision is made it doesn’t have to be a blanket whole organisation decision, It may be that for certain teams it is better to produce resources in house; because they have the skill to do so, and the quality of the commercial options in that area isn’t great. Then other teams, may choose to buy all or some of their resources in.

It also isn’t necessary to buy all resources from the same provider – yes they may give you a huge discount for buying a full suite of resources across all subjects, and yes it would be easily technically and managerially to deal with one set rather than lots of sets – but if the resources for certain subjects within the suite aren’t good enough, then they either won’t be used, or will be used badly.

It may also be necessary to change tactic part way through, e.g. you may choose to produce resources in house for one particular course, but part way through you realise it is just too difficult and isn’t working, and you decide to buy in. Or you may choose to buy resources in – but once you have done so, you realise that you could do a better job in house, so you start to develop your own – which you then phase in as the bought ones become obsolete (e.g. at the end of the year on an annual subscription).

It is also imperative to shop around – don’t just jump straight into the ones that are endorsed by the awarding body – especially as some of the awarding bodies are also publishing companies – their endorsement is not always a sign of their real value and quality.

Whatever decisions are made – many factors have to be balanced as follows:

  • Financial – buying in and producing in house both cost money.
  • Quality – buying off the shelf, on the surface should be higher quality as far as resources go – but doesn’t mean the overall quality of the teaching and learning will be higher (just like buying really expensive glossy books, does not substitute quality teaching).
  • Time – Buying in is certainly the quicker option, but if the resources aren’t appropriate or don’t fit the organisations systems, learning how to use them effectively may take additional time.
  • CPD – producing resources in house, becomes part of the CPD process, so brings an additional benefit that you don’t get from buying in.
  • There is a lot out there for free – there is a huge amount of freely available materials and assets that can be used. So in some areas, buying off the shelf resources is relatively expensive, as you could easily produce something similar in house very cheaply. In other areas where there is less freely available content, buying resources is better value pound for pound.

Whatever choice is made – it mustn’t be rushed, it has to be balanced, and all relevant parties need to be involved in the decision making process. If the right decisions are made, it is possible to provide a really high quality and cost effective learning experience.

Image of a pair of balance scales


Whereas I welcome comments on my blog posts, please don’t use this blog post as a way to either promote or criticise any particular companies or products. Any such comments I will delete.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julia_manzerova/4748112382/

2 Responses

  1. Hi Dave. I would not go near purchased resources on the following grounds:
    The web has made available any amount of content and the skill for students is to be able to pick the best from the rest, in terms of reliability, validity. This is what they will do in the world of work. To do this students need to move to enquiry or project based learning, making sense of what is already available and then summarising understanding, having first collaborated with others on finding, sifting and using resources. Teachers support and encourage discovery and discussion, offering correction where it goes off too far ‘off piste’. I don’t’ know how anyone can read FELTAG and think this represents an opportunity to buy someone else’s content.
    Following someone else’s list comes with an implied behaviour or learning activity which is limiting and may conflict with the culture or ‘feel’ of learning in the rest of the course. Can’t think of anything more dull than ignoring the richness of the web and the ideas of other student sand teachers to follow someone else’s content. Turns learning into a process rather than an enquiry. There is an argument for basic learning blocks and in nothing bigger than byte-size, but this can be easily constructed by teachers in a manner that fits with the design of learning int eh rest of the course.
    For expertise on what is good content, I think any college or provider can draw on the knowledge and experience of its own teachers. I would encourage students to leave ideas for those following them (a kind of ‘footsteps’ concept) so student can explore where those who went before have left good markers.
    Putting the pedagogy to one side. buying content costs money and it just wouldn’t have high enough priority bearing in mind how short money is.
    I would put a far higher value on experience and ideas rather than content and process.

    • An excellent response Geoff and as you say following other peoples resources is likely to be very dull, and FELTAG was certainly not about the creation of resource centric teaching and learning (however the content companies have jumped on the bandwaggon, and a lot of managers have fallen for it).

      All of the organisations that I have worked with over the last few years, when we have looked at this issue with an open mind, and weighed up advantages and disadvantages – we have always come to the conclusion that not buying resources is the best option for them.

      However there are sceanrios where buying in some resources has a place. One of the clients I worked with recently involved the creation of some really high quality resources, learning activities, assignments etc. These they then sold onto 2 other providers, who due to the way they were structured buying resources was their only option. Both providers got grade 1 in Ofsted, with particular mention to the quality of the resources and the way they were used as the main factor. I agree that on these occassions it was probably the Oftsed inspectors not being sufficiently skilled to observe and grade online learning, and they were wowed by the quality of the resources (not the teaching and learning that went with them) – but having spoken to some of the learners on those courses, the resources had had a very positive influcence on their learning experience (which previoulsy had been been very poor).

      My intention with the writing of these series of posts, is to get the decision makers to think through the issues – and as I have mentioned, and you have echoed – getting the wrong decision – could be very damaging.

      Thanks again for contributing to this post.

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