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Future Fit Traning

Difference between Off-the-shelf and Bespoke Training

In this article, you’ll learn the difference between custom and off-the-shelf training.

When planning and building a training program for yourself and your organisation, it can be challenging to choose between off-the-shelf and bespoke training courses.

However, a sound learning management system should be able to deliver appropriate training to your staff and achieve your training objectives. In this article, we will discuss both pros and cons, enabling you to understand which is best for your organisation.

So, let’s get right to it.

What Makes a Course Bespoke?

Bespoke courses, also known as tailor-made or custom courses, are courses organisations make or commission to address specific challenges and needs.

These training courses are made specifically with your company in mind, and you can either make your custom training courses in-house or outsource them to another company or vendor.

Although they take a longer time to create and are more costly, this training course gives organisations more control over the training program at a one-time cost and helps close employee performance gaps.

To create these courses, you must supply your training goals, policies, organisational branding, training brief, and other documents.

Bespoke training courses are best for teaching your teams about internal business processes, company-specific regulations, detailed training themes, and employee orientation.

Also, since you own the courses, you can update them regularly to keep them relevant.

For example, at Future Fit, unlike other providers, our training isn’t merely a collection of online training videos.

Our carefully designed courses are presented in an engaging, interactive format (including videos and graphics). The course is customised for each student based on their circumstances, time commitments and career goals.

Pros of Bespoke Training Courses

There are multiple benefits of choosing custom-made training courses, and some of them are outlined below.

  • Addresses Specific Challenges and Needs of Your Business

Bespoke courses are tailored to be relevant to your business and industry, and they are the best choice for you if you want to address the varying organisational pain points and needs. For example, if your employees are having challenges handling a specific company software, you can develop custom training courses to help them overcome that hurdle. You can customise these courses to account for your organisation’s structure, training needs, knowledge gaps, processes, culture, and values.

  • Total Control over the Training Program

You have complete control over the design and content of the training from the beginning to the end, and you can also control how the content will be presented. You can also continuously update the training courses, enabling them to remain relevant to your business needs. Besides, you will not have to pay any licence fees for each learner, and the courses can be offered to as many employees as needed.

  • Increases ROI

Bespoke training courses are targeted courses that will engage learners and increase knowledge retention, resulting in a higher return on investment.

  • Helps to Close Employee Performance Gaps

Bespoke courses enable you to create a training program to address your employees’ skill and performance gaps, effectively enhancing employee performance.

  • It is scalable

Custom training courses can scale as your business scales, and you can continue to update them to fit your organisation’s needs.

Cons of Bespoke Training Courses

Some disadvantages of bespoke training courses are highlighted below.

  • High upfront costs

Compared to off-the-shelf courses, the development course for custom courses is usually very high.

  • Slow Deployment

There will be much time spent curating and designing the custom training courses before they can be deployed, unlike off-the-shelf courses that are ready to use.

What Makes a Course Off-the-shelf?

Off-the-shelf training courses are ready-made content created by industry experts and intended for mass use with learning management systems. With these courses, managers just have to pick relevant modules and upload them to the organisation’s training portal or system. They usually come in an online learning format, and they are best for companies looking to train their employees in foundational topics, soft skills, business applications, industry regulatory requirements, and compliance policies.

Some subjects usually covered by off-the-shelf training courses include leadership skills, communication, health and safety, management, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, problem solving, team building, and industry compliance. To make the most out of ready-made training courses, you must choose the right learning management system that is compatible with the courses. Depending on the vendor, you can also tailor the courses to fit your brand. Besides, despite the affordable nature of these courses, they are as effective as bespoke training courses.

Pros of Off-the-shelf Training Courses

Let’s look at some of the benefits of ready-made training courses, shall we?

  • Ready to use/ fast deployment

Off-the-shelf courses are ready to use right out of the box, as no development or implementation is required. Once the content is compatible with your LMS, the courses are prepared for deployment, and you can rely on your LMS for automatic updates. This way, you will also save yourself time.


  • It is a cost-effective option

Unlike bespoke training, which is costly to develop and implement, off-the-shelf training courses are affordable because development costs are involved. Also, ready-made courses are developed for mass production and distribution, reducing the cost per course. Companies looking for budget-friendly e-learning solutions can benefit from off-the-shelf courses.

  • Broad Expertise Access

Ready-made courses give learners access to training that will increase their skills and expertise in different fields. Experts develop these courses with wide-ranging knowledge of the subject matter, and purchasing them will provide the learners with this knowledge. For example, purchasing an off-the-shelf training course on how to use PowerPoint from an industry expert will enable your staff to learn the skills and tricks involved with using PowerPoint.

  • Good for Foundational and General Content Training

Off-the-shelf training courses are the best option for companies looking to train their teams in foundational topics like technology, workplace compliance regulatory policies, soft skills, Microsoft Office, and some hard skills. Besides, you can also use these ready-made courses to offer certification programs to your employees.

  • High-quality Content

When you purchase ready-made training courses, you will get high-quality, up-to-date, and relevant content. Professional teams have dedicated their time and resources to creating these training materials. They also ensure that the content can be displayed in varying formats to make the course accessible and keep learners engaged.

  • In-built Support

Unlike bespoke training courses, where you are responsible for the course upgrades and support, ready-made course suppliers are responsible for providing support and upgrading the course content. This way, your training courses will stay current with the latest compliance requirement changes and industry trends. Plus, if you run into any technical issues, the suppliers have in-built support available, eliminating your need to solve it yourself.

  • Access to a wide range of content

Off-the-shelf training courses offer a wide selection of training packages for different subject matters, offering varying learning styles, enabling you to choose your preferred one. Utilizing a SCORM editor can further enrich off-the-shelf training, allowing for customization that aligns with specific organizational needs and enhances the learning experience with interactive content.

For example, you will find courses using different mediums like animation or videos to pass across the information. This way, different types of learners can access a wide range of course content.

Cons of Off-the-shelf training Courses

Some of the disadvantages of ready-made training courses are outlined below.

  • Generic/Broad Content

Unlike bespoke content, off-the-shelf training courses focus on generic content, which may not be relevant to your business. This is because off-the-shelf courses are designed for mass distribution and different types of users.

  • May not Address your Business’s unique needs

Because of the broad nature of the subject matter addressed by off-the-shelf courses, the courses will not address any unique needs or challenges your organisation faces. The course vendors don’t have enough information about your business core needs to develop a course that will meet them.

  • Un-editable content

The basic function of ready-made training content can be limiting as most of them cannot adapt to individual learners. Besides, because these courses are straight out of the box, most of them are not customisable to fit your training needs.

Off-the-shelf vs Bespoke: Which is better?

Now that we have discussed each of these courses and their pros and cons, we have to answer the question of which is best. Both bespoke and off-the-shelf training courses offer proficient training solutions, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which is better. Firstly, you have to consider the specific needs of your organisation,

There are other factors you have to consider when choosing which is the best fit for your business, which are highlighted below.

  • Budget

You need to consider your budget when choosing a training course because how much you are willing to spend will influence the training course you will get. If you are looking for a cheap yet effective option, you should opt for ready-made courses as they have little overhead costs and are unusually the cheaper option to go for. However, you also need to consider the number of learners because off-the-rack courses can be more expensive depending on the number of learners.

On the other hand, if you have a bigger budget, you can opt for bespoke training courses, which you will have complete control over its development, implementation, and upgrades.

  • Topic

The topic also influences the type of training course you will opt for. For example, if the topic is specific to your organisation, it will be hard to find a suitable ready-made course, and you will have to opt for a bespoke course. However, if the topic is generic, like soft skills development, management, data protection, and health and safety, you will have a myriad of off-the-shelf options to choose from.

  • Implementation

Just like cost, you must consider the course’s implementation when selecting the best one for your organisation. Ready-made courses do not take long to implement, as you can deploy them straight from the box. On the other hand, bespoke courses take a long development and design before they can be deployed to the end-users.

  • Training Goals

The goal of the training will play a huge role in the type of course you choose. Ready-made courses are great for general and foundational subjects like health & safety, Microsoft office, soft skills, compliance policies, and others. But if you want to train your employees about a new product or to onboard a new staff, bespoke training courses are the only way to go.

  • Your Time limit

If you are under a time constraint, ready-made courses are the best option. Because they can be quickly deployed right out of the box, they do not take any time. On the other hand, because bespoke courses are customised to fit your organisation’s specific needs, they will take more time to develop and implement.

  • Knowledge Readiness

Ready-made courses are the best route if you cannot internally source most of the needed knowledge and expertise. On the other hand, if you have some of the content development major players in-house, like subject matter experts and graphic designers, you are better off going for a bespoke training course.

  • Upgrade and Support

Off-the-shelf courses come with in-built upgrades and support, so you don’t have to worry about regularly updating your training material. On the other hand, you are solely responsible for developing and updating your custom training materials to fit your business and industry needs.

  • Risk assessment

If the off-the-shelf compliance and regulatory learning do not stratify the regulatory requirements and pose a high risk to your business, you need to consider bespoke courses.

  • Scalability

Scalability is an essential factor to consider when choosing the type of course for your organisation. Your courses should be able to scale with your business, whether it scales up or down. Off-the-shelf training courses do not have this option, so if scalability is important to you, it is best to consider bespoke courses.

  • Content Longevity

You should opt for off-the-shelf courses for subjects like GDPR that stay relevant for long periods or that relate to a precise time. For subjects like regulation and compliance policies, you need to ensure that the vendor regularly updates it when the legislation changes before purchasing them.


Is Bespoke training more expensive than off-the-shelf?

It depends. Bespoke training can be more expensive considering the upfront and development costs, but off-the-shelf courses can be more expensive if the number of learners is more than average.

When should I consider bespoke training?

You should consider bespoke training content for the following reasons:

  • if you need to train your employees on a company-specific topic
  • if you need to train a larger team of learners and don’t want to pay per user
  • If you need to develop content addressing the specific needs of your organisation
  • When should I consider off-the-shelf training?

You should consider off-the-shelf training content for the following reasons:

  • If you are time-constrained
  • You need training on general topics not specific to your company, like IT, soft skills, communication, management, and leadership.