In the last few weeks of July, our department worked on pulling together information to prepare our submission for the 2013 ASTD State of the Industry Survey. Each year through this survey, the ASTD research team captures and compiles information on industry trends and prepares a report that gets published in November. The report includes information in categories such as learning costs, hours, staffing ratios, content distribution and delivery methods. All of this information is valuable, but there is one section of the report that has been occupying my mind quite a bit lately. It is the section on the Reuse Ratio.
The Reuse Ratio is defined as the ratio of learning hours used to learning hours available, or if you prefer, learning hours consumed to learning hours provided. Either way, this is an efficiency measure that has direct impact on learning costs. In the 2012 State of the Industry Report, the Reuse Ratio for all respondents was reported as 53:1. The trend has shown that the reuse ratio has fallen over the last four years while the cost per learning hours used has increased. In preparing our data for the survey submission this year, we calculated our reuse ratio to be a little more than 8:1, which is alarmingly below the Industry benchmarks.
So what does it mean?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the context of the work that our Learning & Development team does and the state of affairs in my company. We have gone through a tremendous amount of change over the last few years necessitating the creation of a lot of new, targeted learning. So far in 2013, my instructional design team has already outpaced the number of new courses and learning objects created in all of 2012 – and 2012 was a very busy year! We expect the level of change to continue for quite some time in the foreseeable future. It will be important for us to increase our content reuse ratio as I see this as an indication that we are using our budget and human resources as efficiently as possible.
So what do we do?
There are three key actions that we are undertaking:
Retire unused learning objects in our learning management system – We have a lot of old, outdated content in our learning management system that has not sustained its relevance. Getting rid of these items will reduce the “hours provided” part of the equation to give us a more realistic picture of our ratio based on content that is actually important to our business needs. Granted, this doesn’t save us on cost or development time, but it will add clarity to the picture.
Increase reuse of key learning content – Rather than approach every learning need as a new instructional design project, we have a team of Curriculum Managers who are curating content. They have created curriculum maps for key subject areas that are important to supporting successful employee and business performance. The maps outline a general progression through the content areas to help employees take accountability for their own development.
Increase reuse of learning assets – Because the high rate of change is expected to continue in our business, we recognize that the curriculum maps won’t be able to address every learning need. We will still have an active pipeline of learning projects that will require some form of instructional design. To that end, we have instituted a Digital Asset Management Library so we can capture and share assets such as activities and scenarios that go into the creation of learning solutions. This won’t directly impact our content reuse ratio, but it will help us to be more efficient and cost effective in design. And if we reuse our best assets to create learning objects that are relevant and useful, they will get used. This will increase the “hours used” part of the equation, which will improve our overall ratio.