Checklist for choosing an e-learning vendor

By Glynn Jung

Glynn Jung

Glynn Jung

Whichever product or service you seek, an organised, comprehensive selection process is required – perusing websites of e-learning companies just doesn’t work. The selection process for a suitable e-learning vendor should be  guided by whether they are supplying:

  • technology,
  • off the shelf e-learning titles or
  • design and development services.

It helps if you develop a checklist, (indeed most purchasing departments demand this) so that you are consistent in comparisons. We recommend listing all the attributes of a perfect-fit vendor and deciding which features are must-haves, whether these are immediate needs or future growth and finally how important each feature is (“points”).

We also recommend that organisations adopt the “MoSCoW” method for determining their needs. This is based on agreeing:

  • ‘must-have’
  • ‘should have’
  • ‘could have’ and
  • ‘would be nice to have’ – most organisations concentrate exclusively on “must have”.

Below is a sample checklist that you might consider as a starting point for your own selection of a technology vendor.

In any e-learning vendor selection process there are generally a number of important criteria, such as pricing, technology, quality, service and so on. With regard to technology, ensure your vendors know what they will be dealing with in your organisation.

Attribute Must Have Now or Future Points
Vendor Qualifications
Does the vendor serve organisations similar to yours?
What do current customers similar to yourselves say
Is the vendor’s customer base sizeable enough to ensure continued operation?
Are customer references available?
Does the vendor support customer implementations with training and support?
Can the vendor assure you of a successful implementation?
Does the vendor have a proven plan for implementation of its system?
How long has the vendor been operating in the e-learning market?
Pricing
Is pricing in line with similar offerings?
Does the vendor rely primarily on revenue from its commercial system or is customization a large part of its income?
Does the vendor offer a base price that scales with volume?
Does the price include everything you will require to get started?
Can you see a relationship between cost and quality?
Quality
Does the vendor guarantee successful operation?
Is there a stated quality policy?
Are “bugs” resolved quickly or do they wait for a future release?
How easy is the system to use: How much training is required?
Does the system require minimal resources for administration?
How reliable is the system: How often and for how long does it go down?
Technology
Do the technical qualifications reflect our technology
Is the system’s technology up to date? State-of-the-art?
Does the vendor rely on outside support for its basic services?
Is the system capable of delivering current types of media?
Does the vendor provide multiple solutions for your needs?
Can the system support with various authoring tools?
Does the system support the browsers we need supporting?
Does the system support mobile devices?
Does the system support our compliance requirements?
Support
Are maintenance fees readily available?
Does the vendor require the purchase of periodic updates?
Does the vendor provide 24/7customer support?
Does the system support multiple languages?
Does the system support the accessibility we require?
Can the software be placed in Escrow?

Bespoke e-learning development

If the need is for bespoke course development or off-the-shelf titles many of the same technical considerations still apply. You need to ensure that any course content can be accessed and viewed using devices which your staff will be using. You further need samples of their work to compare but before you do this we recommend you identify:

  • who will be using the courses,
  • where they’ll be using them and
  • what you consider to be fit-for-purpose regarding design of content.

For example if your IT people operate a “no download, no plugins” policy that the course material requires no extra software, will operate properly on your LMS (if you use one) or as a web-playable course and on any special devices your learners may use.

Location of learning is significant – if it’s in a retail store, warehouse or factory audio is rendered virtually useless.

Your list may be modified as you start talking to potential vendors: the critical thing is to keep your absolute priorities and needs in front of you at all times and not be swayed by sophisticated marketing or sales.

Project planning and management.

Ensure the vendor provides a clear project approach which is logical and understandable – they’re the experts so they should be able to keep to plan, warn of any pitfalls and deliver on time, within budget and to agreed benchmarks.

Working relationships

The final thing I want to talk about is working relationships. Working with willing, supportive, responsive and flexible vendors can quickly develop into a true partnership: if you really solely on numerical weighting systems you run the risk of attempting to work with people who don’t fit your organisation’s or people’s style and culture.

Demand three personal referees similar to yourselves in their client base. Talk to these referees; don’t use a pro forma reference form: find out what they’re like to work with and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Also find out who will actually be working on your project: assess them as people when you come to interview your shortlisted companies – have a get-out clause ready in case the sales time disappears after they’ve closed the business and there’s no-one to talk to in the vendor organisation who understand your needs.

What checklist do you use when selecting a vendor? Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this checklist.

ABOUT THE AUTHORGlynn Jung

Glynn Jung is Non-Executive Director at Aurion Leanring. He has over 25 years’ experience delivering innovative and cost-effective learning and process improvement strategies for a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.