eLearning is becoming an increasingly important part of a corporate training and development function in large and small businesses nationwide. However, only about 40% of the companies in the US are currently using eLearning; this means that the other 60% are still yet to discover this amazing tool. If your company belongs to the 40% that are already using eLearning, you probably have already had experience working with an eLearning vendor. If your company is yet to utilize eLearning in your everyday business, then you might expect having to engage with an eLearning production company at some point in the near future. By following our five tips for selecting a qualified eLearning provider you can ensure the success of your eLearning project.
1. First Impression Matters
When initially contacting an eLearning company, pay attention to the experience you encounter. Most likely, the experience of communicating with the company for the first time will be indicative of the experience you can expect for the remainder of your engagement with the vendor. Think about the first impression you receive when you visit the company’s website. Does it look clean and modern? Does the content seem up to date? Are there any broken links or missing pages? A company that maintains a good online presence is more likely to have a good variety of resources your future project may need. Next, evaluate your experience reaching out to the company. If you called, how easy was it to speak to a live person? Was someone available on the line right away or did you have to wait? If you left a voice message, how long did it take this eLearning vendor to call you back? Same goes for filling out contact forms online and emailing the vendor. Are you satisfied with the speed they responded to your contact request or email message? Is the response appropriate to the kind of information you requested? The speed and clarity of communication between you and the vendor will play a huge role in the success of your project, therefore it’s in your best interest to pick a company with good communication practices from the get-go.
2. Knowledge and Expertise
Once you establish the initial contact with the prospective eLearning provider, take your time to evaluate how knowledgeable the team is. Whether you are new to eLearning or have worked on similar projects in the past, take your time to ask questions about the product, services, process, challenges, technology, and anything else that can potentially impact the project. Watch the vendor’s team respond to your questions and note how adequate their knowledge is. The team should be able to provide answers and clarifications on anything that directly relates to the production process. For those questions that they are not able to answer right away or refer you to another source, try to determine whether this information is truly out of scope of your contact person, or whether it indicates the gaps in knowledge which can negatively impact your project. It’s even more important to speak to the team that will be working on your project, evaluate the team’s experience and previously completed work, understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, as well as determine whether these strengths and weaknesses are well balanced for the successful completion of the project. The team’s knowledge and expertise is what’s going to make or break your project. Take them seriously and take your time to properly evaluate them.
3. Work Samples
A very important step in the process of finding the right eLearning vendor for your business is checking the work samples. Any respectable company should have a variety of samples they share with the prospective clients. Because no two companies are alike, eLearning products vary greatly from business to business, but don’t let that confuse you. Make sure to check items that stand out in sample’s execution quality, graphics, and functionality. Note positive as well as negative items you come across. While your eLearning product will likely be different, things like poor visuals or recurring bugs tend to stay consistent within the same team. If the team you’re interviewing has shown poor performance in the past, your best bet would be to go elsewhere. Never settle for screenshots of the past products, demand to see the working courses. Screenshots can be screen comps created in Photoshop or even dressed up stock images, you always want to see the actual eLearning course and not an image of one screen. Once you take a look at the work samples, ask yourself: would I be happy if this was the product I was given for the money I’m paying?
You want to make sure that the team is available to meet with you whenever the meeting is needed, and that they are capable of producing the eLearning course according to your timeline. If the team is slow to respond or fails to produce deliverables according to the timeline, it may not be giving your project the full attention it deserves. This is particularly important when the company relies of freelance contractors to get the job done. Contractors often work on multiple project for multiple companies at the same time, which limits the amount of time they can spend working on your project. Make sure you do the due diligence on the team’s workload and other commitments before signing a contract. This is especially true for large time-sensitive projects that absolutely have to be completed on time.
The eLearning vendor you end up working with should offer enough flexibility to meet your project’s most intricate needs. Because it takes time and money to design and develop a good eLearning course, you want to make sure that those time and money will not be wasted by the team’s inability to provide exactly what you are looking for. While any unique software system has its own limitations, modern day technology allows to solve almost any kind of a challenge. You eLearning provider should be flexible enough to deliver the product that performs exactly the way you envision.
Increasingly more companies are relying on eLearning to train their staff and sometimes even customers. If you work in the corporate training and development function, you will most likely face the need to shop for an eLearning vendor at some point in your career. When contacting the vendors, pay attention to the first impressions you get—those provide a good insight of how the vendor treats its clients. A reliable eLearning provider should have the knowledge and expertise required to complete your project, and should be able to support the claims of their knowledge and expertise by completely functioning eLearning samples that you can interact with. Finally, look for the team that can offer the flexibility, reliability, and availability your project requires. By using these tips when shopping for an eLearning vendor you can ensure that your project will be completed successfully, within the planned budget, and on schedule.