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Purchasing eLearning: Knowing Your Vendor

When choosing a vendor, an organization must be more concerned with finding a partner they mesh well with, rather than deciding based purely on quoted cost. A mismatch between client needs and vendor supply is worse than paying more for a service. Photo by Kathea Pinto.

This is the sixth article in the series, ‘Purchasing eLearning’. The series is for organizations and individuals who are engaging third party organizations to develop eLearning courses.

What makes a good eLearning vendor? To be honest, what makes a good eLearning vendor depends on what fits for the client’s requirements and the client’s own beliefs about how eLearning should be developed. A good match means a minimum of surprises, which makes the process smoother for everyone.

There is a big divide at the moment between those who use rapid development methods and tools, and those who use different tools for more customized result. There really should not be such a big divide. Both approaches have merits as they are essentially solving a problem with different parameters or constraints.

Knowing your constraints, will help you identify whether you should look for a rapid developed or custom solution. A constrained budget or timeline favors the use of rapid development tools, whereas having more freedom in either of these areas coupled with a need for something ‘out of the box’ or ‘truly different’ suggests that you should be seeking out a vendor who has experience in custom development.

Think about what you and your learners would consider to be engaging eLearning content. Does it require video and audio? Is it a game? Is it simple activities in the content? Different eLearning vendors will have strengths in these areas.

Think about where you have gaps in either your content or your abilities. If you are aware that you are not going to be able to commit the resources to write the eLearning content in the format required, you need to look for a vendor who can provide technical writing or writing services as well. If the images already within your content aren’t of good quality, or you want something unique and interesting, you should look for an eLearning vendor where the graphic design element of their portfolio is strong and suits your organization’s style.

Think about what time your team has to commit to the project. If you do not have much time, you will either need to find an eLearning vendor who can do it all, or an eLearning vendor who can provide a very simple solution.

Inexperienced organizations will often decide on a vendor based purely on quoted cost. A mismatch between the vendor and the organization will usually result in more costs for the client.

This was the sixth and final article in a series, ‘Purchasing eLearning’. We hope you have found it helpful in engaging third party vendors.

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