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Selecting Your eLearning Vendor? Get these Crucial First Steps Right

When training managers consider outsourcing eLearning development to an eLearning vendor, they are looking for three basic benefits:

  1. Reduce training costs
  2. Decrease time to create training materials
  3. Obtain training services and products at the best possible price

When outsourcing eLearning, they also consider the possibility of forming a collaborative partnership that will benefit them long-term. When you form a collaborative partnership with an eLearning vendor, your internal L&D teams need not worry about developing routine, repetitive training programs but rather focus on aligning the training strategy with your business goals.

It all starts with selecting the right eLearning partner. This is not a difficult task, provided you are armed with the right information. There are crucial first steps that will help you find the right one.

First Steps to Select the Right eLearning Vendor

1. Get the RFP Right

The first step in outsourcing your e-learning requirements is to select a vendor who truly understands what you need; but with vendors dime a dozen, how do you choose the right one? The best way to do this is to write a clearly worded Request for Proposal or RFP. The response to your Request for Proposal (RFP) by vendors and your accurate evaluation will ensure you get the best value for your investment. You should be meticulous in spelling out what you require so that potential eLearning vendors can sync their offer based on your project requirements.

Remember that the RFP is the first interface to communicate with potential vendors and is the crucial first step to ensure your outsourcing brings the results you are looking for – so what should you put into it?

Business profile: Give details of your business, highlight your short and long-term business objectives and growth plans to provide vendors an accurate background.

Training needs: Express the precise business needs the training will meet or the problem it is intended to solve. Give as much details as possible for the eLearning vendor to think of best solutions.

Target audience: Define the target audience for your training – age, job roles, learning preferences (desktop, mobile), and more.

Performance goals: Give details of the performance goals you want the training to meet – whether it is learning a new skill, complying with a new set of standards, or acquiring knowledge on a new product roll-out.

Technical requirements: Provide information on your preferred authoring tool. Specify the infrastructure you have to deploy the training – your own LMS or integrating the training delivery with your HR or Finance system.

The RFP brings a structure to the procurement process and the investment of time and effort in a well-defined RFP will garner well-qualified responses. All this makes your selection process easier. How do you ensure this?

  • Try to provide precise details of your requirements to get accurate and comparable proposals. This will help avoid scope creeps and misunderstood expectations later in the project.
  • Follow a standard format when writing the RFP, it should have an executive summary, a detailed description of the training to be outsourced, and your expectations from the eLearning
  • Include details of the expected responsibilities from your side and the vendor’s. Provide guidelines on preparing the proposal to the vendor.
  • Ask questions to get details on the eLearning vendor’s business, scope of work, number of employees, details of eLearning project teams and vendor’s ability to meet deadlines. These details will help you assess how the partnership with that vendor will work and more importantly, provide you the parameters to compare vendors before selecting one.
  • Provide a timeline for the project by clearly specifying the launch date of the training. Also state the budget for your project; this will help vendors respond with appropriate proposals. Include details of payment terms as well.
  • Avoid specific pricing details. This will not be valid and relevant at this stage where the precise responsibilities of the vendor are not yet finalized.
  • Give the vendor enough time to respond. This will get you appropriate solutions for your requirements.
  • Give exact instructions to potential vendors on the structure of the proposal. Otherwise, you will have to assess proposals that will be completely different from each other, making it hard to compare and evaluate the proposals. A worst-case scenario would be having to start all over again.

2. Be Specific in your SOW

The crux of your RFP lies in the Statement of Work or SOW which clearly defines what the eLearning vendor has to deliver. Leaving room for ambiguity can cause friction between both parties once the project is underway. The requirements in the SOW give an opportunity to both parties to interact and understand, and arrive at a better understanding of expectations from both sides.

3. Evaluate Vendors Based on Responses to the RFP

To accurately evaluate the responses of vendors to the RFP and make an appropriate selection, set the selection criteria for choosing your outsourcing partner. But before this, conduct a vendor review meeting where vendors can ask questions and clarify their doubts related to the RFP. This will help them give an appropriate response.

To make your choice, consider key factors such as the vendor’s experience in eLearning development, scalability, price, quality, and turnaround time to name a few. Apart from this, consider the key requirements of your project as defined in the RFP.

To make an intelligent comparison, provide weightage to each criterion and assess each vendor based on their response to these criteria and give a total score. This will help you compare and select the appropriate vendor. Here is a sample comparison table.



Vendor A

Vendor B

Vendor C

Experience in e-learning





Assigned team experience










Technology capabilities





Compliance with project requirements










Using a comparison table will give you an objective estimate of potential vendors and help you select the right one for the project.

4. Request for a POC

Request for a proof of concept or POC from shortlisted eLearning vendors, which will help you evaluate their capability to deliver and influence your opinion and those of other stakeholders. If you need a POC, mention this in the RFP and also the time window you will assign for delivering it.

Asking for a POC as a criterion for selection is better than making a choice solely on vendors ‘responses to your proposal. A POC helps you evaluate their capabilities, their interest in the project, and keenness to work with you. These are important factors that influence your choice.

Select your eLearning vendor based on your evaluation criteria and the POC. The POC might force you to modify your evaluation and make the appropriate selection. Choosing the right vendor for your e-learning project is not rocket science. It can be easy if you carefully craft your RFP and set appropriate selection criteria. This will help you make the right choice and even build an outsourcing partnership for the long haul. The right vendor can take care of your future e-learning projects and be your true partner in meeting your training needs. To know how you can profit from this partnership and ace the complex outsourcing process, access our e-book eLearning Development Outsourcing: A Comprehensive eGuide to Select the Right Vendor for more information.

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