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How to Write a Winning RFP to Hire the Best E-learning Vendor

Have you, as a training manager or L&D professional, shortlisted e-learning vendors to develop customized learning solutions for your organization? If you’ve answered yes, then the following scenario might seem familiar to you.

A training manager followed certain e-learning vendor selection criteria and received the following proposals from two different e-learning vendors. The first vendor proposed a simple e-learning solution with a set of multiple choice questions for assessments, at a cost of $20,000. The second vendor proposed simulations, videos, and a gamified assessment at a staggering cost of $250,000. This left the training manager confused as to how to make the choice.

It’s easy to blame vendors for the disparity in pricing, but why do you think there’s this discrepancy. Can this be avoided? Before you begin formulating the e-learning vendor selection criteria for your organization, work on the all-important step of writing a request for proposal (RFP).

An RFP helps you list your requirements clearly so that you elicit responses from the right e-learning solution providers who match your needs, expectations, and budget. Read on to know more about how to write an RFP that will help you partner with the best e-learning vendor. You need to specify the following:

1. Business need for training

Introduce your organization, and include the training need or the business problem to be addressed. Articulate the problem as best as you can as it helps the e-learning vendor think of out-of-the-box solutions.

2. Target audience

Describe the learner profile. Include their age, job role, and technical expertise. You can also include the number of people who will go through the training.

An e-learning vendor needs to understand the audience for whom the e-learning program is to be designed, in order to design an effective course.

3. Scope of work

List down the specific objectives and targets that need to be met through the online training. Describe the services expected from the e-learning vendor. For example, is your organization considering a vendor who can supply as well as administer the LMS? Are you expecting the vendor to use specific authoring tools? If yes, specify that in the RFP.

4. Expected deliverables and timelines

If your organization plans to include a lot of videos that have been shot on the shop floor to make the training relevant to learners, mention that. Would you need the e-learning program to be highly interactive?

If you need the e-learning program rolled out by a specific date, mention the deadline clearly. This helps vendors look at their delivery schedules and plan accordingly. If you do not do this, chances are that though you might find the perfect e-learning vendor, you may not have the e-learning program ready for rollout by the specific date.

5. Existing e-learning infrastructure

If you are looking for an online training program and already have an LMS on which the course needs to be hosted, let your potential e-learning vendor know this. This is so that, they understand the technology constraints, if any.

On the other hand, if you are looking at integrating your LMS with any other functionality, mention this in the RFP. For example, you might need the LMS integrated with your HR system, before rolling out the training. This could have an effect on the delivery schedule and project completion. You need to ensure that the e-learning vendor has the necessary skills to take care of your requirements.

6. Existing internal resources and SMEs

If you have content that is ready to be converted to an online training, or have a subject matter expert (SME) whose knowledge needs to be leveraged in designing the web-based training, mention that in the RFP. This could have a direct effect on the cost of the e-learning program.

7. Specific questions about the vendor

Ask vendors specific questions on their experience in the field, sample projects, and references that they can provide on current and past projects. This will help your organization narrow down the list of vendors.

8. Vendor’s proposed solution and cost

Get information from the vendor on solutions to make the training effective. While it may not be possible to get the fixed price, you sure can get an approximate pricing. You can also weigh the elements of the proposed solution against the cost. For example, including a branching scenario or a highly interactive element in the course would involve additional cost. Understanding this helps you avoid unexpected costs during project delivery.

9. Decision process

Do not forget to inform e-learning vendors the process of replying to your RFP. Would you need a hard copy or would an e-mail suffice? Explain the process that you would follow to evaluate the vendor’s response. This ensures that you get relevant information on aspects that are important to your organization. Finally, set a deadline for the decision making process. You need to let vendors know when you intend to shortlist and begin the next round of evaluation.

A well-written RFP helps vendors address your needs in their proposal. It also reduces ambiguity about your expectations as a stakeholder, from the e-learning program.

Do you think the points discussed above are comprehensive enough to begin writing an RFP? Do share your comments.

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