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Choosing the Right Custom eLearning Vendor – 7 Proven Tips to Guide You

A Market research firm, Global Industry Analysts predicted that eLearning would reach $107 Billion in 2015. It indeed did. Now predicts the revenue will reach $275.10 Billion by 2022. We believe this will come true too since eLearning has indeed proved to be one of the best methods of training employees. But no eLearning can be effective if the course does not appeal to learners or aid them in learning better. This is where the role of custom eLearning vendors come in.

Custom eLearning vendors design, develop, and deliver eLearning courses, ensuring they are learner-centric by incorporating the right Instructional Design strategies, Adult Learning Principles, and using appropriate authoring tools.

With the eLearning market flooded with vendors, and a huge number of custom eLearning vendors mushrooming every day, how do you make the right choice? While many might have just entered the industry, for a few others eLearning development might not be the primary business.

So how do you know which vendor to opt for? 

7 Tips to Choose the Right eLearning Vendor

1. Ensure eLearning Development Is the Vendor’s Core Business

Surprisingly, not all vendors who claim to have the ability to design and develop eLearning courses are specialized in this field. For some, their core business might be eLearning translations, video development, etc. Wondering why this matters?

Well, an eLearning vendor whose core business is not eLearning development might not be able to dedicate themselves completely to your project. In fact, if eLearning is just a small part of their offerings, their primary focus will be on their biggest offering. They might not be able to dedicate a specialized team to cater to your needs, thus resulting in an extremely poor eLearning course.

Custom eLearning vendors with eLearning as their primary business will ensure their complete focus is on developing and delivering a course that is exactly based on your requirements and learners. Hence the first thing you need to do is delve into the website of each prospective vendor and check if eLearning is their core business.

 2. Check How Long They Have Been in the Business

The longer the eLearning solution provider has been in business, the better expertise they will possess. Vendors who have been in this industry for a long time would have witnessed the various changes happening in this industry and will be able to understand the technical updates and how far they can be applied to meet the needs of modern learners.

They will also have specialized skillsets required for eLearning design and development such as project managers, instructional designers, visual designers, and authoring tool experts.

But sometimes, age can turn out be just a number. So you need to check their entire team and expertise in this field. You can review their social media platforms to note the kind of information they disseminate to the learning community. From the blogs they post to the kind of comments they post on other handles, you can get a clear idea of their expertise.

3. Check Samples of Their Work

“I think of it as if I were to hire someone to build my house. Just because they have a truck, great tools, and a team of dedicated workers, doesn’t mean they know how to build a house. I want to see, walk through, climb stairs, open doors, look out of windows, and flush the toilet in a house they actually built,” says Kevin Thorne an LMS administrator of Autozone, Inc.

This is exactly what you need to do before choosing an eLearning vendor too – check samples of their work. Imagine you give your requirements to an eLearning vendor and once they deliver, you realize it was not what you expected. What could be worse than realizing they lack the skills to cater to your needs?

Hence ensure you review sample works of vendors before you choose. Even if the courses they develop for their clients might not be shareable due to non-disclosure agreements (NDA), they will have a set of generic courses in their website. Checking these samples will provide you a clear idea of various things such as:

  • If the work is similar to what you are expecting. For example, the interactivities used and the way the content is chunked.
  • How capable they are in using various e-learning authoring tools.

Besides checking samples, you can also ask them to do a prototype, based on your requirements. A prototype is a fully functional sample of an e-learning course which will help you understand the look and feel and other technical aspects of the course.

4. Ensure They Have A Well-Defined Development Process

The success of any project depends on the way it’s managed, and this is true even for eLearning. Maybe the eLearning provider you chose is technically qualified; being hard to work with eventually means more work or confusion for you. Hence, you need to ensure their project management process is streamlined and iterative for easy communication and revisions.

Gather details on how they handled previous projects, discussions and reviews, and also if they have an adept quality assurance process in place. Keep in mind that each project must be handled differently and have a dedicated set of resources. But no matter how many people are involved in the development, the point of contact should always be a single individual, usually the project manager, and this individual should always be available for you.

5. Ensure They Have A Strong Knowledge of Instructional Design

Every learning professional is aware of the Adult Learning Principles by Malcolm Knowles. These principles are one of the most important things to abide by when designing training for adults. Also there are various ID principles which need to be incorporated within courses to ensure memorable learning experiences.

To deliver a course your learners find effective and useful, custom eLearning vendors need to have a strong background in instructional design. For example, learners can be trained on dos and don’ts using a PowerPoint slide or a PDF with a few examples. But this is not enough to immerse and motivate your learners. An efficient eLearning vendor will have the right team who can convert such classroom content into engaging eLearning. In this case, they might suggest developing a scenario-based learning course or maybe a game-based one.

 6. Review the Experiences of Their Existing Clients

There is no better way to understand a vendor than by talking to their existing clients. Ask the vendor to provide a list of clients they have previously worked with and testimonials from those clients on their experience working with that vendor.

But a vendor cannot be judged solely by the list of recognized clients in their portfolio. It’s better you speak with their clients directly. Doing so will give you an extremely clear idea of all aspects of the vendor. A few questions you should be asking their clients include:

  • Can you tell me about the project/s they completed for you?
  • Did they meet the timeline and budget as agreed?
  • Did they face problems understanding your requirements?
  • Did they come up with unique and creative ideas to challenging issues?
  • How did they handle feedback and iterations?
  • Did the variation in time zone affect their work?
  • Would you work with this vendor in the future?

 7. Ensure They Keep Up with the Latest Trends

Planning for a long-term relationship with an eLearning vendor is extremely important. For this, you need to know if the vendor keeps up with the latest trends in the industry. For example, the current trends these days is using rapid authoring tools to develop courses quickly without compromising on quality, integrating Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to take training to the next level, making courses xAPI compliant to enable tracking of learning activities happening anywhere, and much more.

This will ensure that maintaining a long-term relationship with them would indeed be a wise decision as the chances of them integrating new strategies within your courses will increase over time.

As much important as it is to provide effective training, so it is to choose the appropriate eLearning vendor to deliver that perfect training. Choosing the wrong one will definitely result in adverse consequences. Hence always keep these tips in mind and choose the right one.

Talking of choosing an eLearning vendor who can keep up with the trends in the industry, are you aware of the latest trends in the eLearning industry? Download this free eBook “eLearning Trends 2019 – The View from the Trenches” which will offer you a glimpse of what’s happening in eLearning this year.

eLearning Trends 2023 – The View from the Trenches