A Vendor’s Take on Choosing the Right Vendor

Choosing an e-Learning vendor is no easy task. It seems as though anyone who can create a PowerPoint file is an eLearning vendor. And even though there is a science to instructional design and effective visual and user interface design, my prediction is that if a client chose half a dozen vendors for the same project, they’d end up with six different products that would not even resemble one another. A successful eLearning project should be a creative project, and so there is definitely an element of risk and uncertainty involved when choosing a vendor. So it’s not surprising that clients can get it wrong.
In the next several posts, I’d like to make some suggestions and offer tips for training managers or education directors tasked with vendor selection, based on observations over the last couple of decades in eLearning, working on projects that were stellar successes and others that…weren’t.

Tip #1: Never say: “I don’t want you learning on my project.”

The statement seems reasonable. When selecting a vendor, you want to know they have experience. But think about this. When you start a new initiative within your organization, do you instantly “stop learning” and only work based on what you know from your last project? Probably not. Successful companies, like successful individuals continue to learn, daily, and you should encourage potential vendors to innovate.

Case study on the benefits of learning on a project

In my murky past, we were contacted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Florida. The organization needed a way to train and certify counselors who were responsible for assessing at-risk children, in terms of their mental health and the severity of their disorders. Originally, the organization was sending a training staff around the state to conduct half-day workshops, then administering the certification exam.

During these visits, DCF found that many counselors assessed the same child differently. They were not necessarily rating the child consistently, and as a result, the assessments could be considered unreliable.

The client wanted a simulation, with the counselor interviewing a random mix of children. During the rating stage, counselors were provided feedback when their rating went outside the norm for that issue. The client wanted the simulation to provide practice and virtual coaching, then a standard certification exam to enable counselors to practice and certify on their own.
At the time, I had never designed a simulation like this. In fact, this was in the mid-90s, and very few web-based simulations were even being done. The standard internet connection was 28.8K dial-up, and the development tool was Allaire’s ColdFusion.


Why that Project Worked

DCF was a smart client. Since this technology and approach was truly cutting-edge, they didn’t expect to see a finished product before choosing us as a vendor. Instead, our client expected that we’d be “learning” on her project.

The outcome? The project was a huge success, saving tens of thousands of dollars annually on travel alone, but more importantly, providing the reporting to show that state-wide, counselors had far improved their ability to rate consistently.

Were their bumps in the road? Absolutely. Admittedly, we never anticipated so much traffic to the application around the same time of year. The certifications needed to be renewed on a specific date, and the counselors (like most of us would) waited until the last minute. The traffic clobbered the server, until we could up-size to larger capacity and meet the need.

The bottom line is that the issues created by the “learning curve” on the project paled in comparison to the return-on-investment (ROI) to the organization. Had our client insisted that we not learn on her project, this success would never have been realized.

For better or worse, we’ve chosen a field that is in constant change. If you embrace it and demand that your vendors “learn” on your project, you may be very pleasantly surprised.

If you’d like to learn about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.

Ready to find out what Digitec can do for you?

contact us