By Todd Hines
Many custom eLearning vendors look alike. How do you find a training partner that will help you achieve your business goals? Internet search results yield hundreds of results, all claiming to have creative graphics and innovative learning technology.
The first article in this series focused on scoping a custom eLearning project to achieve business results. A proper scope is critical to finding a list of potential vendors that will be a valuable learning business partners and help achieve the training results you need. But if a general Google search produces a sea of similar custom eLearning vendors – leaving you overwhelmed with too many similar choices – then what do you do?
Crafted versus Manufactured eLearning
Compare a hearty, flavorful craft beer and a light pilsner beer. The craft beer – a memorable experience. The light beer – commonplace and forgettable. Like the beer industry, the custom eLearning marketplace offers many vendors on both ends of the spectrum. The brewer – and custom eLearning vendor – you consider, and ultimately choose to spend your time and money with, depends on your needs and wants.
“Manufactured” eLearning vendors often standardize parts of the instructional and graphic design and eLearning development process. Production times may be faster and up-front costs will likely be less expensive. Expect a re-packaged version of source content with little regard for user experience or content absorption.
Alternatively, truly crafted eLearning starts with your business results and employee use of the training experience in mind. Each aspect of it is custom designed and developed specifically around your set of unique training audience and business goals.
You’re not looking for the custom eLearning vendor with the most elaborate marketing or rated “best” overall. You are looking for the digital training partner that may be best for your business and training project scope.
- Take that Critical First Step in Your Search
Start by reaching out to individuals – internal or external to your organization – who have completed training or manage training in any way. Ask them which vendor they used to create their custom training and if they would recommend their services. If they would recommend that particular custom eLearning vendor – find out why. Probe into what it was like working with them and if that vendor helped them achieve their training business goals. Or did they just deliver a “check the box” course?
- Look at Award-Winning Custom Training Agencies
If discussions with colleagues and business partners do not provide you with enough information to get started, consider researching vendors who have won training awards, are on learning and development industry lists, or exhibit or sponsor learning and development industry conferences.
Custom eLearning vendors often receive awards for their work from a variety of organizations. It is often helpful to review lists of recent winners from a variety of organizations and see which custom training vendors helped create the training program. Focus in on training applications that are most relevant to your custom eLearning project scope.
For example, the Brandon Hall Group provides Excellence in Learning awards based on topic or application area – such as Best Advance in Compliance Training or Best Advance in Custom Content. Consider learning and development awards, as well as awards for excellence in communication, design, and technology. Some organizations to search include Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Learning Awards, Communicator Awards, Davey Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Omni Awards, and CLO Magazine Awards.
- Consider Industry Learning and Development Lists
You may want to use industry analyst to help find potential training partners. Most of these organizations analyze the capabilities, experience, and expertise of a variety of learning organizations. Remember to consider the basis for each list and the lens in which it was created, as many lists allow paid advertisements to be placed in prominent list positions. Some industry lists to search include: eLearning Industry,Training Industry, G2,Learning Light, SHRM, eLearning List, Find Courses, and The Training Registry.
- Attend Training Industry Conferences
The learning and development industry has no shortage of conferences. If you choose to attend a conference, it will provide you with a broad exposure to the many custom eLearning vendors in the marketplace. A keen eye will be necessary to help you see past enticing giveaways and fancy booth displays though, so that your focus remains on connecting with vendors that will provide visible value to your business. A few organizations that allow digital learning vendor sponsorship include: ATD, eLearning Guild/DevLearn, and Training Industry.
- Narrow Your List of Custom Training Partners
Once you have an initial list to work from, begin to narrow your list of potential custom training partners by reviewing each organization’s website and requesting a 15-30 minute consultation. It will remain critical for you to see through fluff and keenly assess each custom eLearning vendor based on their ability to help you achieve your training objectives.
- Dig into their case studies and testimonials
Training organizations often highlight projects they have already completed as a showcase of their best work. Are their clients similar to your company in any way? Do they emphasize skills, business solutions, or concept applications that are comparable to your custom eLearning project scope? When reading a case study, consider how learning design principles were used to achieve a specific result. If this is not clear, ask during your consultation.
- Assess expertise
Certain custom eLearning vendors are experts in the application of training principles within particular industries, such as healthcare, compliance, energy, or manufacturing. If your training needs include a specialized topic area, a training vendor with this specialized knowledge will save you a lot of time and yield more targeted content.
- Evaluate graphics and technology
Don’t allow dated graphics and technology to enter your eLearning. The design and use should be in sync with modern technology and graphics. Evaluate vendors who not only talk about cutting-edge technology but use it to enhance their client’s training programs.
Consider how each vendor incorporates media elements – such as voice, sound, video, animation, 3D modeling – into training delivery modalities like mobile, apps, and desktop. Take a look at their use of graphics – will it resonate with your employees? Will the graphics excite them and encourage them to dive deeper, or will the look and feel of the course slowly lull them into a mid-day snooze?
- Understand the way they work
A great custom eLearning vendor has the potential to become a true learning business partner. As you review each potential business relationship, think about how it will feel to work with them long term.
Every individual you encounter should listen to your specific custom training needs and wants. They should convey expertise and an ability to deliver on commitments. Check out their About Us section on their website. What type of image do they convey? What is important to them? It may even be beneficial to check out what their employees say about them, through Glassdoor or other employee review tools – you may uncover red flags and gain insight into their organizational values and focus areas.
Select a Custom eLearning Vendor
So, what qualities do you look for and what information do you need to select the best custom eLearning partner for your specific project? Find out in the next article of this 4-part series.
Investing in Your Custom eLearning Success
LHT Learning is investing in your success. This is the second in a 4-part series of articles designed to channel our experiences into step-by-step instructions and insights to help you deliver more value to your business through custom eLearning. Check out the first article in the series here.
The four articles are:
- How to scope custom eLearning projects to achieve business results
- How to find the right custom eLearning vendors among a sea of lookalikes
- How to select the best custom eLearning partner for your project
- How to get the most from your custom eLearning partner
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About LHT Learning
LHT Learning creates custom, digital learning solutions that engage learners and connect information to action.