Evaluating e-Learning Solutions

 Choosing the right e-Learning solution for your organization

Dorman Woodall
e-Learning Consultant

[email protected]

1124 Bloom Wood Lane
Matthews, NC  28105-3892

704-841-8809 Home Office
704-841-8860 Home Fax

Text Box:


 

Contents

Hitting the e-Learning Target 1

What is e-Learning?. 1

Characteristics of e-Learning. 2

Internet Functions. 2

The Top Ten e-Learning Features. 3

Defining Two Internet Domains. 3

A Brand New Focus on the Learner. 3

Designing For e-Learning. 4

Balancing Teacher-Centric and Learner-Centric Instruction. 4

Providing Meaningful Simulations. 4

Creating a Positive Atmosphere for Learning. 5

Using Learning Objects. 5

Five Key Questions to Ask Yourself 6

1.    Are you ready for e-Learning?. 6

2.    Does the supplier have the e-Learning materials?. 6

3.    How can the supplier assist you?. 6

4.    How will you know if e-Learning is working?. 6

5.    Will it be worth it?. 6

Why ask Questions?. 6

The e-Learning Readiness Scale. 7

Section A – e-Learning Design Questions. 8

Section B - Instructional Content Questions. 9

Section C - e-Learning Features Questions. 10

Section D - Mentoring Services Questions. 11

Section E - Supplier Support Questions. 11

Section F - Deployment System Questions. 12

Section G - Supplier Credentials Questions. 13



Evaluating e-Learning Solutions

By Dorman Woodall

 

The newness of e-Learning has brought about a revolution of learning via technology allowing organizations to deliver a wide range of personalized training content and greater access to community-based collaboration never before possible. 

By evaluating the growing e-Learning solutions you are sure to obtain the full benefits from the outstanding advantages that e-Learning brings to your training agenda.

Hitting the e-Learning Target

The power of e-Learning has brought about a new context for learning within the training industry.  The exciting universe of e-Learning brings about a balanced harmony between the well-known traditional classroom approach (ILT) and the constantly evolving technology-based learning (TBT).  This balance has tremendous potential for building increased performance within your organization.

Knowing how to evaluate and determine whom you should partner for your e-Learning solution is an important and critical question.  Hopefully, the definitions, discussion, analysis and subsequent checklist of questions within this paper will assist you in determining the questions you should ask an e-Learning supplier so you can best accomplish your targeted training needs. 

What is e-Learning?

Some people say it is enterprise learning because the entire organization profits from it.  Several say it is electronic learning because of its convenient method of delivery.  Still others see it as everywhere learning because it reaches more people in more locations than has ever been possible before.  And some call it excellent learning because it is designed to accommodate the individual learner.

We like to think of e-Learning in the terms of its outcome so we refer to it as experience learning.  That is what Elliott Masie, a well-known industry expert, calls it too.  Elliott defines e-learning as the use of technology to design, deliver, select, administer, support and extend learning.   We believe the foundation of e-learning is based on adult learners’ active participation in problem-solving and critical (or discovery) thinking regarding a learning activity that the learner finds both relevant and engaging.


Characteristics of e-Learning

Several characteristics make up an up-to-date view of e-Learning.  First of all e-Learning is dynamic and contains the right content.  Training and related expertise about any subject must be current and relevant, not old news or ‘shelfware’.  This means that e-Learning must provide on-line experts, the best sources and fast solutions in skills emergencies. 

The context of e-Learning is to operate in real time, making the best use of the technology, since both the content and the expert advice has to be there when you need it.  Collaboration is used to leverage the explicit and tacit knowledge of the colleagues, experts and professional peers.  The job of e-Learning is to bring resources together, from both inside and outside your organization.  

The power of e-Learning via the Internet brings increased personalized services and an individualized approach to the learner.  Every learner must be able to select activities from a personal menu of learning opportunities that pertain to his or her background, job and career at that very moment. 

Finally, e-Learning provides learning events from many sources enabling the learner to select a favorite format or learning method.  The full context of e-Learning means the learner is allowed to actively construct his or her own learning experience without having to rely upon direction from a teacher.

Internet Functions

As most of us know, the Internet was originally built around the need for secure global communication, data storage and retrieval therefore it is information-based in its design.  However, just having access to information alone is not enough for most of us to build the experience of learning upon. 

We must have the capability to engage and interact with the learner with current content that builds upon their skills. The Internet has moved well beyond its original mission and has given us a wide range of capabilities we can apply to corporate training and academic education. 

Some of the major Internet functions we can use to build a viable e-Learning experience include:

Global access by learners

Inexpensive distribution

E-mail

Cross-platform capability

Greater learner control

Chat rooms

Improved Interaction

Plug-in and Java enabled

Threaded discussions

File transfer and download

Streaming technologies

Web seminars

Wide access to resources

Easy-to-use browsers

Secure e-commerce sites


The Top Ten e-Learning Features

The quality of any e-Learning program is based upon how well the e-Learning environment presents the key features of e-Learning to the prospective e-learner.  Key features include:

1.      Teaching a wide variety of technical and business skills through the Internet.

2.      Treating learners as problem-solving adults.

3.      Presenting simulated, real-life situations making the learning engaging and interactive.

4.      Making meaningful assessment and testing (pre and post) available to the learner.

5.      Providing expert instruction (mentoring) in an informal and supportive manner.

6.      Allowing learners to collaborate as an aid in business problem solving.

7.      Tracking learner progress and their accomplishments.

8.      Building a personalized learning path based upon the learner’s goals.

9.      Maintaining links to current articles and readings for the community.

10.  Providing a variety of content delivery or learning modes to the learner.

Defining Two Internet Domains

Synchronous and Asynchronous communication via the Internet provides modern training and learning with two very powerful domains.

The synchronous domain is the more traditional instructional approach to online training and has the instructor (or mentor) and learner available at the same time.  Usually they are in the same place but with the Internet, it is possible for them to be in different places at the same time.  Synchronous training via the Internet is very helpful for the learners that are willing to adjust his or her learning style away from the traditional classroom or lab. 

Being asynchronous means that the instructor (or in most cases, computer-based courseware) and the learner are only available at different times, a windfall for self-directed learner who likes to learn at their own pace and their own time.  An e-Learning solution should place equal emphasis on both of these important learning domains.

A Brand New Focus on the Learner

The power of the Internet along with the balanced use of synchronous and asynchronous learning has brought about a new focus on the adult learner never before encountered in history.   Now the learner can construct their learning using either a self-directed and/or collaborative approach.  They have been freed to access a wide range of resources whenever and wherever they wish.

Up until now, most teaching experiences have been solely teacher-centric using only behavioral and cognitive training methods.   Because of the shift to expand the experience of the adult learner and the freedom that the Internet provides the individual, e-Learning makes the learning even more learner-centric by allowing the learner to construct much of their learning without an instructor. 

This new focus allows the individual to expand their responsibility for their own learning and thereby increases their motivation.  The additional flexibility of using the Internet for e-Learning provides the learner with current resources and enables them to determine their own learning activities.  By providing e-Learning within a positive and non-threatening environment, learners can encourage others, contributing to each other’s personal growth. 

Designing For e-Learning

The instructional design of e-Learning is focused on the adult learner’s need to apply skills to solve business problems.  In other words, their business skills and personal experience are expanded using e-Learning. Without this view, a significant degree of motivation for e-Learning would be lost.   The design of e-Learning allows the learners more control to construct their learning than was ever present in traditional training. 

Key requirements include:

Balancing Teacher-Centric and Learner-Centric Instruction

Maintaining a healthy balance between the traditional teacher-centric (Objective) and learner-centric (Constructive) is the overall instructional goal of e-Learning.  With e-Learning we are no longer left in an either/or learning situation.  We can use both to increase the learning potential of the individual.

Traditionally, Objective-based training places the learner in a passive role while putting the instructor in total charge of defining the objectives, building the practices and developing the test.  Behavioral and cognitive training are based on this learning theory.  The teacher knows and you are expected to follow the lesson plan.  You know the drill.

On the other hand, Constructive Learning provides an experience that allows the learner to proceed at his or her own pace, determine how they will learn and how they will apply their knowledge.  It focuses on preparing the learner to solve problems in ambiguous situations.  This theory is based upon the premise that all of us construct our perception of the world based upon our experience.  Given the right resource, the individual will develop learning habits and attitudes.

The Internet is given us a highly flexible and constructive learning environment that sets the stage for the proper balance between objective-based training and constructive-based learning.  As trainers, we should allow ourselves to  ‘think out of the box’ (the Skinner box, that is), and use both of these important methods of instruction because they provide sound instructional theories that are essential for e-Learning.

Providing Meaningful Simulations

Simulation of real-life situations greatly increases the learning and engages the learner in adult size problem-solving activities.  To be effective, the simulation must be task-based  (goal-oriented) and allow the learner the freedom to practice alternative solutions.  And to my behavioral friends, yes, learning comes from taking the wrong approach too.

A lower level approach to simulation is the step-based approach that requires the learner to perform a guided step, one at a time. In this simulated interaction method, the learner is directed to take a single action to simply to move them forward to the next screen.  It keeps the learner busy but they are never given the chance to try out their newfound skills in the total context of the problem.  Most behavioral training uses this method of control over the learner to prevent them from making a mistake or in order to give immediate feedback.

I am reminded that this behavioral step-by-step simulation is similar to taking driving directions from a spouse who wants to control the particular route to a location and does so by giving the driving direction to one major street at a time.  In time, you get to your final destination but you may not remember how you got there… or how to get back to your original location.

Creating a Positive Atmosphere for Learning

Several methods of e-Learning are available to show the learner how to solve problems using a wide range of resources. These methods include information, training, people and performance support.  Since the Internet provides a wealth of materials and interfaces, the learner can personalize their own learning requirements so they can use the Internet effectively. 

By letting the learner manage their own learning and make choices, it greatly facilitates their learning process.  They have the choice to share a problem with another learner on a collaborative basis, cruise the Internet or to have a mentor support them through a learning situation.  Either way, they increase their own learning and problem solving ability. 

Another way to increase the acceptance of e-Learning is to blend it with classroom training so these two powerful media of training delivery work in partnership.  By having both work toward the same learning goals, these methods can work in harmony and produce a powerful learning experience. 

Text Box:  Using Learning Objects

Until now, most learning objects have been proprietary to the suppliers of the training materials.  In many cases these learning objects are treated as Lego blocks within a course and could not exist in an open environment.  Now industry standards have been developed (AICC and LRN) that allow learning objects to be placed in a curriculum.  In this flexible architecture, the learning object can created by your primary supplier, a third party supplier or a custom internally developed learning object.

Learning objects are best positioned into a framework of four categories: Instructional, Collaboration, Application and Assessment.  The learner can elect to take the Instructional learning objects consisting of courses, workshops, seminars, interactive exercises, white papers or articles.  Once he or she has a foundation of knowledge and comprehension, they can elect to move to Collaboration learning objects to enhance their understanding through the use of mentoring, discussion, chats or meetings.

When the learner feels he or she is ready to practice their skills, they will use the Application learning objects that consist of task-based simulation, role-plays, quantitative simulations, mentored exercises, or case studies.  Finally, the learner can choose to validate their skills using the Assessment learning objects that are composed of proficiency and certification testing. 


Five Key Questions to Ask Yourself

1.      Are you ready for e-Learning?  

Do the attributes of e-Learning fit your needs? The overall implementation of e-learning will work better if you are ready for it.  If not, then you will need to prepare your organization in advance of implementing e-Learning. 

2.       Does the supplier have the e-Learning materials?  

Does the supplier have the instructional sound content you need?  If not, are they getting it soon enough to satisfy your needs?  Is it high quality content and well designed?  If not, consider looking for another supplier because without the right type of content, nothing will work for you. 

3.      How can the supplier assist you?

Does the supplier really know about e-Learning environments or are they just latching on to a marketing buzzword?  It pays to check them out.  The supplier must have the expertise and commitment to assist you in your initial installation plus follow through to provide on-going support.  

4.      How will you know if e-Learning is working? 

The implementation of e-Learning should result in a spurt of creative learning and increased business performance.  How will you know?  You need a system that records and post progress.

5.       Will it be worth it? 

The primary drivers for e-Learning include several strategic and tactical business targets.   Most of these objectives focus on lowering the cost of training while increasing the performance of the individual.  What goals are you seeking? 

Why ask Questions?

That’s a good question.  Questions can provide you with needed information about an important topic.  Since several training managers are too busy to build their own list of questions, the following ones can be used to start you on your way to getting the information that is essential for your decision.  Please feel free to modify or add to this set of questions to suit your purposes. 

The sequence of the questions should be in the order of most importance to you.  The most important ones are dealt with first because you don’t have time to waste.  There are a lot of players in the e-Learning business, your job is to sort out the one(s) that suit your needs.  By framing your questions in the context of your needs, you can determine quickly if a supplier has the best approach for your organization or not. 

Good luck on making the right choice.


 

The e-Learning Readiness Scale

Criteria

Rating (1=low, 10=high)

1.       You have a large population of learners

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

2.       Learners are dispersed in different geographical locations

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

3.       Most of the learners have access to Internet or Intranet

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

4.       A wide range of business, technical and professional skills are needed

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

5.       Training requirements are generally consistent for most of the audience (e.g. Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, etc.)

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

6.       Training being done now using either CBT, CD-ROM or LAN

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

7.       You are not strongly rooted to in a ‘classroom only’ tradition

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

8.       An established, recognized training function already exists

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

9.       There is a strong belief in learning design for individuals

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

10.   There is a long-term commitment to technology

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

11.   Your company Intranet is in place and working

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

12.   Some on-line learning or information tools are in place

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

13.   High quantity of inquiries being made to help desk function because skills are not in place

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

14.   IT group is supportive, has equipment or will allow external Internet hosting

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

15.   Organization sees an increase in individual skills as a key to business growth within market.

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

16.   Management sees a return on the investment or clear strategic advantage for training function

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

17.   Adequate resources (people, equipment and funding) are available to manage the program

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

18.   Culture is open to e-Learning (commitment to lifelong learning)

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

19.   The e-Learning implementation team has a clear vision

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

20.   Your organization is economically sound and has the budget needed to see program through for next 3 to 4 years

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

Analysis:

Once you have completed the rating for your organization, connect the scores with a line.  A pattern will emerge.  If the line goes mostly down the right side, then your organization is well prepared for an e-learning project.  If the line is skewed mostly on the left, then you are less ready for the venture.  In this case, you may wish to work on some of the factors prior to or at the same time you implement an e-learning project.

Section A – e-Learning Design Questions

Rationale:

The training delivered by the supplier’s courseware must do a good job of teaching the subject matter content.  Navigation and other course features are important but once the course interface is understood, the learner is ready for the delivery of the training content in a way that speeds their understanding and skills. You are looking for a positive answer from all of the following questions.

1.      Are the practice simulations well constructed allowing the learner to achieve a stated goal in different ways?

 

Simulations are needed to increase the learner’s engagement with the material. Task or goal based simulation increase the learning dramatically.

2.      Does the instruction provide a prescribed learning path?

 

Learning paths focus the learner on the material that is less familiar to them.

3.      Does the instruction provide certification exam preparation along with a curriculum, related course, and unit tests?

 

Embedded preparation for exams saves the learner time.

4.      Is the instruction built using a strong instructional design methodology (Gagne, Bloom, Piaget, Mager and others)?

 

References to known learning experts are helpful in determining the quality of the training materials.

5.      Does the supplier have a learning object strategy that is open and allows you to insert your own custom objects?

 

Open standards for learning objects are important (AICC or LRN).

6.      Are the graphics used within the instruction extensive, meaningful and within context?

 

Graphics increase the quality of the learning and are extremely useful in conveying the context of the material.

7.      Is pre and post testing available?

 

The learner will shorten their training with a pre-test and validate their learning with a post-test.

8.      Is there a final test?

 

A final test ensures that the learner has completed the training.

9.      Does the content contain social stereotypes or prejudices?

 

If the course does, then it should be rejected.

10.  Are the graphical images and vocabulary representative of the target audience?

 

Without the best presentation, the message may be missed.

11.  Can the library be actively played via the Internet and alternatively be downloaded for off-line use?

 

Since the learner can take the materials from a workplace or home location, both methods are important.

12.  Does the instruction contain basic navigation features such as: Bookmark, Step Back, Online Notes, Web Links, Index or Glossary?

 

The user interface should be friendly and powerful allowing the learner to control the pace of the learning.

 


Section B - Instructional Content Questions

Rationale:

Without the right content, the training is useless.  You should know if the content will be the best material suited for your training requirements. You are looking for a positive answer from all of the following questions, except where noted.

1.      Is the content highly rated by subject matter experts?

 

Content is king when it comes to learning so it is a good idea to have the course content reviewed by your own subject matter experts.

2.      Does the content match the requirements of your training program?

 

Obviously the content can be excellent but does it give you what you need for your training program?

3.      What is the range of course topics covered in the supplier’s catalog?

 

You should expect a wide range of course topic within the supplier’s catalog.  This includes technical, desktop and business skills.

4.      If you have global learners, is the course content localized into multiple languages?

 

Your training requirements may span over many cultures.  Having the same course content available to these audiences will be valuable.

5.      Is the content jointly developed with the software providers?

 

This should mean that the course content is current and up-to-date.  * see the list below for a sampling of providers.

6.      Do the software providers use these courses internally for their own staff?

 

If the providers use the course materials themselves then it is a very good indication that they see the quality of the content.

7.      Does the content use realistic, business-like scenarios?

 

This ensures that the learner can quickly use the skills within a real business situation.

8.      Is the content ‘chunked’ into small enough units to allow the learner to learn quickly?

 

If the content is broken up into small units, the learner can take the course is a shorter periods of time.

9.      Can learners preview courses from you web sites without being charged?

 

One of the best ways to preview a course is to download from the supplier’s web site.

10.  Is the content accurate and up-to-date?

 

Obviously you need to verify the currency of the content.

 

* Sample list of software providers:

 
 

Microsoft

Novell

Oracle

Netscape

Sybase Powersoft

IBM

Lotus

SAP

CISCO

Project Management Institute

CompTIA

Intel

Informix

Tibco

Macromedia

Marimba

RealNetworks

SkillScape

Javasoft Consortium

Rational Software

 

 


Section C - e-Learning Features Questions

Rationale:

The balance e-Learning brings to training includes the personalized, collaborative and mentoring elements.  It is with these elements that the learner moves beyond the asynchronous environment to a rich synchronous one that allows them to communicate with peers, instructors and experts.  This support gives the learner the opportunity to enrich and construct his or her own learning. You are looking for a positive answer from all of the following questions, except where noted.

1.      Does the e-Learning interface provide personalized content for the individual learner? 

 

Personalization connects to learner to the learning.  It makes it unique for the learner and this increases the learner’s motivation to learn.

2.      Is the learner given the capability to build a prescribed learning path based upon a pre-assessment test? 

      

 

Building the personal plan eliminates topics the learner already knows or wishes to skip over thereby reducing time.

3.      Is exam preparation software available for industry certification programs? 

 

Having the ability to prepare for the exam in advance will increase the likelihood of passing the exam.

4.      Does the interface provide links from the course to technical documents, white papers, articles, case studies, etc.? 

 

Having access to current information about the subject is essential to the learner staying current.

5.      Is there an available library (non-marketing) of news, features, articles and books on IT & business skills content? 

 

Resources like these will keep the learner aware of his/her career and industry trends.

6.      Are industry video seminars integrated with chats (both live & archived) available from the supplier? 

 

Being able to extract seminars on-line will increase the learner’s understanding of the topic.

7.      Does the learning include lab exercises? 

 

Learning is mastered by doing the tasks.  Doing them in labs is a good way to support the learner.

8.      Are hosted expert-led forums & chats available? 

 

Collaboration is key to the learner constructing his or her own learning.

9.      Are hosted discussion threads available?

 

Ditto above.

10.  Are the following features available to you on a private basis:  All of the functions below provide your learners with essential information about your organization.

 

ü       An organizational resource page for internal contacts, internal training news, information, surveys, evaluations, etc.?

 

ü       A corporate chat room?

 

ü       A corporate discussion thread?

 

ü       A corporate resources page with links to specified Internet/Intranet sites?

 

ü       An infrastructure for adding specific content, courseware, publications, etc.?

 

11.  Does the learner have the capability to customize individual learning paths? 

 

A very powerful element of e-Learning because it allows the learner to build their own plan and this, in turn, builds ownership.

 

12.  Is there an up-to-date course catalog? 

 

Since the learner’s need grow, resources should be made available.

 

13.  Is there an up-to-date schedule of events, shows, and conferences? 

 

Current information that may be useful to your learner.

 

Section D - Mentoring Services Questions

Rationale:

Mentoring provides the learner with both expert advice and support.  In many cases the learner will benefit from the supportive environment created by the mentor much in the same way as having an instructor.  You are looking for a positive answer from all of the following questions, except where noted.

  1. Does the supplier provide proactive mentoring (e.g. daily emails from Learning Advisors)? 
 

As in a classroom environment, proactive support by the instructor can motivate the learner to stay on track with their learning plan.

  1. Does the supplier provide reactive mentoring (e.g. Learning Advisor Chats)? 
 

This method of using chat rooms can provide the learner with just-in-time information or expertise.

  1. Are the mentoring Learning Advisors certified in the subjects they mentor? 
 

Obviously the best mentors are the ones with experience and commitment.  Certification is a primary way to confirm their skills and experience.

  1. What is the availability to the Learning Advisors?
 

Having the advisor available when your learner need them is essential for their support.  Check into the hours of availability.  The more the better.

  1. What topic areas are covered by the Learning Advisors?
 

Their topics must cover your needs.

  1. Is the mentoring developed with the supplier’s courseware? 
 

If they do, then this is the best match for your learners.

  1. Is the supplier’s courseware actually used by the Learning Advisors?
 

The mentoring is best if it is blended with the use of the supplier’s courses, check to be sure that this is being done.

  1. What are the guaranteed and actual response times of the Learning Advisors? 
 

You should expect a quick turnaround for the service you are buying.

 

Section E - Supplier Support Questions

Rationale:

Implementing an e-Learning environment will require support from the supplier.  In a true partnership, the supplier will work with your organization to make your e-Learning program a success. You are looking for a positive answer from all of the following questions, except where noted.

1.      What is the size of the supplier’s support organization (Technical & Learning)? 

 

The larger the better.  Compare the staff size and experience levels with the nearest competitive supplier.

2.      Will the supplier provide on-site support to assist you with your e-Learning program? 

 

Being there is big assist for your organization.  Be sure to confirm that they will be around throughout your program.

3.      Is there a professional services group to assist with custom integration and development? 

 

Customizing your program may be necessary so having consulting support from the same supplier can save time and money.

4.      How responsive is their toll free technical and email support?  

 

It is best if their support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  One way to check them out is to call up the service at a very early time in the morning, say 4:00 AM.

 


Section F - Deployment System Questions

Rationale:

Tracking the learner’s progress is essential to the success of the e-Learning program.  This oversight function is not being done to show ‘big brother’ control but to determine if the program is truly effective and whether it is bringing about the business results.  You are looking for a positive answer from all of the following questions, except where noted.

1.   Does the supplier provide a LMS (Learner Management System) to launch and track the learners’ progress? 

 

All e-Learning suppliers must provide a system that does this since there is no other choice when launching and tracking training events.

2.   Does the LMS work equally as well on the Internet and your Intranet? 

 

This is an important feature since the learner may be accessing training materials for different locations.

3.   Is the LMS rich in functions and easy to use?  (e.g. can you add and modify courses, events, and curricula for individuals or groups? Are you allowed to export or import data to and from the LMS?) 

 

The richer the LMS is the better it is for you and your organization.  There are several key functions that you should review in detail.

4.   Can individual and group reports (usage, scores, downloads) be customized? 

 

The ability to obtain usage information is essential to LMS.  Without this customization function, much of the richness of the LMS is lost.

5.   Does the supplier provide a qualified hosted provider? 

 

Be sure to ask for references about the quality of technical and people resources at the host site.

6.   What is the service history for the provider in terms of transactions and uptime? 

 

Ask for a service history of for customers similar to those having your requirements.

7.   Can the LMS launch and track other supplier courses? 

 

This capability means the LMS is open and not restricted to only one supplier.

8.   Is the supplier committed to open system standards?  (AICC, LRN, IEEE, or IMS) 

 

Look for evidence of the supplier’s participation in industry groups that are committed to building open standards, it shows that they are concerned about the industry.

9.   What is the total installed size of the instruction on the hard drive?  

 

Course size is important when downloading or when managing hard disk space.  Look for less those that are consistently less than 15 megabytes.

10.  Will the instruction perform well using a 28.8K modem?

 

Most learners will have this modem speed when away from their office locations.

11.  Does the instruction library have a consistent course interface when delivered via Internet, Intranet or CD-ROM? 

 

Once the learner has mastered the interface, then their ability to learn will increase.

 



Section G - Supplier Credentials Questions

Rationale:

The financial and development qualities of the supplier are proof of their true commitment and vision to their customers and the training industry. 

1.      When was your company founded?  Have you changed your name?  Why?

 

The longer they have been in the business the better.  Look for the strength of their financial position, leadership and  vision.

2.      How many clients do you have currently?

 

The more customers the better.  It shows that you can get a reference check on the supplier.  Also look into the loyalty of their customer base and if any left the supplier but later came back.

3.      Can you describe your principal product in terms that my boss would understand?

 

Look for a simple statement of what they supplier.  A business like statement about how they will save you money is a good answer.

4.      Does your company supply a full e-Learning solution (content, technology and service)?

 

Knowing if the supplier has the full range of expertise to be an e-Learning partner is key.  All of these components are needed to supply you will a full range of e-Learning solutions.

5.      What is the number of Higher Education clients (colleges & universities) using this supplier? 

 

Great question even if you are not in this group.  Education customers look at the instructional quality of the products along with the flexibility of delivery and use.

6.      Who do you consider your major competitors?

 

They should give you two or more names and strictly avoid any negative selling comments about their competition. 

7.      What part of the country or the world do you do business?

 

The more locations the best, particularly if your organization has global learners. 

8.      Has the supplier shown sustained revenue, profit and growth within the training industry? 

 

If the supplier has been in the training business for any length of time, they must show constant growth or there must be something wrong.

9.      How much (as an amount and percentage) does the supplier re-invest into their Product Development? 

 

 

A good rule of thumb is at least 15% of gross revenue.  Without a significant investment the supplier is taking a risk of not being prepared for your future training needs.  Spending the type of money usually confirmed their commitment.)

10.  How many course titles does the supplier have available? 

 

While the number may vary, the total library of courses does show the amount of training resources available to you.  Having over 1,000 courses shows a very significant investment in development.

11.  What percentage of the course titles is currently available via the Internet? 

 

Look at how many total courses are available versus how many are available via the Internet.  The difference is usually made up of out-of-date courses.

12.  Is the supplier’s product development staff residing in-house or are they out-sourced? 

 

In-house is good since there should be consistent quality and content development.  Out-sourced courses tend to vary in quality and content depth.  The larger the staff, the better.  Be sure to compare to the supplier’s closet competitor.

13.  What awards has the supplier won for the quality of their learning products and services? 

 

They didn’t need to win every award.  Look at kind of the awards they have won in order to determine if others within the training industry believe their products to be of value too.