Evaluating eLearning vendors and proposals

When you're selecting a new eLearning vendor that will be developing custom eLearning materials for you, how do you evaluate these vendors? The answer to that is pretty straight forward and I wrote a detailed white paper on that topic - Selecting an eLearning vendor: A guide to making an informed decision. Ok, so now you have three to four potential vendors. You ask them to provide you with a proposal based on a new course that you’d like to develop. How do you select the vendor for that project? Obviously you’re looking at what you are getting for the price. Is the vendor’s solution based on your needs? Does your program require interactive multimedia elements? On the surface the answer to this question may be an obvious “yes”, but in some cases you may be able to develop an excellent course that doesn’t have audio and video and that still meets your specific needs.

For custom development your vendor should be able to provide you with a detailed structure for your program i.e. number of modules, time per module. Your vendors should also provide you with an overall estimate of the development man hours required to complete the course. This is an important first step for any program. Additionally your vendor should list the multimedia eLearning elements that will be included. Now look at the vendors estimate of how many hours it will take them to complete the course.

Let’s look at a hypothetical proposal and plug in the numbers. Let’s say that the vendor says that the course will take 1500 hours to develop and the final course will be 3 hours long, then the ratio will be 500:1. So how does this figure stack up compared to the industry standards? Brandon Hall conducted an extensive survey, looking at eLearning development ratios. Here are the results:
Ratio (number of development hours: training hours) for each type of training:
- 34:1 Instructor-Led Training (ILT), including design, lesson plans, handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc.
- 33:1 PowerPoint to E-Learning Conversion. Not sure why it takes less time than creating ILT, but that’s what they discovered when surveying 200 companies about this practice
- 220:1 Standard e-learning which includes presentation, audio, some video, test questions, and 20% interactivity
- 345:1 Time it takes for online learning publishers to design, create, test and package 3rd party courseware
- 750:1 Simulations from scratch. Creating highly interactive content e.g 3D gaming virtual worlds

At this point I want to make it clear that the 345:1 ratio is for a third party vendor to create a course that they sell as an off the shelf course. The 220:1 would be for an eLearning vendor to develop a custom course for you, with 20% interactivity. Ok, so let's say that your vendor exceeds the 220:1 ratio. Now it comes down to evaluating the materials that they’ve developed to see whether you feel that it is worth the money. How do the other vendors compare? Did they provide you with the figures to measure their eLearning development ratios?

In my next post I will discuss how CMC’s Rapid Development Cycle (RDC) drastically reduces our development time for multimedia eLearning course. As a result our development ratios are much lower than the results of the Brandon Hall survey, which means that our customer get multimedia eLearning products at a HIGHLY competitive price, even when compared to offshore vendors.