7 tips to get the best out of your eLearning company
You're an L&D professional and your organisation has identified the need for an eLearning solution.
'Keep cool', you think to yourself, knowing that your team doesn’t have the capacity or capability at this stage to do it in-house. They’re swamped with so many other L&D projects!
You start to Google eLearning companies and are astonished to find pages and pages of results. You’ve never worked with an eLearning company before and don’t know who you can trust to deliver the quality you’re after. You reach out to friends in similar roles at other organisations and get a few recommendations. Now to communicate the learning needs, the outcomes, your vision, budget, brand identity…
No worries, we’ve got this! Finding an eLearning company can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve never worked with one before. As with any relationship in life, building trust is crucial in making sure both parties feel there’s a high level of reliability and that their expectations will be met.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of stakeholders over the past 20 years and have a few tips on how to get the best out of your eLearning provider.
Tip 1: Do your research
Good on you! You’ve taken that first step in doing the research by browsing through websites of learning organisations and getting a few word-of-mouth recommendations. There are a lot of eLearning companies out there so finding the one that meets your specific needs is key. Reach out to them to establish what their field of expertise is and, more importantly, what they are passionate about.
Tip 2: Don’t forget to have conversations
You've decided what you need but now need to engage someone to make it a reality. Many learning organisations will send you documentation up front to have a look through, to get a feel for how they work, their past projects and what you can expect from the process. Relying only on this documentation can be risky, as it can be interpreted in different ways.
Reach out to one of the Learning Partners, Learning Designers or Account Managers at the organisation, who can work through some of the content with you. Having that personal connection, especially in this digital age, is invaluable.
Another tip is to have questions ready, including those tough questions, that they can discuss with you up front. In this way future expectations can be managed more effectively.
We have found that sharing a few reflection questions with new clients before the initial meeting is helpful in this process. These questions allow clients to really dig deep to reflect on things like the culture of their organisation, learning barriers, what a successful learning solution would look like, what if budgets weren’t a constraint, timelines, stakeholder commitment and much more.
This may sound like an interrogation process, but a good Learning Consultant will make it an organic process, where you can walk away feeling like it was a pleasant experience where you were heard and understood. If you’re interested in becoming a Learning Consultant or becoming a better Learning Consultant, download our free training module here.
Tip 3: Get the experts involved
Once you’ve decided on an eLearning company to work with, and the contract has been finalised, it’s time to get cracking on the design process.
We’ve found that the best outcome is usually obtained though collaboration in designing a learning solution with a client, rather than for a client. You will want to involve subject matter experts (SMEs) who have detailed and specific knowledge in their area of expertise. It would be great to be able to simply click a button to download the knowledge of the SMEs, but unfortunately it requires time and commitment from their end.
The ideal situation is to have all the stakeholders who will form part of the review process present from the co-design stage (a big brainstorm session with all parties involved), and through all the review stages that follow. For you to get the best and most cohesive outcome, it’s crucial that you communicate this expectation with all stakeholders up front. We’ve had situations in the past where key stakeholders weren’t in that initial co-design session, and when they came to review the project they wanted to make a lot of changes. This was because they hadn’t come along the journey with the team so hadn’t heard first-hand what others in the team had said and prioritised. This can mean even more changes in the long-run and potential blowout of budgets and timelines, so to avoid this it’s best to involve everyone from the start.
Projects sometimes stretch over a couple of months (or longer) and some stakeholders might not be able to commit for the entire period or might move on to other roles. For this transition to be smooth, new stakeholders should be inducted or briefed effectively on the purpose of the project, the learning outcomes, how it’s currently tracking and the next steps.
Tip 4: Get clear on the process
There are only a select few that flourish on not knowing what comes next. For most of us, having a clear process provides comfort and stability.
Getting clear on the process of your eLearning company, will help you to stay on top of the project and navigate each stage effectively.
Have an open mind when coming into the design process and be prepared to be challenged. Through rich conversations with SMEs, the result could be a completely different learning solution than what was initially proposed and that’s the beauty of a co-design! We want to focus on the problem you’re trying to solve, rather than a predetermined solution.
Trust your eLearning provider to be an expert in the L&D industry and that they know which solution will be most effective for your unique scenario.
Tip 5: Stay connected
SMEs have many other responsibilities and tasks, and being a part of the design process is an added responsibility. Communicating regularly and often is crucial in being able to stick to the timeline and budget. Stuff happens that we can’t always plan for, but sending a quick email to your eLearning provider to notify them that other unexpected priorities have popped up, will help them to alter the timeline, and adjust resourcing.
For longstanding projects, it’s advisable to schedule weekly check-ins with your eLearning provider to recap on how you’re tracking, what you can expect from them within the next week and if they require anything from you. This regular contact helps build the relationship and keeps everyone up to date on their role and responsibilities.
Tip 6: Be prepared for tough conversations
Sometimes the partnership with an eLearning company turns out to be a mismatch, rather than a match made in heaven, and that’s perfectly fine. Having that honest dialogue and communicating effectively about what exactly went wrong, and which expectations were not met is important in repairing the relationship or parting ways. You might find the culture and ideals of the organisation just don’t resonate with you, or sometimes the course just needs to be adjusted slightly to get things back on track. Check out the free “Challenging Conversations” module over at Chameleon Creator for tips on how you or people in your team can more effectively tackle those hard conversations.
Tip 7: Nothing sells like delivery
One of the things that excites us is to share the fruits of our client’s labour, and to see that joy on their faces. From the initial stages where we gave them a high-level view of the project, but they couldn’t yet see a lot of the detail, or where we were heading, right through to the end result. For many of us the thing that gets us up in the morning to do what we love is knowing our clients feel they were a part of creating something awesome that will add value to the organisation and the money they’ve invested was well spent. In fact, that’s our motto: better learning is life changing.
If you find yourself in a position where you have to find an eLearning company but don’t know where to start, feel free to contact us, and one of our Learning Partners will reach out and have that initial conversation.
About the author
I'm Frieda, lover dad jokes, fairy-tale endings and outdoor adventures with my family. For almost a decade I designed learning solutions for my Science and Biology high-school students. Now my audience includes a variety of learners from different skill levels and organisations. Since joining Inspire Group, every day has been a meaningful experience collaborating with the team and our clients to design learning that is life changing.