Outsourcing eLearning: How to check and evaluate eLearning companies
See also: eLearning Outsourcing
8 Tips to consider while outsourcing your eLearning services
When considering a strategic long-term eLearning vendor to outsource your LMS implementation or learning related services, there are some important characteristics that you should be vigilant of. The key is to choose an eLearning-services vendor with strong core values such as experience (rich portfolio), integrity of sticking to timelines, honesty with contracts, efficiency in liaising with your team, and most quintessential, communication skills. It is much like hiring a handyman for your home, asking the right and important questions and being as knowledgeable and clear in your functional and non-functional requirements will minimize the risk associated with outsourcing eLearning services.
- Research their reliability
The last thing you want to experience is your vendor to go bankrupted. Make sure you check thorough details of the company. Check their registrations with government and follow up with their affiliations in industry. Choose a well-established business with many offices and properly staffed organization. You could even check if they have won any grants or have done some major contribution to local councils and schools. This will narrow down the list of high credible vendors of eLearning service providers. Most countries in Asia-Pacific such as India, Philippines and Malaysia have good eLearning vendors offering their outsourcing services for US, EU, Canada, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.
- Check their range of project experience
Analyze what kind of projects they have worked so far. See if they have concluded projects similar to your requirements. If they have, ask whether they can provide the same team for your project. There is no one solution fits all. You need to scope your requirements carefully before you approach the vendor. Hiring a requirement analyst consultant can list the requirements based on priority, urgency and functional importance.
- Do they have valid references?
Do not enter into any contracts before the company is able to produce some credible client references with proper contact information. Follow up with client references and ask if they were happy with the overall cooperation. Furthermore, ask the client if they are still using their services, and if not, ask the reasons. Once you have all the information from clients, synthesize your gathered information and make informed decisions with your team. Establish a long-term relationship with the clients of the same vendor, so to become aware if any issue concerning the vendor arises.
- Does the eLearning vendor produce quality eLearning products and services?
As mentioned earlier not all solutions fit everyone the same way. Check with the vendor if they emphasize on customizing the product or service to fit your unique requirements. Also, examine their implementation process and development lifecycle to ensure a quality service. It is in your best interest to check the quality assurance policy of the company and see if they are an audited ISO company.
- Involved or Hidden Additional Costs
Hidden costs are your main enemy in outsourcing and you can be charged heavily when you request a customization. However, not all companies fall under this domain. You can be protected by checking for any involved costs associated with implementation, installation, testing, data migration and staff training. An outsourcing vendor may even agree on fixed cost contracts which will keep you safe at the bay, if any problem occurs. Most eLearning start-up companies try and negotiate in entering a fixed cost contract reducing significant project expenses.
- Timelines Milestones and Deliverables
First and foremost check if the eLearning-services vendor has realistic deadlines for deliverables. Make sure that their eager to deliver early is not affecting the desired outcome or quality of the services. If at any time you believe that their project milestones and timelines do not match, ask more questions and sort it out. If their answers do not satisfy your expectations, it’s better to scrap the deal before you run out of resources, time and money. The number of man-hours spent of your eLearning project is crucial, so make sure you make it clear in your terms and conditions.
- Check Risks, Terms and Conditions Applied
Get a legal advisor when you document all terms related to payment schedule, project timeline, costs and guidelines. It is very essential to conduct risk assessment and plan for risk mitigation if you have to come across it. One important suggestion when considering outsourcing is to check if the vendor is insured, what kind of coverage they have and if they have any data loss or back up plan. You don’t want a product which is about to complete to get destroyed by floods, earthquake, god acts and political uprises, which are very common in Asia-pacific. Try to make your projects on cloud so its fool proof to all the above mentioned. Clearly read all the underlying conditions applied and do not skip them because they are lengthy or because you assume that everything is already mentioned or stated in the agreement.
- Level of Communication
The communication with your outsourcing partner is quintessential for establishing long-term strategic relations. Have a weekly meeting with all teams related in the project and discuss how the project is progressing towards the final outcome. Don’t hesitate to contact experts in the eLearning industry when you want to move forward or to raise an issue with a certain vendor. The initial communication is the deal maker or breaker, so focus on how the in-house and offshore outsourcing teams interact.