In part one, we recommended some strategies for you to get you started on developing your eLearning platform solution. And, in part two, we looked at how to begin a requirements mapping exercise. Today, in our final installment in this series, we recommend some strategies to adopt and questions to consider when talking to potential technology providers.
Embrace the role of technology greenhorn
Buzzwords and acronyms abound in the eLearning environment. LMS versus LCMS? Gamification? What about “blended learning”? The vocabulary may at times seem overwhelming, and, sure, it’s nice if in your research you pick up some words that make the conversation with potential providers more efficient, but don’t get hung up on the words themselves or allow an acronym-happy provider to confuse you with a long list of capital letters. You don’t need a degree in computer science to have an intelligent conversation with technology providers about what you need your eLearning platform to do. Navigate the technical jargon by keeping your eyes resolutely focused on the experience of the user; even if you think you know what the techies are talking about, it never hurts to ask for clarification. Staying focused on the user experience that results from a particular functionality, rather than the specific name of a functionality, will help ensure you get the features and user interface you want or, at the very least, some clarity about the limitations of that functionality.
So, go ahead and assume the persona of someone who goes online once a year. It’s okay to slow down the conversation, haggle over the details, and convince the computer programmers that you are totally ignorant about the technological advancements of the past decade. Spell out in painful specificity your desired user experience, and the technology provider you’re talking to will need to acknowledge the cost, the effort, and the development timeframe to achieve the experience you want.
Get everything you want in writing
During the requirements-gathering stage, we said, “Write it down.” That principle is equally important at the stage where you’re evaluating technology providers and, when you have selected your provider, negotiating a contract with that organization. Remember, however many times you talked about it, if something is not specifically spelled out in the contract, the chances of it happening are remote. If you have been updating your requirements documentation along the way to reflect the realities of the technology your provider can give you, that document should now be in pretty good shape to be attached as an appendix to the contract itself.
Consider the fine print
The requirements of your eLearning platform are unique to your organization and its members. No generic advice column is going to give you a ready-made list of all the questions you should be sure to ask before signing on with a chosen technology provider, and, if you’ve done your research and analysis, you (or your consultant) know your requirements better than anyone else. That said, here are a few things you’ll want to make sure you know when evaluating providers and that you’ll want to specify when drafting your contract with the provider you’ve selected:
- Who owns what?
- Who does what?
- When the platform is live, who manages customer support, technical and otherwise?
- How much training on the provider’s system is provided within the agreed-upon financial terms?
- What are the options for branding?
- How will users’ data be secured?
- What is the provider’s strategy for housing and backing up data?
- What’s the provider’s policy on platform outages?
- What’s the provider’s policy about platform improvements?
- When you ask about specific functionality, do you get a clear and confident response (whether in the affirmative or the negative)?
- What would happen if you needed to export your content from your chosen provider’s platform to another?
- What are the components that contribute to the final quoted cost of the platform? Are there extras for which you could be charged more?
We hope you’ve found this series useful and would love to hear about your experiences with building eLearning solutions. Tweet us @WileySocieties or feel free to comment below.
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