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Ten tips on how to prepare your elearning tender

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15th Apr 2013
founder - real projects Real Projects - Creative e-learning solutions
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After a popular run in our blogs section, we open up Scott Hewitt's blog post of handy tips to the wider TZ community.

You've finally got the budget approved for your elearning project and you ready to start development. The next step is to find the supplier that you are going to work with over the next few months to create your elearning course. But how do you go about finding the right supplier to develop your course?

What are the things that you need to look for in a supplier? How do you prepare your tender? What are things that you can do that will reduce the amount of time the tender process will take?

When you prepare a tender you will have created an outline specification and have a good idea of what you need from your supplier. Think about creating a list of key skills that you want your supplier to have – you may have a preferred list that you can pick from.

Top tip: Even if you have a preferred list I still advise my clients to keep looking around for new and interesting suppliers that they can add to their supplier list.

Be fair about your timescale

Preparing quotes and tenders take time. Make sure that you give the suppliers enough time to prepare a response. You also need to make sure that you provide a deadline for your feedback and decision - and ensure that you can keep to it. 

When does your course need to be ready for delivery? Be realistic. Can you and your learning and development colleagues support the supplier in getting the course ready? Will you be ready to support the roll-out of the course to all of the learners? Think about this when you put the timeline into the tender.

Have you got the budget?

Make sure that you understand the budget required including any potential maintenance costs before you start. Do you have the skills in-house to carry out any edits to the course? Is your ambition bigger than your budget? Do you have to hold on the mobile version until later in the year?

You need to make sure that you have the budget and the authorisation to start the project before you issue your tender.

Do you have a specification?

Ideas cost money and take time to create. If you don't know what you need then you should think about creating a specification before you issue the tender. You’ll save time and getting better responses.

If you are having problems developing a specification think about asking an elearning designer to help you create your specification document. They will be able to help you through the process and ask the right questions to allow you to create a specification that you can then send out to suppliers or get approved internally.

What type of solution are you looking for?

If you are creating a custom course there are a lot of options available from 3D simulation, game-based learning, rapid development, scenario-based and more. You might not be in a position to explain in detail exactly what you do want but you might be able to say what you don’t want. You might want to have an open mind about the type of solutions that are on offer to you but tenders and suppliers are not a free ideas factory. Be fair to suppliers and take some time to narrow down the types of solutions that you are looking for.

Think about your technical requirements

Do you have a Learning Management System? Do you want the course to work on mobile devices? What browsers do you support? Do you still have Internet Explorer 6 in your organisation? What are your accessibility requirements for content? Do you have a preferred authoring or software tool?

Take some time to speak to the technical team in your organisation to ensure that you’ve covered the main points in your tender requirements. Is it a mandatory requirement that your course works on mobile devices or just desirable?

Tell suppliers your scoring process

Ensuring that suppliers understanding your scoring process will help you receive better responses. Your suppliers will understand your requirements and can see what you are looking for. It will also help tenders to make a decision about whether they should provide a response. Make it clear and simple. You should use your process in your scoring.

Allocate time for feedback

Your suppliers will respect you if you can provide some detailed feedback either via phone or email. Suppliers will normally have spent a lot of time working on your proposal especially if it is a custom requirement so any feedback that you can provide on why they were successful or unsuccessful will be really valuable to them. Elearning companies don't expect to be successful each time they submit a proposal so any feedback that they get is very useful.

The companies that provide detailed feedback get a good reputation from suppliers!

Provide an idea of budget

Many tenders don't like to reveal their budgets but in a custom project this can lead to a massive variance in price and solutions coming back from the suppliers. This doesn’t help you. My experience is that it is best to provide a budget range for suppliers to work with.

There are three advantages to this:

  • Suppliers will see if they can want work within this budget
  • It is a lot easier to compare the solutions that you receive
  • You can afford all of the solutions offered

If you have a budget of £20,000 and you send a tender out and you come back with prices from £10,000 to £100,000 you will immediately have to dismiss some of the tenders wasting your time and the suppliers.

I've been in the situation myself and thought - if only we knew the budget range? Quite often most suppliers can provide a range of price options. If I receive a tender with no price information I now provide a range of options.

Do you have any course requirements?
It can be useful to provide a list of course requirements that the supplier can review quickly and easily. Example requirements are:

  • SCORM 1.2 compliant course
  • Conforms with IT policies and marketing policies
  • Learning packages must be fully accessible, adhering to accessibility guidelines
  • Allows user to return to previous content at a later date
  • Includes company branding
  • Don’t lock out users if they get quizzes/puzzles/activities incorrect

You can then expand on any specific requirements in detail.

Provide the background to the project

It helps the supplier if they know why you are commissioning the project and the background to it.

Can you provide some example courses that you have already created in your organisation? Do you have any likes and dislikes? How many learners will be using the courses? Do you have any specific learning and development requirements? Is this course linked to any wider business activities? Will the course be used worldwide?

Use the best people on the review and tender preparation

Make sure that you have the right people preparing your tender and also reviewing the proposals. If you are not sure about a supplier response ask them for clarification or ask an expert! When you prepare the tender document make sure that you have the best people involved in putting together the document - it isn't fair on your project team or the potential suppliers. If you are not sure about what you need think about asking some suppliers to come in to speak to you instead of a formal tender process - they will still be able to help you.

Conclusion

I hope that these tips will be useful when you prepare your next tender. I’ve worked as a supplier and a client and I know that it takes time to write the tender document and the proposal. If you want to make your project a success then the start of the project is important and getting the tender process right does require your time.

Have you submitted tender documents for an elearning project? Have they been a success? How many suppliers do you send them out to? Do you have a specific set of questions that you use that are a success? 

What is your top tip for preparing elearning tenders?

Scott Hewitt is the founder of Real Projects, a creative elearning company designing innovative solutions

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