eLearning: Caveat emptor!

Buying eLearning for your organisation is not a straightforward task. Of course you want to ensure that what you buy is value for money but how do you go about this; where do you start?
To put it crudely, there are two types of eLearning that the buyer needs to know about: generic or off-the-shelf eLearning, and bespoke or custom-built eLearning. The distinction is important because for each type there are different things to think about.
Buying generic eLearning
There is so much generic eLearning available, that it is quite mind-boggling. Over the last 20 years or so the number of courses, programmes and packages has just grown and grown. Want some language learning? Want to do this via eLearning? Well, you won’t need to look very hard, as there are simply loads of generic courses out there. If you don’t believe me, just Google ‘language learning by eLearning’ and you will see what I mean.
Not only do generic eLearning programmes cover a wide range of subject matter, they are usually available for a considerably lower price than bespoke programmes. This makes buying them very tempting, without giving much thought to whether they are worthwhile and value for money. Perhaps this is the reason why some organisations have many of these programmes languishing on their learning management systems, wondering why they aren’t being used.
Probably, the reason “why” is because those who bought them did not consider any or all of the following:

is it relevant to people’s learning and development needs?
is the content suitable for delivery by eLearning?
is it well designed (instructionally, graphically) and user-friendly?
what is its real cost in relation to the number of users and licences required?
can it be customised and what will this cost?

The key to success is to evaluate objectively before you purchase that language learning solution.
Buying bespoke eLearning
The decision to buy a bespoke eLearning solution, that is designed from scratch to meet specific organisational needs, is even more complex and costly if you get it wrong. There are many suppliers who are only too keen to extol the benefits of eLearning and to convince you that only a bespoke solution will do.
So, before choosing an eLearning solution ask yourself the following:

is there a known lack of skill, knowledge or information?
is rapid distribution required to solve the problem relatively quickly?
is there a large number of learners?
are these learners dispersed widely?
is there a need for uniformity in content?
is there an emphasis on retaining knowledge rather than being able to refer to it at a later date?
is there a need for frequent updates to the content?
is there high employee turnover?
is the cost of classroom-based delivery high?

If the answer to many of or all these questions is “Yes”, then a bespoke eLearning solution may very well be appropriate and a cost-effective decision.
Finding a seller/supplier
If you don’t already have preferred suppliers, then the first step always should be to ask other organisations, similar to your own, who they use and who they would recommend. Beware of those sellers and suppliers who beat a path to your door, trying to sell their wares.