7 tips on how to buy an e-learning course

Whether you already have e-learning courses or it is the first time you have bought e-learning courses it makes sense to know what you need to be buying and what types of courses you can buy. Knowing what the options are, what you need to look for, what your budget is are important things to know before you start on the buying journey.

Think of your buying journey as a project. If you think this way it will make the buying process easier, quicker and it will reduce the chances of failure.

1. What do you want?

Most people who need to buy an e-learning course have to solve a training need within an organisation. There are normally two routes to take for the buyer of e-learning, you can have a course created or you can buy an off the shelf course. In addition you can create a course internally.

If you are thinking of buying a course you will normally already be working in an organisation that has e-learning in place. Often a specific training requirement has arose and an e-learning course is required to be part of the training plan. The course could cover any subject.

At this stage you can either buy a course that is ready to go, also known as off the shelf or you can buy a custom course. Both courses have advantages and disadvantages. The off the shelf course will be ready to be use immediately but will use generic content, the custom content will use your own content but will have to developed and will need time to be created – but it will be created to your specific requirements.

You will normally be able to demo the off the shelf course to assess it suitable for your organisation, take the time to see if it what you require but remember that generic content will normally have something that you will want to add. The benefit it that it is ready to go!

It is possible that you might have a very specific content requirement which is only going to be solved by the development of a custom course. In this case you are going to have to find a custom e-learning developer and create your own e-elearning course or create your own course in-house.

There are some brilliant development tools such as Articulate Studio 09 and Storyline that can be used to develop your own e-learning courses. You could create your own e-learning courses in-house with the right skills, you might think about working with a e-learning consultant to set up with your own in-house development team.

2. How much money have you got? What is your budget?

What a question!

Before you start thinking about a series of courses, full custom development, green screen presenters, 3d animations and voiceovers it is a good idea to think about your budget. Custom development doesn’t mean hundreds of dollars or pounds but you do need to be realistic. You need to be fair to your budget holder and your potential supplier, think about the budget you have and what you want to achieve within your budget.

3. Are you ready to buy?

Before you go to the market are in a position to actually buy your courses or commission someone to create a course for you? You need to consider that if you are start talking to people about course development that they will be taking to team to meet you, develop ideas and prepare proposals for you. It isn’t really fair for you to take time from their work day if you are not ready to buy or it you don’t have the budget approved.

There is an exception to this – if you have told them that you don’t have a budget and you are just looking for prices and you are really clear about this.

4. What do you want to buy?

Take some time to think about what it is that you want to buy. Some people will have a clear idea about their course including the course title, the technology, the style, the content and they may even have a script. Take some time to think about what your requirements are, your requirements will form part of your requirement document that you can email out to suppliers.

Make sure that you speak to the technical team about what the current technical requirements. This is an important requirement before you start an e-learning project, you want to make sure that your e-learning course is going work after you have deployed it.

Do you want you course to work on iPads, iPhone, Android devices, PC and Mac – take some time to think about your technical requirements. Do you want SCORM compliance? If you have video do you have speakers in your organisation. Develop an idea about what the course is going to ‘look’ like in your organisation and how people will use it. It is an idea to go and speak to some of the intended learners in their environment and get some of their ideas about e-learning and their training requirements. This early feedback can be very helpful and invaluable.

5. Getting a requirement document together

It makes sense to get a requirement document together. Get all of your requirements together and put it together in a document that you can send your to your potential supplier, it can actually be cost effective to work with your supplier to have them help you write your requirement document.

You might find it really hard to write your requirements document but the more detail you can include in your requirement document then the more accurate responses you will receive. If you only send a few lines in an email then don’t  expect a very detailed response back from your potential suppliers. You also want people to see that you are serious about your project and that you have considered what your requirement is, putting quotes together takes time and requires information to put together an accurate quote – its help both sides to have good detail.

6. Dates, Times, Budgets

So many customers will send a request for information out with no dates, times and budgets. If you have a budget range then put this in. It will help your potential suppliers to provide you with a realistic solution for you. There is no value in your vendor spending time creating a solution that you can’t afford. Also be fair to your suppliers if you want responses back  by a specific date then try and be realistic! …but if you want it back in one week then don’t spend one month looking through their responses!

If you are looking for off the shelf courses then provide information about the number of users that will be using the courses. Many courses have site licenses, user licences and annual licenses and they will be able to provide you with an immediate quote. We have courses available on our Real Learner platform on we provide the courses online.

7 . Likes and dislikes

You will probably have seen some e-learning courses at other companies that you have worked or at other companies demonstrations. If you have specific dislikes and likes then share them in your requirement document. Make sure that you are clear if there is something that you don’t want in your course. This applies to your custom course or your off the shelf e-learning course.

Colours – most companies will have a colour palette that they will want to use, make it clear from the start in case the supplier creates  sample visuals for you.

Brand guidelines – If you have brand guidelines make it clear that you will expect them to be followed

Graphic design guidelines – Large and small organisations have graphic design guidelines you may want the e-learning course to follow these

Personalised experiences – you may have used a course and have a personal experience of using that course. The course may have elements that you have not liked – for example completing every element on a page before you moved forward (locking pages).


The great news is that there is some great advice on how to buy e-learning if you haven’t bought e-learning before. There is also a lot of websites and vendor sites where you can review content so that you can see what is possible before you start your e-learning project. Speak to friends and colleagues before you start your project and also speak to some suppliers to get their views. It is worth asking some suppliers to see if you can see some of their courses to see what they have produced.

What are your thoughts about buying e-learning? Have you bought e-learning? Is it easier to buy custom content or off the shelf?

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