Guest Post: Questions to ask Vendors at Learning Technologies 2017

Vendors are brilliant at putting on glossy presentations at trade shows, but what are the key questions you should be asking them this year?

Learning Technologies 2017 is set to have another bumper crop of vendors trying to sell you all manner of variations on authoring tools, learning management systems and bespoke development services.

As you wander around the exhibition hall, in between picking up pens and sweets, take the opportunity to get personal demonstrations of what they’re offering. While you’re doing so, you might want to ask them some of these questions…

What makes you different from vendors x, y & z?

Sales people will love you for this, as it gives them a chance to talk about their Unique Selling Point (assuming they’ve thought about it of course!)

But it’s important for buyers too, as the sweet spot comes when that USP matches your particular unique need.

What experience do you have in the [charity, automotive, manufacturing, retail, service, public] sector? (pick one that you know)

Again, this gives a chance for people to tell their story. But it’s also useful from your perspective to find out if the vendor is really likely to understand your particular needs.

Authoring tools
This category includes any software tool that is designed to make it easier to build online content.

What does the content look like on a mobile device?

With many people accessing learning on their phones and tablets, it’s important that it works well – and isn’t just shrunk to fit.

How do learners search inside the content?

A key complaint of many learners is that it’s impossible to find what they need at a later date. Making your content searchable is an important step towards that.

How do I collaborate with my team to author and review content?

Many authoring tools are designed for one man bands, whereas most of us work in teams, or with clients who want to review and comment. The more the tools can support those processes the better.

Learning management systems
This category includes any system that you and your learners will use to communicate, access content, and do assessments.

How do I get a trial login?

Spending time with a new system, to make it work to fit your organisation, is an important test prior to any purchase. How will the supplier help you do that test?

What does it look like on a mobile device?

As above for authoring tools. The user experience includes the system to access content. It should be as seamless and friction-free as possible.

Can you show me details of your security policies?

Any software vendor who wants to gain your trust will be open and transparent about how they maintain security in their datacentres and software. You shouldn’t need an NDA to know what accreditations they have.

Bespoke content or systems

Tell me about where you’ve made a measurable difference to a client

The key word here is measurable. Ideally comparing what life was like before the intervention to what it was like now.

What’s your opinion on “learning styles”?

If they say anything about testing people for their learning style, about VAK, Honey & Mumford or any other learning styles questionnaire then walk away…

How do you make sure what you design is what we need?

Modern development teams use agile, iterative techniques with short (usually 2 week) cycle times. These ensure the supplier and customer keep their ideas synchronised throughout. But that requires commitment from both customer and supplier – so it will be interesting to get their perspective!

This is a guest post by Mark Berthelemy of Wyver Solutions (an ELN Industry Partner).

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