Custom elearning: How to get started

Creating bespoke courses need not be expensive or difficult. Ryan O’Hara explains how to take your first steps in commissioning a project.


If your clicks have led you here, dear reader, then we can assume that you harbour some interest in bespoke elearning. Perhaps, however, you’re not sure where to start. Fret not. The process is straightforward and shouldn’t break the bank. Let’s look at the steps involved.

Phase 1: Prepare

Your journey begins by identifying the need. It may be that you’ve noticed room for improvement in staff skills, or that a new process or system is being introduced. It could be that you need to update or refresh existing training (whether that’s classroom-delivered material or older elearning that looks a little tired).

Next, identify and engage with internal stakeholders, including subject matter experts, marketing, and the IT department, to get buy-in and clarify that you’re not missing anything important.

Try not to get too focused on the format and the specifics of the content; you want to give your supplier room to be creative and innovative.

Find out if your organisation has done any elearning before, and ask the relevant people if there’s anything you need to consider, e.g. branding, guidelines, or your IT infrastructure. This is also a good time to confirm deadlines, budgets and who needs to sign off on the project.

At this stage, you’ll be starting to have an idea of what the elearning will look like. Try not to get too focused on the format and the specifics of the content, though; you want to give your supplier room to be creative and innovative. Do bear in mind, however, that in elearning less is usually more. A short, high-impact course is better for the learner and better for the budget, and you can always add later.

Phase 2: Define

This phase leads up to writing a Request for Proposal (RFP), which will help you decide on your supplier. Firstly, gather up all the necessary details that will help the tendering firms to understand your need.

This includes (but is not limited to) learning objectives, how you’ll measure the impact of the training, if you need it translated into additional languages, who the audience is, and if there’s any existing material on the subject.


Put together a preliminary team within your organisation, including at least one subject matter expert and a project manager. It’s now just a case of sending out your RFP and waiting to see what comes back.

Phase 3: Select (a supplier)

You’ll have your own idea of what you need in a supplier, but here are some important considerations. Don’t automatically go with the cheapest option! The responses to your RFP are going to feature a variety of prices, but you’ve got to understand what you’re getting for your money.

The term ‘elearning’ has been used to cover everything from PDFs to virtual reality experiences, and there’s going to be different costs attached to different approaches. You also need to consider that the cheapest supplier may not be the most flexible or supportive.

Try to think of the supplier as a partner. You’re going to work closely with them over a period of months, so it has to be someone you can trust, who will support you through the process and who can be flexible to your needs. With that in mind, it can be worth asking for face-to-face presentations from your batch of responders, so that you can judge whether they’ll be a good fit for you and your organization.

Having selected a supplier, you’re ready to kick off your project. More on this next time…


About the author

Ryan O’ Hara is senior learning designer at Learning Pool.  


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