Working with E-Learning Vendors: Creating a Request for Information (RFI)

The selection of an e-learning vendor can seem challenging.  Maybe you don’t know what vendors can provide the exact product or service you need, or it might be that you aren’t even sure WHAT you need.  My next few blog posts will give some tips I have found for selecting and working with vendors.  First, let’s focus on how to get the information you need from a vendor using a Request for Information (RFI).

The RFI is a great tool to help you get the information you need about possible vendors and their products and services.  In general, an RFI is used for preliminary research to help you identify which vendors offer the type of product or service you want and what the general costs and turnaround times would be.  RFIs are useful when you are in initial planning stages.  You may not even know exactly what you want, but you are trying to get at least a general idea of what your options are so you can sketch out a preliminary budget and find out what you might need to move forward.

RFIs are fairly simple to put together because they are based on general project goals, rather than detailed specifications.  Create a document that outlines:

  • Information about your company and audience.
  • What you are trying to accomplish.
  • The type of product or service you are looking for.
  • Any specifications you do already know.
  • How you want them to respond.

For example, you might create a simple document that explains:

  • You are a small manufacturing firm with 2500 employees in 50 offices throughout the US.
  • You are looking at offering online safety training for all employees. (You can list the specific topics you are interested in.)
  • You want a vendor with existing courseware you can license.
  • You would like their system to pull from your custom employee database and provide reports on completion and test scores.
  • You would like the courses to run on an iPad.
  • You would like them to respond via e-mail within 2 weeks and provide their list of titles, operating requirements, tracking capabilities, a link to a sample course, and an average, non-binding price for the type of arrangement you are looking for.

Once you’ve sent your RFI to companies, you will start to see some information come back.  As exciting as this is, you could end up wading through pages and pages of marketing language trying to search for answers to your questions.  To make your job simpler, be very specific about how you want the vendors to respond.  Here are some tips on how to get exactly what you need from the vendors who respond to your RFI:

  • Provide a form with simple yes and no questions. (For example: Is your existing courseware Section 508 complaint?)
  • Set a page limit.
  • Provide an outline for them to use when writing their response.
  • Let them know that an average price or price range is required.

The entire document may only be a few pages long.  Remember, with the RFI you are just trying to gather information to help you plan.

Desiree Pinder
Artisan E-Learning

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