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I'd like to start using computer-based learning (CBL) for my staff training. How do I select the right vendor?

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All vendors can make their product look fantastic during a demonstration, especially when the evaluating audience does not have a solid understanding of the possible drawbacks and limitations of the vendor’s specific software or hardware product. Before meeting with a vendor, you need to have a clear idea of what you are looking for, a clear understanding of the vendor’s company and current customer ratings, how you want to deal with the vendor if you do purchase the product, and an understanding of the CBL industry, with its frequent mergers and name changes.

Staff development specialists, coordinators, and instructors are often asked to help evaluate vendor products related to clinical or other training or learning management systems. Before the initial contact or before the demonstration, be sure to review the vendor’s website, search for information posted online by current and former clients about the vendor, and always take the glossy brochures and glitzy demonstrations vendors provide with a healthy grain of salt.

Ask every vendor the following questions when evaluating a CBL or other training product for your organization:

  • Can we download a test copy or a time-limited full- or partial- features copy of your CBL to ensure it works as expected in our technical environment and with our learning management system?
  • What are the minimal technical requirements to run your CBL courses? What are the optimal technical requirements?
  • If the CBL will be delivered through the internet, is the course browser-neutral?
  • Can learners customize their CBL experience?
  • Can learners select which areas of CBL they wish to learn in any order?
  • What does the CBL cost per learner? What is the overall price of the CBL the vendor is offering?

Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

(December 2010)