No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

E-Learning Design Specification


I am shortly looking to go out to tender for a number of e-learning programmes and am looking for some guidance as to what detail others have included when trying to specify the design of an e-learning solution. Training specifications that I write are based around target audience, objectives, background, etc. Whilst this is not likely to be very different for a piece of work to be delviered via e-learning, areas such as amount of suggested content, quality of technical content and usability all seem a little difficult to be descriptive over. Any help appreciated!
Tom Harlow

3 Responses

  1. The missing yardstick

    You have highlighted a key issue. The Training Foundation has been carrying out research studies in this area and we will be reporting our findings later this year.

    Traditional approaches to procurement are predicated on a clear definition of precisely what is being procured, supported by appropriate definitions of quality. This approach works fine when you are buying commodities like iron ore, flour or potatoes.

    When an organisation commissions the development of a custom-built e-Learning programme this is sometimes because they do not have sufficient in-house expertise to specify the requirement in detail. The result is often a hazily worded RFP (Request For Proposal) that talks in vague terms about requirements for “an e-Learning programme” or about aspects of the delivery media and technology.

    Proposals produced by potential suppliers will therefore invariably offer a bewildering array of alternative options at different levels of quoted cost. This often makes it impossible for the client organisation to effectively compare apples with apples for the purposes of assessing value for money. This type of abortive RFP is often scrapped, thereby wasting the time and resources invested by prospective contractors and the client organisation alike.

    Even when a similar RFP is subsequently issued against a more detailed specification, many organisations still have no objective way of measuring the potential level of quality being offered by competing suppliers.

    All too often traditional procurement techniques will be applied to crack the problem. In an attempt to arrive at a rationally based selection decision potential suppliers will be asked to set out their day-rates for various services or for the development of a learner hour of e-Learning. Alas, there are no commonly accepted definitions for either e-Learning or a learner hour that are really useful in the context of procurement.

    This approach can have many adverse consequences:

    – There is a risk that procurement decisions might tend to favour contractors employing the cheapest, least experienced/untrained staff.

    – Unscrupulous contractors are sometimes tempted to (for example) halve their quoted day rates but ensure that they take twice the estimated time to complete the project!

    – The deliverables from a completed project can prove to be effective but surprisingly different from that anticipated by the client organisation.

    – In the absence of a definition for a learner hour clients can easily be short-changed.

    – In the absence of a definition for a learner hour contractors can potentially over-deliver content when a more innovative solution might be faster for learners and equally effective.

    Feel free to get in touch for detailed advice on these issues.


  2. Requirements management
    Bearing in mind that an e-learning solution is in fact (wholly or partly) a *software* solution, it is important to practise the discipline of effective Requirements Management – starting with the tendering phase of the project.

    A brief introduction to the requirements management process is given here:

    In addition to the training design aspects, the courseware design aspects need to be specified as early as possible in order that the e-learning project is delivered in accordance with your training needs, and to the time and cost budgetted.

    In a software engineering project, this is achieved by developing a formal requirements matrix document. For an e-learning project we might instead develop a formal Style and Methodology Guide, together with Lesson Design Specifications, to serve as the basic documents for formalising requirements.

  3. Principles and Practices for Designing and Developing E-learning
    Hi Tom

    I presented the subject topic to an elearning summit a couple of years back (in Australia) and have some links that may be useful.

    My topic is slightly off topic in relation to your question, but the link sources will have useful information to help you inform your request for proposal etc.

    Here goes:

    IMS Global Learning Consortium

    Advanced Distributed Learning

    Aviation Industry CBT Committee

    Instructional design standards can be found here:

    Innovations in Distance Education report

    I hope these links are still valid. If you’d like a copy of my paper in Adobe PDF format which describes the links, please email me.




Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!