There's one thing that's as true in an e-learning journey as it is life; it's a lot more productive with a good partner. Someone to share the ups and downs with, lean on in difficult times and get advice and support.
The difficulty of course is the same in both life and e-learning; finding the right partner. Picking the wrong one is usually costly, difficult and ultimately unrewarding at best. So great, here I am as a love consultant? Not quite but here's 5 quick tips I can give to help you pick a better partner in the e-learning world:
1) If they don't think of themselves as a partner.. run!
This is a sure sign that you are being operated along a true sales only mode. This is for dump and run type options - your basic equivalent of a one-night-stand in e-learning. This type of 'transaction' is absolutely fine if you know what you're getting yourself in for and your both consenting 'adults', but if it's long term satisfaction this will just leave you feeling hurt. Even if you're buying off the shelf e-learning I would want to find some commitment to updates or future releases; and watch for those extra costs!
2) I seem to get passed around a lot
This is the equivalent of dating a group of friends rather than a caring individual. A good organisation will have multiple people to be able to help you and you may get put in contact with the right person for the right service, but the easy way to tell if you're being given the run around is if you have to tell your story from the start each time. We've all had these poor customer service experiences (especially telecommunication and internet providers for me!!) that leave us feeling that instead of a partner we're just a number and our supposed partner is cheating on us with too many people to name. Hey I can't meet you tonight, but try Bob, he's free.. err.. no.
3) First time you, first time me
So here's a challenging one, in life it would be nice to meet our partner fresh and new out of the box; never been touched before.. of course this does happen and work.. just not that often and life is a true learning experience start to finish. Does that mean that we pick an older and more established partner? One who's been around the block a few times? Yes and no. We want to find someone who has enough experience to know how to treat you right, to know when you need hands on and hands off, someone who at least gives you confidence that they know what they're doing. That doesn't mean selecting the person who has 'done' everything and everybody, it means balancing experience and care. Unfortunately a lot of us in life jump in with both feet first time out and have the scars to prove it; if it's your first time picking an e-learning partner, take your time. That doesn't mean giving them the run around either, it just means starting with relatively light options. A good partner will be happy to do this knowing it takes time to build trust in any relationship.
4) Personality matters; yes it really matters
By this point in life we probably are all well aware of the dangers of picking a partner purely on looks. That big glossy organisation or the funky boutique outfit can both be full of pitfalls as outlined above. The real deal is the way you can connect with a few individuals in the organisation. I'd say the one special person, but in business we have to accept that people do move on, so be a little wary of betting on an organisation because of one person alone (particularly if they're not happy!). Actually that's it, find someone who is genuinely enthused and happy in what they do and you can really connect with. You do this in life and generally things work out well too!
5) Take your time and don't come across as desperate
So the world is a cruel place at times (remember school?!). If you come across as desperate for attention quickly with money to spend the sharks will come and quickly. You have every right to look around and talk to different organisations and not flash the cash from the start. Big budgets attract all-sorts from the good to the bad and the ugly, start out looking for something small, before leaping into bed with your new partner and only then finding out what a mistake you've made. If they won't spend the time and energy on you before a lucrative contract is in place they probably won't be after more than just a big pay-day. On the flip side of things, if all you want is free drinks without any commitment then perhaps you're not in the market for a partner at all - this is why the sharks exist.
In summary this e-learning business can be a little dangerous at times but as in life it's a learning experience and you need to learn something from any partner you have or are going to have. If you do find your life-long partner, then hang on to them, treat them right and never forget to tell them what they mean to you.
Fortunately I've decided not to quit my job as a learning solutions consultant and embark upon a career as a relationship advice columnist for well-known magazines!