The Rapid Elearning Blog

kickstart e-learning career

I once had a manager who told me everything I report to him should be presented as five things on a notecard. He didn’t want all of the detail or nitty gritty. He just wanted a quick overview of the five most essentials points.

I get a lot of emails from people who want to transition from their current jobs into e-learning development. They want to know what they need to do (or know) to get moving in that direction. So here are my five things if you want to start a career in e-learning.

Learn About Learning

Sure, a formal instructional design degree helps, maybe. But today it’s not as critical, assuming you can prove that you really know what you learned. There are all sorts of ways to learn:

  • Go to school and get a degree. Another less costly way is to get a certificate (especially if you already have a formal degree). Certificate programs take less time, seem to be more project-focused, and are a bit more pragmatic when it comes to applying what you’re learning. Here’s a list of programs recommended by the community.
  • Read and learn on your own. There are plenty of good books and I’ve written about the few I’d start with. We also have a great e-learning 101 series to learn more. You can sign up here and get it delivered via email. We also offer a ton of free e-books that cover a broad range of e-learning topics.

Build These Types of Courses

You’ll need practical experience. There are all sorts of things you can do to get it. Volunteer to build courses for NGOs, churches, hospitals, or anywhere else that has limited funds and would welcome some free training.

You don’t want to build the same course over and over again. Instead get experience building diverse modules and types of training. Here’s a good list to get started:

  • Assessments. Create a few different types of assessments. The default, blocky type quizzes are fine, but the more custom you can make them, the better.
  • Scenarios. They are always popular and they show how to build situational training that closely mirrors real-world interactions.
  • Interactions. There are three main ways to interact with the screen: click, hover, and drag. Build some modules that demonstrate your skills creating different types of interactions. Lean more on dragging than clicking.
  • Software Training. Most organizations do some sort of software training. Show your skills with screencasts and software simulations.
  • Make it interesting. Most e-learning isn’t very good and usually very boring. Convert one of those types of courses into something interesting. Make it look good and make it interactive.

Learn to Use E-Learning Software

Your success hinges less on your academic credentials and more on demonstrable skills and fluency with e-learning software. There’s a lot of e-learning software out there. You can’t learn everything. I’ll give my plug for the Articulate tools for two main reasons:

  • Do a job search and most organizations are looking for Articulate course developers. You can’t go wrong getting the skills that potential employers desire.
  • All of the demo modules I mentioned above can be quickly built in both Storyline and Rise. You’ll be able to build a professional portfolio using those tools especially if you take advantage of the community resources and the Content Library that comes with Articulate 360.

Build an E-Learning Portfolio

Whenever I hire an instructional designer, I’m more inclined to review their portfolio rather than a resume that documents their experience and education. An instructional design degree is great but to me, the proof is in the pudding. And without a portfolio how can you SHOW your work and skills?

The portfolio highlights your skills and experience.

  • Keep it short. Find a few interesting (and interactive) parts of the course and show those. Or build some modules from the weekly e-learning challenges. They’re short and relatively easy to build. And perfect for a portfolio project.
  • Looks matter more than instructional design. It is a visual medium so make your visuals strong. Stay away from defaults and add some custom elements. Add some novel interactivity to catch their attention.
  • Identify common types of courses (as noted above) and build some modules for your portfolio. This will give you a diversity of projects and showcase different skills.

Learn More About These Topics

There’s a lot that goes into building an effective e-learning course. Here are some additional topics and skills you’ll need to understand to be a good course designer. You don’t need to be a pro at everything but you should be able to speak to them when needed.

There’s obviously a lot more you need to know to be successful transitioning into an e-learning job. What are the five things you’d recommend to that person? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Webinar (University of California Irvine): December 13. How to Build a Professional E-Learning Portfolio. Register here.
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Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.



One response to “5 Ways to Kickstart Your E-learning Career”

Hi Tom,
These are great ideas to kickstart an eLearning career, and also a good starting point for experienced eLearning people to keep learning and developing.
As always, THANKS!


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