“I want to become an elearning pro. What do I have to do to get better?”
This is one of the most common questions I’m asked. I’ve addressed it a few times in the blog by sharing some tips, free ebook recommendations, and a ton of tutorials. But it’s still a common question and worth reviewing from a slightly different perspective.
We’ll look at three key steps in the process of becoming an elearning pro.
Become an E-learning Pro by Learning More
There are many ways to learn what you need to know to become an elearning pro. Here are a few options:
- Get a formal college degree. There are many good degree programs out there. Here’s a list of instructional design degrees started by someone in the community. There is some debate about whether or not you need an instructional design degree. I think a degree serves you two ways: some organizations won’t hire you without one and a degree program often exposes you to information and conversation you may not approach in the daily grind of course development.
- Complete a certificate program. A lot of schools offer elearning certification programs. You can see some in the list above. They cost less, take less time, and many of them offer a good blend of concepts with practical application.
- Manage your informal learning. There are many ways to learn without getting a degree. Sites like Lynda.com offer formal structure with the freedom to mix and match what you want to learn. Or you can go the Youtube route and watch the hundreds of free videos and tutorials. On top of that, the elearning community has all sorts of elearning tutorials and content to help you get started. The only thing required is curiosity and the discipline to learn.
- Read some good books. There are a bunch of good books that will help you learn more about elearning and course design. Here’s a link to some books I’ve recommended in the past and some from the community. A couple of new additions which may interest you: Visual Design Solutions and 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People.
Become an E-learning Pro by Applying What You Learn
Taking courses, reading books, and regularly reviewing content is great. And you’ll learn a lot. However, somewhere in the process has to be an active commitment to apply what you’re learning. If not, then eventually all of that good information just fades away.
Here are a few ideas to help you apply what you’re learning:
- Create prototyping sessions. Many of the teams I’ve worked with regularly took time to play around with elearning design ideas and then build quick proof-of-concept prototypes. We’d commit one Friday a month where each person had to share one idea that we could apply to a course. Sometimes we worked on novel animations or new ways to navigate. Other times we’d discuss different ways to interact with the content. The point is that we set aside time to try new things. If you don’t do something similar, then you may get stuck building the same course over and over again.
- Participate in the weekly elearning challenges. The weekly elearning challenges are one of my favorite parts of the elearning community. They’re designed to be simple practice activities where you can commit whatever time you want to them. Some people do more and some do less. I like seeing some of the novel ideas and how people approach the same challenge from different perspectives. For you, the challenge is a great way to prototype and practice. And if I managed a team, I’d regularly take up a challenge (maybe quarterly) and make it part of the team’s development. In either case, at least make it a point to see what people are doing; you’ll get all sorts of good ideas.
Become an E-learning Pro by Sharing What You Know
The two steps above are key for building your skills. This next one is all about connecting with others, building your reputation, and demonstrating your expertise.
- Create a blog to share what you know. You don’t need to get into the SEO rat race trying to find all the right keywords, headlines, and all of that. Instead, see the blog as something a bit more personal. See it as a way to document what you know and what you’re learning. Ditch the generic content and focus on the practical application. That’s where people will see your expertise. I love the way some of the people who participate in the weekly challenges do write ups of what they did and why. Often they share free downloads. Here are links to three of them (with apologies to all those not mentioned): Jackie Van Nice, Joanna Kurpiewska, and Jeff Kortenbosch.
- Show your work. I’m going to let you in on an industry secret. There are a lot of people in our industry who write about elearning but never show their work. When I ask them about it, they always have some lame excuse about proprietary courses. You’re telling me that in 20 years you’ve not created a single course you can show publicly? It’s a lot easier to be a critic on the sideline than it is to risk criticism for the work done. You can be a step ahead of many of our industry’s experts if you show what you’re doing. Just like the weekly challenges, they don’t need to be big productions. Show what you did and explain why you did it that way. To those just learning, YOU are the expert.
- Present at workshops and conferences. A great way to build your reputation is to present at industry conferences and workshops. If you want to gain some experience, then present at local chapters or special interest groups. In fact, I’m facilitating some community elearning workshops later in the year. Here are the cities: Seattle, Vancouver, and Philadelphia. Those are great opportunities to present since they’re informal and focused on practical tips and tricks. You can submit your presentation idea here. And if you’re selected to present, the workshop is free.
Becoming an elearning pro takes time. It’s a process of learning, applying, and sharing what you know. However, if you follow the steps above you’ll be on your way to success.
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- May 22-24 (Atlanta). ATD International Conference & Expo. We'll be in booth 738. Swing by to chat.
- June 20-21 (San Diego). FocusOn Learning conference.
- Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general type e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. Learn more and sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
- There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.
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
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.