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“I want to become an e-learning 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 e-book 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 e-learning pro.

Become an E-learning Pro by Learning More

There are many ways to learn what you need to know to become an e-learning 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 e-learning 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 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 e-learning community has all sorts of e-learning tutorials and content to help you get started. The only thing required is curiosity and the discipline to learn.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - become an e-learning pro e-learning books and instructional design degrees

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 e-learning 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.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - become an e-learning pro with weekly challenge

  • Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges. The weekly e-learning challenges are one of my favorite parts of the e-learning 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 a couple of them (with apologies to all those not mentioned): Jackie Van Nice and Joanna Kurpiewska.
  • 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 e-learning 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.

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  • 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 facilitate community e-learning workshops. Those are great opportunities to present since they’re informal and focused on practical tips and tricks.

Becoming an e-learning 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.


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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

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

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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

7 responses to “A Three-Step Process for Becoming an E-Learning Pro”

Here here! Excellent advice through and through. Not only can you become a pro using these 3 steps – you can have people clamoring to work with you. Being pursued is a constant for the folks I know who have followed this path and do great work. (Thanks for the blog mention!) 🙂

I love the comment about showing your work – so many people are afraid of being judged, but you’re not going to get better by hiding all of the crap you’ve ever done. 🙂 I love seeing the work of others! I especially like taking those opportunities to look at old projects with new eyes. I get new ideas on how I would do it if I were doing it now.

We all have constraints- budget, time, project requirements, skill level, etc. No project is “perfect”. If you are worried about how something will be received- talk about those issues.

May 5th, 2015

@Jackie: you are the gold standard for how to do it right. 🙂

May 5th, 2015

@Amy: it’s definitely a challenge to put your work out there for others to see. But I find that even the simple projects have something to offer. Personally, I always learn from other projects. Sometimes I learn a new technique. Or just thinking about how I may have approached the project from a different perspective is a good exercise.

What I do like about the weekly challenges is that it’s a safe place for people to share, regardless of skill level.

Leggi la traduzione (autorizzata) in italiano di questo post qui:

This is a great post ! Thank you so much for sharing your work…thank you for this post and for your blog ! I love it. I follow your work since 2014 but now I want to engage myself really to put in practice as you sad what I have learned, continue learning and share it with other people. I’ve already started my blog (which is in french sorry ;). I am a training specialist but a beginner in e-learning. Your blog gives me a lot of motivation and many ideas to lean in.

Warm regards from Toulouse in France 🙂


May 6th, 2015

@Ivana: thanks for the kind words and congratulations on your blog