As an independent instructional designer, I’ve benefitted enormously from the Articulate E-Learning Heroes community. I’m always encouraging freelancers and newbies to get involved, but have never shared how the community helped me successfully transition to e-learning. I’ve never even shared my best tips for getting the most out of it! It’s time to fix that.
Here’s how I ended up making ELH my online professional home.
Step 1: I Learned the Software
I discovered Articulate software in 2010 when another tool failed shortly before my very first e-learning project was due. I had to download Articulate Studio, learn it, and be instantly productive. If it hadn’t been for the fantastic step-by-step tutorials and tips (for Studio and now for Articulate Storyline), I’d never have recovered so seamlessly. The client loved the course and Articulate had a devoted new fan. Downloading and using free templates and course assets helped me learn even more.
Step 2: I Learned About the Field
I was already an experienced instructional designer for ILT, but Tom Kuhlmann’s blog helped me find my center as I learned about e-learning. His Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro was perfect to steer me in the right direction to learn more. Spending time in the ELH forums was quite helpful, but getting to lurk and learn from others’ experiences was a game-changer. I knew I was on the right track when I started going to e-learning conferences and felt perfectly fluent and at home in the field.
Step 3: I Gained Practice, Visibility, and Portfolio Pieces
David Anderson started the weekly challenges in August of 2013, but it took me a good five months to make the time (and get up the courage!) to put in an entry. Once I realized the result was encouragement and support (rather than public humiliation), I was hooked and have completed nearly every challenge since.
The challenges were a HUGE key to reaching the next level for me. They provided me with real-world, regular practice in the software and in instructional and visual design. I gained greater confidence in my skills, scads of usable portfolio pieces, and greater visibility in a wider network of my peers.
Step 4: I Started Connecting with Others
The benefits of reading forum discussions or tossing in challenge entries now and then are great, but I quickly realized that unless I took the time to meaningfully connect with others, I wasn’t going to get the full benefit of the community. As soon as I started answering forum questions and finding other ways to help, I became truly invested.
Step 5: I Started Giving Back
I wrote blog posts about my challenge entries to share my ideas, how I made them, what inspired me, and links to resources that might be helpful. Then I started sharing templates and other course assets. When people started contacting me for offline help and advice I did my best to help them, too. Finding the time to give back feels like a stretch, but when you see how you can make a difference in someone else’s success, it keeps you going.
My (Super)-Secret E-Learning Heroes Tips
Here are some ELH success factors I’ve learned along the way. No one taught them to me, but I’m happy to share them with you.
Find Your Place
I found a natural fit in the challenges, but that may not be a place that you love or feel you can shine in, learn from, or offer the most. Others feel most at home in the Building Better Courses discussions or the more technical Storyline or Studio ones. Find your footing and go from there.
You can’t do it all. You can’t be everywhere doing everything and helping everybody all the time. It’s not sustainable. Once you’ve found your place, give it your full attention.
I’m busy and could easily say I don’t have the time to stay involved, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll keep up with the challenges and help others when I can. No one forces me to do it. No one expects me to do it. It’s a personal commitment that keeps me going.
There’s a difference between responding to someone and thoughtfully connecting with them. As an example, when I want to support someone’s efforts, I find out if they have a blog, encourage them to write and share, and comment on their posts. I’m not trying to get attention for myself; I’m trying to encourage them in a thoughtful way because I’m excited about their success. Even when people contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter, or my blog, I check to see if they are ELH members so I can see what they are working on or contributing to so I can say something personal to them. Is it above and beyond? Yes. Is it an effective way to genuinely support others and build a strong network of peers? Yes.
Pushing yourself to learn from ELH posts—from peers who know the software inside and out, terrific designers, and others who actively share in our community—will pay off. Your skills and knowledge will increase, your expertise will become more widely known, and it will be easier to reach your goals and stay relevant in the field well into the future.
Aren’t we lucky to have such a great community?