I received an e-mail the other day from someone asking me how I became an e-learning developer. It made me smile, because I didn’t think I had actually become one yet.
This person had seen my portfolio on my website and liked a few of the examples. As it turns out, her story was quite similar to mine. Looking to build a “second career” in the e-learning field, she was seeking advice as to how to get started. I happily told her about the Articulate E-Learning Heroes community, since that is where it all began for me.
E-Learning Heroes has everything you need to create a career as an e-learning developer. I’d love to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way for people who are considering this path.
How I Got Started
Becoming an e-learning developer is a process where you are constantly acquiring new skills, learning from others, and sharing what you’ve learned. It all began for me back in 2011, when I was in a transitory phase in my career. I had worked for 20 years in scientific administration and was eager to move on to a challenge that combined my two main interests: education and technology. E-learning, I decided, was the perfect fit.
I was also at that magical age (over 40) where, for some reason, employers are not exactly lining up to recruit you. I decided I wanted to create and develop something that was mine. I knew I had the talent and ambition to do it, and I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish. Of course, since I still had to eat, I kept my full-time job and spent my free time in the evenings and on weekends developing my e-learning skills.
My first question was, of course, the same one this person asked me: Where do you begin?
Getting Started with Storyline
Fortunately for me, Articulate Storyline was released just as I was getting started, so I decided to give it a go. Since software alone is never enough, the folks at Articulate also provided an amazing resource-based website, E-Learning Heroes, to go along with it. I was off and running. As I was reviewing the tutorials, tips, blog posts, and downloads on E-Learning Heroes, I remember being grateful that these were available to everyone, not just to those who had purchased the software.
Getting to Know the Community
These resources helped me get started, but the real clincher was the community engagement on E-Learning Heroes. A few years ago, David Anderson started the weekly E-Learning Challenges. Once a week, David posts a challenge to encourage everyone to try out a particular feature, experiment with a new approach, or work on their design skills.
Those who wish to participate can upload a link to their work. Others in the community then share their comments, praise, suggestions for possible improvement, etc. Participants immediately feel that they’re part of the community and are connected to a worldwide group of users. Some are beginners, others advanced, but everyone is welcome. It is not a contest and there is no evaluation. At the end of the week, David posts a recap of all the week’s entries, and Articulate actively promotes people’s work via social media.
Don't Be Shy
Some people might be a bit hesitant to “jump into” the challenges. They might worry that their skills aren’t advanced enough to measure up with the others. I felt the same way. The first challenge I contributed to was #52 - Interactive Sliders. I remember the thrill I felt when I saw the screenshot of my work in the recap. When I took part in subsequent challenges, I found myself constantly checking back to see if anyone had commented. They did. And I looked at and commented on their work too. I was hooked!
After completing several of the challenges, I suddenly realized that my portfolio was quickly growing. I would not have a portfolio today if it hadn’t been for the E-Learning Challenges. They gave me the springboard to jump in and see how far I could swim. Participating in the E-Learning Heroes community is like having friends cheer you on from the bleachers as you try to swim across the pool.
You Don't Have to Be an Expert
We tend to think that since we are beginners in the e-learning field, we don’t have any advice to offer others. However, for those who are just starting out, we ARE the experts. All you can do is share your own story and experiences in the hope that it might help someone. I encourage everyone to jump into the weekly challenges, whether you submit an example or just get your feet wet with a few comments.
The E-Learning Challenges can help you build and expand your portfolio, whether you’re looking for work, developing a freelance business, or searching for ideas to incorporate in your current job. I promise, you’ll love it. I hope to see you there soon!