Improving your e-learning creation skills is a wise investment, whether your motivation is a New Year’s resolution, preparing for new job opportunities, or just giving yourself a fun challenge. And while formal classes and workshops can be a great way to go about it, they’re admittedly a tough sell if you’re short on time or money. But those two constraints don’t have to get in the way of your goal—they just mean you need to approach it differently.
Short bursts of practice can be substantially easier to fit into a busy schedule. And if you set aside time to do that practice regularly, it can still lead to the same skill boosts you’d get from a class.
So, what actions can you take to stretch your skills in short snippets of time? Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to get you started.
Watch Free Webinars
If you like the structure of a class, then the multitude of free webinar options available these days could be just what you need. They’re handy for getting step-by-step walkthroughs and learning the ins and outs of techniques. And with most running at just an hour or less, they’re easy to fit into a lunch break.
If you’ve got an Articulate 360 subscription, don’t forget it includes access to a wide range of live and on-demand webinars. So finding new ones to watch is as easy as checking the schedule.
Join the Weekly E-Learning Challenges
Sometimes the easiest way to motivate yourself to practice is to have someone give you a design problem to solve. If that sounds fun to you, then the weekly e-learning challenges here on E-Learning Heroes might be just what you’re looking for. Each challenge has a different creative theme for you to work within. And if you’re short on time, there’s no pressure to develop a complete course for your solution—even just a small proof of concept is enough to share.
On top of being a helpful way to commit to regular practice, they’re also a fun way to see how people can end up responding to the same design prompt in wildly different ways.
Look for People Working Out Loud
One of my favorite parts about working in e-learning is how open people are to sharing what they know. It’s so easy to find others in this field who gleefully talk through how they built their projects, whether it’s through YouTube videos, Twitter threads, articles, newsletters, or elsewhere. And by getting that behind-the-scenes info on how they thought about a challenge and created e-learning content that solved it, you can pick up new techniques and approaches to use in your own work.
Here on E-Learning Heroes we regularly post “work out loud” articles—for instance, this one on creating a scenario on task prioritization. But you can also get insights into people’s design and development approaches by commenting on the projects shared in the Building Better Courses discussion forum and E-Learning Examples page.
Reverse Engineer a Course or Interaction
Speaking of E-Learning Examples, you can actually learn a surprising amount from recreating other people’s work. Much like how some artists copy existing pieces to better understand the techniques used in them, you can pick up a lot by trying to recreate someone else’s e-learning project.
As long as you’re not passing it off as your own work, there’s no harm in trying to replicate a project, whether it’s the whole thing or just a tiny section of it. And the process of figuring out how someone created a specific design or interaction can push you to discover new ways to use your course creation apps.
Look Under the Hood of a Completed Project
If you’re short on time, another way to get inspiration from an existing project is to open up the source file and look at how it was put together.
Whether it’s a file shared by a co-worker or something from our own Downloads page, getting a backstage view of how a project was constructed can give you tons of new insights. And because e-learning development apps like Storyline 360 often have multiple ways to get the same result, exploring other people’s files can often show you new solutions you hadn’t considered before.
Challenge Yourself to Try One New Thing in Each Project
Practice doesn’t have to be separate from your actual job tasks. You can always build small stretch assignments into the work you’re already doing. It’s an excellent way for people who already feel swamped to practice.
But to avoid putting unneeded stress on those projects, you want to keep two things in mind:
- It’s often safer to stick to minor experimentation here—think trying out a new color scheme or set of button states rather than creating a high-stakes project with software you’ve never used.
- Make sure the project requirements guide how you experiment. You want to be careful not to end up shoehorning in an approach that’s not the best fit just because you’re excited to try it out.
Set Aside Time to Play
Sometimes what looks on the surface like goofing off with an e-learning app can lead to insights you can apply to your work later. So try making an interactive birthday card for your best friend, a parody movie poster with photos of your team members, or a mystery scenario featuring your cats.
That spirit of play can encourage you to try out new things, shake up your usual development approaches, or even just help you get faster with the techniques you use regularly.
Chat with Other E-Learning Pros
Building your skills can be as simple as a coffee chat with a colleague. Talking with someone about what you’re each working on can be an enjoyable way to unwind. But it’s also an amazing way to learn from how others look at picking apart challenges and developing e-learning solutions.
Ask them to tell you more about what they’re working on, their thought process along the way, and how they’re going about building out their project. And be sure to open up about anything you’re stuck on at the moment. You never know what surprising insights someone might give you as a result.
So there you go! There are all sorts of small ways to build your skills over time—even a few you might not have initially counted as practice. But if you can commit to regularly fitting in one or more of these activities into your schedule, you’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make without feeling overwhelmed.
So take some time now to block off a few minutes each week to review examples, sign up for a new webinar, try out an e-learning challenge, or book a Zoom chat with an industry friend and see for yourself how much these habits can impact your work.
And if you’re looking for more ways to hone your skills or get inspired, check out these articles:
- 3 Easy Things You Can Do Right Now to Streamline Your Instructional Design Process
- 8 Ways to Get Design Ideas When You Feel Stuck
- 7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Articulate 360 Training
Have any other approaches you find work well for short bursts of regular practice or exploration? Take a moment to leave them in the comments below. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.