How did you get started in e-learning?

Hi friends,

I'm entering my 2nd year of grad school at UMBC for a masters in instructional design for distance education after 15 years of being a video producer in Washington, DC.  I'd love to hear your story of how you got started in e-learning?  Also, do you think game based learning with interactive video will be of value or popular in the future?  I'm looking for tips and inspiration.



P.S - My portfolio is at

34 Replies
Nicole Legault

Hey Doug - Thanks for starting this discussion! This is a really great and popular topic! It's come up a few times before and in case you're interested in reading up on some past similar discussions here's a few:

But that being the case it still never hurts to re-kindle the conversation and maybe get some new stories! From what I see and hear in the community, it seems like a lot of people kind of fall into training and e-learning by mistake because they are really good at what they do or really good at explaining stuff, so they get tasked with creating some training or a quick module and all of a sudden you realize... hey, I'm doing a whole other job here.  And then they sometimes make the transition to training designer or e-learning developer, etc. Anyways, that seems to be a common story that I hear from a lot of people I talk to.

When it comes to the second part of your question, I do think some game based e-learning and interactive videos will continue to grow in popularity for e-learning so I think those type of skills are definitely assets to have as an e-learning developer (game development and/or video production, that is.) Hope this helps a bit! :) 

David Anderson

One paragraph overview:

I used to work as a multimedia designer in advertising because I happened to know Flash 3 & 4 pretty well. It was easy back then (1998) because there wasn't a lot of programming options in Flash. I created animated banners, product advertorials. A recruiter from Aquent shared my Flash portfolio with a local e-learning company. They contracted me to help with some overflow and a few months later I was hired. The rest is history:-)

I've heard some really good feedback about UMBC's program. What do you think of it so far? I'm sure folks here would like to hear what your first year was like as well as your overall impression.

Also, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't encourage you to participate in the weekly elearning challenges. They're a great way to practice your course design skills while building up your portfolio.

Trina Rimmer

Hey Doug. First of all, wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed the whiteboard animation style video intro on your portfolio. Nicely done. 

My origin story is pretty typical of many folks you'll find in our industry—and here on ELH. I stumbled into instructional design vis-a-vis my computer skills and my training abilities. Over the years I worked for a series of financial institutions and always found myself drawn into a training role. And since I could make training materials look nice and I didn't seem to mind public speaking, I kept getting assigned to deliver new systems training, sales training, etc. Eventually that led to a more distinct instructional design role and, ultimately, to a role creating short "how to" e-learning modules created with Dreamweaver, Camtasia, Captivate, and eventually, Articulate Studio.

It's interesting to me that you've chosen game based learning and interactive video as your focus. What led to your interest in this field of design? Personally, I think we will see more emphasis on game based learning and interactive video as tools become more accessible and affordable. For instance, I look at my two kids (ages 9 & 11) and I see them learning basic coding concepts with inexpensive iPad apps and in school language arts and computer science classes. I also see them playing more and more games as a core driver of their learning experiences. I think this is a great trend and one that will surely spark more demand for innovation in our field in the coming years. And frankly, I find watching them embrace technology and its potential for learning, very inspiring.

Speaking of inspiration, have you seen & read anything from Jane McGonigal? She's done a lot of interesting stuff in the games for learning space. 

Thanks for the great, thought-provoking questions! 

Ashley Chiasson

Hey Doug! Welcome to ELH :)

When I grew up, my plan was to be a Speech-Language Pathologist, so I majored in Linguistics and Psychology. When I didn't get into my grad program, I was unemployed and looking for pretty much anything. A former teacher friend of mine suggested applying at her organization; I did and was hired as an Instructional Systems Designer, and that's when I fell in love with Instructional Design. 

I worked at that organization for almost 6 years and obtained my Masters of Education (Post-Secondary Studies) before heading out on my own to work as an independent contractor. I was lucky enough to land a contract turned permanent gig at a local university as their resident Instructional Developer, working with faculty members to develop distance course offerings (online and multi-access), so I'm now able to be a lot more selective with who I choose to do independent work for, and it's been quite successful.

I love your portfolio, and as a huge promoter of the importance of portfolio-building, I have to commend you for having one :P Your experience with multimedia development will definitely serve you well in this field, and you'll certainly be able to use your media background to help promote new approaches for enhancing student engagement with faculty members.

Within my post-secondary gig, most of the work I do is project management-esque because the faculty members have contracts that require them to actually DO the development, so it's a lot of training, meeting with them to show them how to do things, and ensuring they're on target to complete everything on time. However, many universities have roles that allow instructional designers to have a heavier hand in the development of distance courses; or they have roles that dabble in some instructional design and some media development...that might be an alley you'd particularly enjoy.

Doug C

Hi Trina,

After doing some informational interviews, it seems that game-based learning with interactive video is growing in popularity.  Even from my grad school studies, I know that games are fun and video is engaging.  So when you combine fun and engaging you get effective learning.  I hope.

Thanks for sharing your story.  Yes, I'm trying to figure out next steps to eventually getting a job in distance education.  Thanks for the tips.

I haven't read anything by Jane but that will be something I look up.



Todd Wheeler

Hi All,

I was asked if I wanted to take on the role of a face to face systems trainer, which I accepted.

In the course of preparing and presenting training to our staff, I saw a need for an online component and after a bit of haggling, got a hold of Presenter 09 whose license was unallocated. I designed and published a whole range of "Just in Time" modules for our core business application and then annoyed the IT Director for 12 months until they bought me Storyline :).

Christien Lee


I spent a couple of decades in ELT (English Language Teaching) doing a lot of teaching. Over the years I transitioned first into curriculum and materials design, and then into writing textbooks.

There's obviously some overlap between writing learning materials for print books and designing e-learning materials, and I'm one of these people who's seen as the "unofficial IT guy," so it was a fairly natural step for me to get into developing e-learning materials. Plus, the ELT publishing world is moving towards digital, so some of my writing work is developing materials for a variety of e-learning platforms ... none of which have the simplicity or flexibility of Storyline, I must add.

If it's of any interest, my approach to learning to become a designer / developer of e-learning materials has mainly been to deconstruct (or perhaps 'reverse engineer') things that I've seen. I like to look at examples and figure out how they work / why they're good / how they could be better / how I could adapt them for this scenario or that situation. At times this approach has led to my re-inventing the wheel, but even those times have taught me some useful techniques and ways of doing things, so I've found the experience valuable.

As for your question about games (with interactive video), there's a move towards games and gamification, as you undoubtedly know, so there's likely to be a lot of interest and value in them.

Veronica Budnikas

Like many, I transitioned from a face-to-face teaching/training role to an e-learning one.

I used to be an ESL teacher for many years, and when I came to Australia I applied for a got a job being a TESOL teacher trainer, so I trained people who, primarily, wanted to go overseas to teach English. The org I worked for offered a blended course, and I became increasingly interested in that aspect of the training, so my employer sponsored me to do a Masters in Online Education. I completed that in 2006 (it seems ancient now!).

Since then, I have worked as an instructional designer and elearning designer/developer for different industries such as financial services and engineering.

A year ago I started my own biz, and it's going super well. I just decided I wanted to work my way and work on projects that interested me. I am also doing almost exclusively elearning development in Storyline which is what I love (my business is called Storyline Developer!)

I have become very interested in games for learning and I agree there is huge potential there, especially as the cost of development decreases. I love video for learning, I agree is is super engaging: I don't think I'd be able to complete a single MOOC if they weren't predominantly designed using video lectures :) 

Good luck with your endeavours!

Richard Jett

Wow!  Some great experience in this thread.  I'm a little hesitant to share my story.  I stumbled into eLearning by accident.  I got into the training world in 2011.  I knew nothing about eLearning at the time.  My manager provided me with an activation code to Articulate Studio '09 and said, "here you go, build us some CBT's".  Thankfully, the Articulate software is so easy to use, especially if you have zero experience.  And the eLearning Heroes community is wonderful!  I can't tell you how many times I've come here needing help and was able to resolve my problem quickly. 

@Doug - Regarding your question, "do you think game based learning with interactive video will be of value or popular in the future", I think that is a resounding YES!  I'm currently seeking a bachelors in Interactive Media Design and look forward to figuring out the best way to accomplish combining game based learning with interactive video.

Good luck, Doug, and do not be a stranger to the community.  I love your portfolio.  Wonderful job!

Genevieve Luty


What a great thread. It's so good to hear everyone's back stories and to cross reference with the similarities.

For the past 10 years I have been working as a face to face trainer and L&D consultant. I really enjoyed the interaction you got with delegates in a classroom environment and throught nothing could match it. I thought there was a time and a place for eLearning. I then got made redundant and found myself working for a company that was forward thinking and at the cutting edge of technology. It opened my eyes to so many oportunities and changed my view of eLearning. We have a majority field based workforce so finding new and inovative ways of supporting their development is a priority. I was brought in to manage their new Learning Management System which then lead on to developing Storyline modules. I really enjoy this way of working and the feedback we get from learners is fantastic. All in all we are reaching our audience in a new and innovative way whilst saving the company money. I can only see us developing this further and in reponse to your second question, yes, I do think game based learning with interactive video will be of value in the future. We have dabbled with this a bit in term of setting up 'game shows' for our quizzes and so far the reponse has been positive. I see us developing this further going forward.




Marti  Stemm


Good topic.  I was a trainer at a corporation when we were making a major transition to a new enterprise software.  We had a need for e-learning and a HR manager had been using Articulate Studio and recommend we try it.  I got into e-learning by the trial and error method on the job. My current employer had Articulate and another "famous" software when I was hired.  The learning curve was just too great for the other software and since almost all of our training is e-learning Articulate was the choice.  We had two versions of Articulate Studio, upgraded to Storyline 1 and have now purchased Storyline 2.  Still learning by doing.

The game value is there especially for young tech savvy employees, but the acceptance is really a matter of the management that  you work for...  Some managers think it is just "playing" and can't see the value.  Others understand the value of fun in the work place as motivator and many times a great trainer.

michelle wescott

What an exciting time for you! 

I got started in eLearning pretty organically. As the economy shifted, clients who had large ILT programs requiring people to travel and be away from their jobs for days or weeks needed a solution that was more cost effective and efficient. In comes eLearning as an elegent and cost-saving solution. At the time we developed proprietary tools to create our courseware, but tools like Articulates have made the job even easier!

Best of luck to you!!

Brian Allen

I also began my professional career as an online audio/video multimedia designer/producer, back in 2002.  I worked for about 2 months in that position and then my company went thru a major re-org, after which I landed in Sales training as part of a 3 person training team. 

At that time my company conducted almost all training face to face.  Our new hire program for Sales was a 13 week in person boot camp, and my new manager spent 3 out of 4 weeks each month on the road training at our various locations.

My first project from my new manager was to 1) Get as much training online as we possibly can, and 2) Figure out a way to track it.

From that point on I began my transition from a multimedia producer to an eLearning design/developer.  It's been a ton of fun, and I'm glad that I was part of the re-org that set me down this path.

yan rongmao


我之前毅一直是使用flash,但是随着html5的发展,flash似乎并不能更好的表达课程,然后我开始找一款适合我的可视化工具,看到了当年大师奖的作品,十分震撼,在ST2官网上下载了它,使用了30天,我发现他要比flash更加快速,友好,方便!似乎我的小白朋友也可很方便使用它的基础功能,然后一路走到今天,虽然我是一个中国人,每天还得使用VPN来访问E-learning Heroes,但是不得不说,我热爱这里,我的技术在这里有突飞猛进的发展,以至于我在一家公司内上班,然而我今年17岁。




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Here is English

HTML5, but with the development of flash, flash seems not to better express course, then I began to look for a suitable tool for me, I saw the work of the year, very shocked, in ST2's official website to download it, using the 30 day, I found that he is more fast, friendly and convenient, and it seems that my little white friends can easily use its basic functions, and then go today, although I have to use VPN to visit Heroes E-learning, but I have to say, here, I am here to work, but I am 17 years old.
Because no ability to buy, has been using the beta version, after the expiration of the system, it is very troublesome. Hope to have good people to help!
I like to develop the fun that ST2 brings to me. It has been an integral part of my life.
English is not very good, solid use Google translation,

Jenna Gallagher

Have you looked into ATD (Association for Talent Development)? They have local and national chapters and are filled with e-learning professionals. Check out the LinkedIn pages for more information and reach out to the members. I know there are people willing to discuss these things with you there.

Joanna Kurpiewska

My e-learning background started with face-to-face training company in 2006 in Poland. I created the visual presentations for the trainers, all the marketing materials, graphics for the website etc. I had a graphic/animation (Flash) designer episode at that time as well. I used to design a lot of illustrations and greeting cards and even won the Best Easter card contest :)

After two years the company decided to go more towards e-learning rather than in-class training. I ordered plenty of e-learning/design related books (they're still on my shelf) from the U.S., Tom Kuhlmann's blog was a weekly MUST to read, I got in touch with other professionals and have been learning a lot since then. 

I remember my first e-learning course built with Flash, but it was obvious we had to start using any authoring tool to improve the work pace and effectiveness. I had a go with Captivate 4.0 but wasn't very happy with the tool. We had only 4 courses built with Cp, the rest was successfully created with Studio'09 and Storyline when it was first released. It got serious then!

After few years of working as a freelance e-learning designer in Poland I decided to move abroad to develop my skills - this is how I started to work at Unicorn in the UK, which was my best professional decision ever! I learnt the best practices, started to participate in the weekly challenges, having huge satisfaction and doing this with passion and full commitment. The next step was to launch my website, write a blog and share ideas.

Can't imagine doing something else than designing e-learning. And thank you Articulate for the brilliant e-learning tools and amazing, supportive community. Thanks for being a great teacher :)