Advice for career change to elearning development

hi,

can anyone provide some advice on making a career transition to elearning?  i have fourteen years of experience in video production and i am starting a certificate in distance education soon from umbc.

some questions...

what is the future outlook for jobs and the field in general?  any thoughts?

is there more work in freelancing or in house at companies that need elearning?

what is a good way to get a job in elearning?

will video be needed more in elearning?  that is my area of expertise now.

salary expectations?

most common software you use? i dont know flash which makes me nervous.

job stability?

competition for jobs?  

opportunities to work remotely?

any pros or cons about the field youcan share based on your own experience?

anything else you can share that someone ought to know about making a career transition into this field?

sorry for the typos.  i am typing from a phone.

thanks,

doug

13 Replies
Tim Slade

Hi Doug,

Welcome to the community! You have some really fantastic questions and I think these are all questions we've all had when just starting. I'll try my best to answer them...

what is the future outlook for jobs and the field in general?  any thoughts?

I don't have any stats on this, but as more and more organizations start having globally dispersed learners, the need for developing computer-based learning is going to increase. The field is ALWAYS evolving, so I don't worry about the field becoming obsolete - I worry about evolving my skills with it. If you can do that, you'll be fine. 

is there more work in freelancing or in house at companies that need elearning?

I think there's pros and cons to either. With freelancing, you can have as much work as you want, as long as you're willing to put yourself out there to obtain it. This means having being involved in social media and having a website/portfolio/blog. If you simple do those things, you'll for sure get plenty of work. 

what is a good way to get a job in elearning?

Good question. I feel like most people fall into this industry. I would suggest that you research the field, learn how to design some eLearning content, and build some sample work. If you take the time to put these samples on a website or make a portfolio, you can use it to show that you know what you're doing. Getting your first freelance gig seems hard. But like I said, if you put yourself and your work out there, you'll start getting contacted. It's all about how you market yourself. 

will video be needed more in elearning?  that is my area of expertise now.

Sure. It depends on the client and the project. I don't see it going anywhere. Use this expertise as a selling point. Also, if you know how to use Adobe Illustrator and/or Photoshop, use this to make yourself more marketable.

salary expectations?

SO many variables go into this. If you're working in a corporate organization, the range is HUGE. I've seen developers making as little as $30K a year, and as much as $200K a year. It depends on how much that particular organization values those specific set of skills. Some organizations value eLearning development skills at the same level as IT development - and others value it as glorified PPT presentation design.

As for freelancing, that's up to you. Do you want to charge hourly or per-project? I think it's safe to say $50 - $75 an hour is pretty typical for freelance work. 

most common software you use? i dont know flash which makes me nervous.

Trust me, you don't need to know a think about Flash to be successful in eLearning. I use primarily Articulate Storyline, and that's all that I've ever needed.

job stability?

Like any other job, it depends. If you're freelancing, you never know when that next call is or is not going to come through. 

competition for jobs?  

If you're good at what you do and design great looking content, I think you're golden. With my freelancing, it put most of my efforts into blogging and putting myself out there in the social media world. I've never had to compete for a client. Like I said, if you put yourself out there, they will come to you. 

opportunities to work remotely?

With freelancing, most all of it will be remote. If you're working for an organization, the opportunity to work remotely is growing. 

any pros or cons about the field youcan share based on your own experience?

Like with any design-centric industry, clients will ask for the impossible. My biggest con about the field is having to manage expectations. That's no fun for me. 

As for pros, I get the opportunity to be creative. That makes me happy.

anything else you can share that someone ought to know about making a career transition into this field?

Just do it. You seem to already have an interest in it. If you do it and fail - at least your failing at something you enjoy. You can learn and grow from that. 

BEST OF LUCK!

Tim

Jackie Van Nice

Well said, Tim!! Great answers. The only caveat I'd throw in would be about hourly vs project pricing. I'd stay the heck away from project pricing, if at all possible. And if it's not possible, be sure you scope the heck out of the project and have clear assumptions in your agreement. You don't want to be locked into a never-ending, always-evolving project for one low, low price. Just think it through carefully and establish your terms clearly before wading in.

Bruce Graham

Chris Lee said:

I'm also trying to get into the industry but have practically a zero budget.

 Any advice on how to get started?

I'm currently developing learning in powerpoint and delivering it in flash format in a web based LMS and going to offer this to local charities and groups to build a portfolio.

Is this of a standard suitable for a paying client?

These are great answers (and questions) above.

Many thanks

Chris, Manchester U.K.

p.s. Articulate has a great support network btw


Hi Chris.

Read everything here:

http://community.articulate.com/forums/t/16452.aspx

Then read it twice more, it has everything you need to know.

The reality is that if want to freelance, you need to invest before you can start. Your plans are great, but you will just build a PowerPoint portfolio. If you want to build and work in Storyline, at some point you need to buy it.

Ashley Chiasson

Jackie Van Nice said:

Well said, Tim!! Great answers. The only caveat I'd throw in would be about hourly vs project pricing. I'd stay the heck away from project pricing, if at all possible. And if it's not possible, be sure you scope the heck out of the project and have clear assumptions in your agreement. You don't want to be locked into a never-ending, always-evolving project for one low, low price. Just think it through carefully and establish your terms clearly before wading in.


Yes, yes, yes!

Stephanie Harnett

I've become more and more of the opinion that the tool doesn't matter. If the quest is e-learning (or eLearning, online training or just learning) then you have to have the part of you that’s naturally a communicator. And if you can organize your thoughts into structured outcomes then you will naturally also teach/guide/mentor/explain. If you do that, you’ll find the tools that satisfy your progression, your exemplification, your passion,your motion.

But your question isn't about a product. It’s about a fit. How do I fit? You know you fit somehow. You know too, that elearning folks struggle with what comes naturally to you.

Perhaps that is the answer. Maybe instead of converting yourself to elearning…you find a way to meet in the middle. That sweet spot – largely unknown by elearning folks, that thing called video, that we really don’t know how to do.

Search the forums here. See those video questions? How often they are asked? See the importance that they have and will have in the future of elearning?

If I were you, I would do everything I could to figure out how my video skills fit elearning. Then I would learn where the gaps were and how I could create expertise in that area. Then I would find a method, process or app to ease the pain/fear for the majority.

: )

David Anderson

Stephanie Harnett said:

If I were you, I would do everything I could to figure out how my video skills fit elearning. Then I would learn where the gaps were and how I could create expertise in that area. Then I would find a method, process or app to ease the pain/fear for the majority.


I like the way you framed that, Stephanie. Great advice for any professional transitioning to a new career.

Doug C

Thank you, everyone!  I appreciate your taking the time to help provide advice.

How much are folks here expected to know html, css and java?  I see some job postings that want you to know those too.  I also hear from freelancers that they never use those softwares because Articulate and Photoshop are enough.  

Thoughts?

Jerson  Campos

Those are just some extra skill that come in handy. Even if you don't know them, it won't prevent you from creating some outstanding courses. It might be helpful in maybe 1 out of 10 courses you build, but it isn't a show stopper if you dont know it. And if you do need it, you can always stop by this forum and ask the multitude of experts here.

Jennifer Valley

I came across this and wanted to put my two cents in.  Hopefully this is helpful :)

The Department of Labor puts out some great statistics to answer your "outlook" question. From 2012-2022 the growth rate in the United States is suppose to be 15% which is "Faster then the Average".  Salary expectation is listed as an average of $55,000 but speaking from experience you could be looking at lows in the $20,000's.

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/training-and-development-specialists.htm

If you're just getting started I would suggest looking for an hourly/salary position within a respected company that provides the tools.  This way you can get the experience and practice in before purchasing. Once you have a couple years in then you may have better luck freelancing.

I once did a sum total of everything (!) needed in Instructional Design (top four authoring software, image editors, picture repositories, etc.) and the total ended up being over $10,000! There are free options for things every where but the old verbiage about free not meaning better can stand true.  Here is a blog post I published regarding free (or cheaper) tools you can start utilizing now.

http://jennifervalley.blogspot.com/2014/08/free-or-cheaper-elearning-tools.html

I'm not just saying this because the question was posted on an Articulate forum but because I strongly believe in the product.  Storyline is a really good investment.  It's easy to use, you'll have the community at your disposal (which hopefully this thread is proving it's worth) including templates, videos, posts and forums threads, and it's very powerful without being overwhelming. The same can't be said for other larger providers.

The best way to look for a job would be to check LinkedIn, Indeed and the post on here by Mike Taylor that comes out weekly (?).  Having an education can definitely help you get your foot in the door and don't be afraid of rejection. Start working on a portfolio (there's a thread for that as well) and get some good examples around using free trials.

Jobs: https://community.articulate.com/articles/weekly-update-e-learning-training-instructional-design-jobs-5cc15c6a-712d-443c-829d-d8e0310e9be1

Portfolio: https://community.articulate.com/discussions/building-better-courses/do-you-have-an-elearning-portfolio-share-your-links-here 

Video is definitely going to be getting bigger and bigger as people expect material to be presented in concise and quick ways. Here's a link to a webinar I attended that talked about the anticipated trends of 2015.

http://www.trainingindustry.com/webinars/looking-ahead-learning-trends-for-2015.aspx