Advice for someone wanting to become a eLearning Developer

Hello all,

I'm seeking information and have found, in the past, a forum is a great tool for some honest insight. Thus, here I am.

In a nutshell, I am a 51-year old graphic/web designer with 15 years of teaching design at the college level. I have my own small design business which I've had for 23 years. When I began teaching full-time in 1998, I began to scale back my business to doing work for a few clients and non-profit to mainly support my little income received in my education gig.

Fast forward to this summer and my BFA needed to turn into an MFA in order to stay so I'm back on the streets looking to either rebuild my design business, looking for a full-time job or going into another direction.

Lots has changed in the last 15 years and rebuilding my graphic/web business hasn't worked well. Finding a full-time job has also not been successful. So I'm looking for a way to merge my passion for design and teaching which is why I am exploring eLearning development/Instructional Design as either a freelancer or full time.

So here I am. Fresh clay.

I realize I have a lot of new software to learn but that's never been an issue with graphic/web programs. Finding clients has always been the main challenge. I see a lot of jobs out there but it appears many are looking for degrees in Instructional Design (and some Master Degrees). Most also ask for a few years of experience.

If you were just getting into this industry, what would you advice? I'd like to end up in a situation where I can take the content the client/employer wants taught and work through the process of presenting that content along with developing the actual eLearning tools.

Thanks.

17 Replies
Bruce Graham

Hi Jeff - and welcome to the forums.

The best thing I can really say is read this thread - several times:

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

I believe that thread contains more quality information, from those of use who really do the job you are aiming for, than you will find anywhere else on the Planet.

Of course - none of us is going to tell you EVERY secret, as you and everyone else now become competition

You need to add one thing - the thing that makes you different.

Yes - it's tough, and there are many hundreds of people with Masters in Instructional Design also asking the same questions, but many succeed. The harder you work at it, the luckier you will become.

Good luck - and welcome to the Community, ask when you need to, and give when you can.

Bruce

Tim Slade

Hi Jeff and welcome to the community. I 100% agree with Bruce - you have to figure out what makes you different. I will say, you can easily find work that is simply eLearning design, without the instructional design part. With all of my clients, they provide me their instructional content, and they simply have me build the graphics/content into Storyline. 

And, yes, many clients will say they want you to have an ID background/degree - but honestly, in my experience, they're more concerned that you know how to use the authoring tool and how to build great looking eLearning courses. I think this is where you can easily use your design background to accomplish this.

Like Bruce said, no one is going to give away ALL of their secrets - but you can easily come about work if you put yourself out there. This means starting a blog, mocking up samples of work, creating templates to demonstrate your use of the program, etc. These may seem like small things, but I can tell you from experience, I have very little work that  I am able to post to my online portfolio (due to confidentiality) (Tim-Slade.com), so I create various templates as examples to show that I know what I am doing. This has been very successful for me.  

Best of luck

Daniel Brigham

Welcome, Jeff:

Most people are takers. Be a giver and you'll get gigs. As Steve Flowers (THE Storyline guru) put it on the Freelance Heroes thread, "be visibly helpful. You never know who's watching."

How to give:

  • Read some books on instructional design so you kinda know what you are talking about. Off the top of my head, I really like Understanding by Design by Wiggins and Design for How People Learn by Dirksen. With a few books under your belt and some practice, you'll be able to help those on this forum with less experience. And there are a lot of them. If you like Articulate, you might also become active in the LinkedIn Articulate user group.
  • Do mockups for people. You are probably a better designer than most who post in the forum. So if someone wants ideas on how to do something, do a quick mockup for them. Give your design expertise away. Including your secrets. I don't think there are secrets, btw.
  • Create simple projects for yourself--e.g., a quick module on how to carve a pumpkin, or how to do X in Dreamweaver (or whatever program), or how to get your three-year-old to bed before 8:45 p.m., or whatever you are struggling with/curious about, etc, etc.

Freelance Heroes thread is where we discuss a lot of this stuff. Hope some of the above is helpful. --Daniel

Sheila Bulthuis

Jeff, it sounds to me like you have an unusual combination of talents - teaching experience and visual design expertise.  (And this post helps provide context for your other one, which I just responded to!)  I agree with Bruce and Tim - you need to focus on what makes you different, and this combination definitely does.  Play up your background and experience in "helping people learn" - even if you've never been "an instructional designer," if you were teaching people to do something, there's some instructional design inherent in that.

And you're right, the tools themselves are easy to learn - it takes patience and practice, but there are many user-friendly tools out there.  The key is using them in combination with your graphics skills and "teacher" skills to create something great. 

Good luck!

Bruce Graham

In addition to @Sheila's comments....

I would add that "Instructional Designer" just happens to be the title we appear to have given ourselves.

This term seems to have multiple meanings - there are large differences between the US and European interpretations. In the US it seems you are either a designer, or a "builder", and (certainly on some LinkedIn threads...) woe betide you if you think you can do both

Concentrate on what you can DO to help people, get help when you cannot do something, and give people a reason to choose you.

There are many in the US market that seem to insist that you need Masters in ID to be a success - this (frankly...) seems to be more governed by protectionism and fear of the unknown that business reality.

None of my US commercial clients has EVER queried or even mentioned this as a requirement or necessity - because we seldom talk about learning (initially), we discuss business.

Good luck. 

Jeff Fuqua

Bruce Graham said:

In addition to @Sheila's comments....

I would add that "Instructional Designer" just happens to be the title we appear to have given ourselves.

This term seems to have multiple meanings - there are large differences between the US and European interpretations. In the US it seems you are either a designer, or a "builder", and (certainly on some LinkedIn threads...) woe betide you if you think you can do both

Concentrate on what you can DO to help people, get help when you cannot do something, and give people a reason to choose you.


I'll admit I have been somewhat confused by the term "Instructional Designer" as well. It seems to interchange with "eLearning Developer" among others.

Thanks to all for the insight. I looks like I need to begin getting familiar with the software just to see what it can do. Doing a few of small portfolio projects also seems to be something I need to set as an early goal.

I'll continue to lurk about as I learn.

Sheila Bulthuis

I can only speak from the US perspective, and of course only from my own experience and that of people I know... so, with that limitation in mind:  I think "instructional design" is about the decisions you make in creating a learning experience, which make that learning experience effective (defined as meeting the intended objective).  Development is about building the materials that support that learning experience.  The traditional skillset for an ID is analysis, business goals alignment, content structuring, etc. (obviously I'm leaving a lot out).   The skillset for development is tool-related - can you use X tool to build the course.

I do think there are people who can do both well, but in my experience most people are better at one than the other, and some are really only good at one part.  And that's fine. 

So Jeff, take heart in the reminder that you don't have to be all things on all projects - like Bruce said, get help when a project requires something outside our expertise. 

mike mcdonald

Welcome to the club, Jeff.

You sure have found the right place to start. Everyone here is most helpful.

I'm in the middle of a large project and am a bit stuck on a technical matter......and this is the place to hunt for the answer!

I was browsing around on techniques to import questions into Storyline, and I saw your OP.

I'd definitely agree with Tim, I also have a bit of a problem with confidentiality issues due to the nature of the subjects I cover.....so to be able to put sanitised or demo mock-up's out as a demo has been a struggle...still not quite solved it! But I'll get it sorted sometime before it snows!

You've got some pretty cool logos on your wordpress website.....how about honing your skills on knocking up a mini-module for your prospects on Logo design covering design tips, good & bad examples, interactivity such as hotspot hovers, a voiceover....etc, that sort of automates all the things you'd walk through a prospect with during a pitch? When you upload that, it'll also help with requirements capture for your existing biz. as well!

Here's one unusual thing I did recently that got me some work:

I had a puncture on my motorbike real tyre (Triumph Rocket). When I looked online for repair advice there was so much conflicting (and dangerous) advice....that once I decided how to actually do it correctly, I videoed and photographed the repair in detail.....turned it into a repair instruction module for customers of an on-line tyre supplier....uploaded it to the net and let them see it.

Woohoo, they loved it and bought it off me for a few K's. Bazinga!

So whilst a masters in ID might impress some in the corporate world, solving a (potential) problem or a (potential) client goes a lot further I feel....  

Good luck on the journey!

Holly MacDonald

mike mcdonald said:

So whilst a masters in ID might impress some in the corporate world, solving a (potential) problem or a (potential) client goes a lot further I feel....  

+100 for that snippet from Mike.

Jeff, it's about business - if you think you can solve problems, then figure out how to position your unique set of skills and experiences in order to do so.

Holly

Wayne Bills

Hi Jeff;

Sounds to me like you are already well on your way! I might be able to help if you are ever in need of a voice for your creations. I do professional voice-over narration for instructional projects. 

I'd be happy to send you some samples or record a few segments of your own script so you can get decide if my delivery is a good fit for your course or other project.  wrb@wrbills.com

Best wishes!

Jeff Fuqua

mike mcdonald said:

You've got some pretty cool logos on your wordpress website.....how about honing your skills on knocking up a mini-module for your prospects on Logo design covering design tips, good & bad examples, interactivity such as hotspot hovers, a voiceover....etc, that sort of automates all the things you'd walk through a prospect with during a pitch? When you upload that, it'll also help with requirements capture for your existing biz. as well!


Great advice!

Thank you all for the help. I'm absorbing everything I can and hope to begin applying what I learn soon.

Joshua Roberts

As Nicholas said the forums are a great place to learn. You have experience in one area that I didn't when I started, I also feel as though you will find the thought processes easier with creation due to what you have already completed. 

Use your graphic design experience to feed into the community, then feed on others experience in areas you wish to develop. A great way to try and get yourself in to the swing of things is by completing the weekly blog challenges