"eLearning expert" - ARE you? How do you know?

Sep 12, 2012

How do we, or prospective clients know?

This phrase seems to appear on replies to adverts quite a lot, and without wishing to start any type of flame-war, I typically feel that if you are you would not need to use the phrase.

Anyone else have perspectives on this?


59 Replies
Eric Nalian

Hey Bruce,

I think this can be defined in several different ways.

  1. In my organization - I am considered the 'eLearning Expert'.  It took me a while to get here, and gain this opinion from the organization.  AT my company, our learning department/corporate university is fairly new (almost 3 years old), and when I started here I primarily focused on software/systems training, through growing business needs (and my personal growth and development) I am now the main point of contact for all e-learning that is needed.  I have become the 'internal expert'.
  2. On this forum - If I compare myself to the others on this forum, based on years of experience in the eLearning industry/responses that are given to the topics others want to discuss, I am not an expert.  I am knowledgeable and proficient, but I would not consider myself an expert in this realm.
  3. To prospective clients - To show them that you are an expert, I think that it depends on two factors - Proven results and a strong portfolio that shows a wide array of techniques used to create a fully immersive learning experience.
  4. Expertise in general - the ability to not only create fully immersive eLearning experiences but also the ability to discuss topics/theories/ideas/etc... with peers


Daniel Brigham

Hi, Bruce:

Practically speaking, I feel that if you know "much more" about ID/e-learning than your clients, then you are an expert in their eyes. Perhaps not a "true expert," but perhaps that's just getting theoretical? (Not that's there's anything wrong with that.) Of course, you need to demonstrate that you know "much more" in how you consult on the project and what you build.

We could create a rather long list of "things an e-learning expert knows"

-How to manage your clients' expectations (I think this is one of the biggest challanges we face)

-How to work with head-strong SMEs (SMEs that for some reason think they know what is best from an ID perspective)

-Anticipating the things that often go awry on e-learning projects

-How to realistically determine the effect of your course (the client often thinks it's going to do more than it actually will)

And on and on and on...Daniel

Bruce Graham

Thanks for the comments.

I guess, (as mentioned) what started this off for me was seeing a few answers to "Looking for Hired Help" posts where people have answered "I'm an eLearning expert...".

Maybe it's some sort of personal humility (Yep...it DOES happen...), but I would never dream of calling myself that, the field is just too big!

I think you can demonstrate experience, even HUGE experience in certain elements, however, there's just too much to learn to be an eLearning expert, (certainly on a "Guns for Hire" post.

Just my 2p worth.


Natalia Mueller

I understand the idea of needing to sell yourself, but it's true that there is just something about someone calling themselves an expert that rubs people (including me) the wrong way. I think they would be better off showing how great their skills are instead of telling. Summarize projects, describe your process, provide demos, others will likely give you whatever classification you actually deserve.

I've experienced internal challenges with this too. I have had an instructional designer that would respond to SME requests and edits with "I am the training expert". I can tell you, SMEs don't care for that. Who would? I think designers that say that sort of thing are trying to use a blanket statement as a shortcut to actually earning the level of respect that comes with others viewing you as an expert.

DISCLAIMER- The use of the words "you" and "your" were used solely for ease of conversation and in no way reflect my opinion of anyone in this thread

Daniel Brigham


I agree--sometimes, I think the best course of action for an ID is to first see what the SME comes up with. In a recent design session, I had my game plan total planned out, and then the high-ranking SME said "My mind doesn't work like that--I think we should try it this way."

I sat and listened,took notes feeling very much like the non-expert ID. Even though it wasn't the way I would have done it, we still got to where we needed to go--except by his route, not mine.  

Bruce Graham

Daniel Brigham said:


I agree--sometimes, I think the best course of action for an ID is to first see what the SME comes up with. In a recent design session, I had my game plan total planned out, and then the high-ranking SME said "My mind doesn't work like that--I think we should try it this way."

I sat and listened,took notes feeling very much like the non-expert ID. Even though it wasn't the way I would have done it, we still got to where we needed to go--except by his route, not mine.  

Well - that's fair enough so long as the SME is the learner. If not, then it does not really matter how they think, it becomes an irrelevance, What is important is "what they know".

This is so important to get right, it's one of the things I try and get understood right at the start of any project.


Natalia Mueller

I agree that there comes a time where lines have to be drawn - and it's easier early vs later. I just think it's a mistake to use the statement "I'm the expert" especially in lieu of any explanation with the expectation that it should end the conversation. Even if it works in that instance, I don't think it's going to benefit the relationship in any way. 


Once we cross over into the wide wide world of working with SMEs, I imagine there's just about a time and a place for nearly everything, 

Bruce Graham

David Steffek said:

"To me, you're a genius. To O'Malley, you're a genius. But to a genius, you're no genius!"

--The Real History of Rush, part 2


In that one comment, you have managed to merge a philosophical and deep truth, eLearning which I love deeply, and "Spirit of Radio", one of my favourite tracks of all time (although not in "Oompah" or "Pop" style please).

You have also introduced me to another rich and fruitful vein of time-wasting possibility that just has to be mined - and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart  


PS - "The Gefilter" - brilliant x 10

PPS - "Ladies - stop moving pitchers..." (ep3)  

Bruce Graham

Ryan Martin said:

I find it simpler to refer to oneself as a "Jedi" or "Ninja" - so there isn't ANY confusion.


eLearning Jedi Ninja



Fair enough!

I've actually always liked the (Disney-inspired) term "Imagineer".

Not only does it point to what you can do, (help the client imagine what their business will look and feel like with your course(s) built), it's a great conversation-starter, so that you immediately stop talking about F&F, and talk about your client and their business, (Covey Habits 4 & 5).

Bruce - eLearning Ewok

Bruce Graham

Phil Mayor said:

Having spent the last 5 years training in the martial arts of the ninja, I consider my self the real Elearning NInja!

I am having the business cards printed now, and from this day forward will attend all meetings wearing a mask!

So that bag you carry actually has nunchaks and throwing stars in it rather than a laptop?



David Steffek

Bruce - I'm glad you appreciate them! In ten days I'll be seeing them for my 10th time. I am greatly looking forward to seeing what shennanigans they have prepared this time! They have four dates in England this coming May; I highly suggest you attend a show. P.S. You said you don't like the oompah or pop styles, but you didn't mention the country style. Does that mean you like that one? )

Phil - Recently I saw news footage here in the States of a police traffic stop where they indeed found a colletion of martial arts weapons in the vehicle, including a set of  "Wolverine" claws. While I can't find that footage/article, I did uncover this story. Crazy! So be careful out there! :)

Daniel Brigham

O.k we are talking about Rush...so maybe we could create an homage to e-learning based on Rush tunes.

Perhaps beginning with Bastille Day off of Caress of Steel, the album that Lifeson said kicked off the "Down the Tubes" tour.

"Ooooooooh yeah, oooooooooooooh yeah, FINDING MY WAY!!!" Of course, that's off their first album.

Bruce Graham

Dunno' about you , but I'm on the way to Banghok aboard the Thailand Express, (or may take the Red Barchetta....).

Did NOT know they were touring over here next year, just about to buy tickets and thought I should check with my wife, (who is now in a huff-and-a-half 'coz she's already got me tickets for Christmas present).


YEY !!!!!!!!


David Steffek

Tim - I'm actually pulling my son and his friend out of school for two days to go with me. We're driving 400 miles each way to see them (the closest they'll be to me on this tour).

Daniel - well, they do have quite a few Lessons to help make Time Stand Still so you can get Closer To The Heart of the Mission. Yes, I could go on and on, but I Fear (parts 1-4) that the Clockwork Angels might give me a Halo Effect.

Bruce - Your wife already got you tickets to the show? You, sir, have an INCREDIBLE wife! P.S. I vote the Barchetta.

Man, the next 10 days just keep getting longer and longer - I can't wait!

Holly MacDonald

OK, have to jump in on this. If expertise is linked to liking Rush, then definitely no. Even as a Canadian can't do it. Oh, and don't think I've peddled myself as an expert and if I have then you can shun me.


PS - this is possibly weirdest thread I've participated in on this forum.

PPS - can one be a ninja and jedi at the same time?

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