Five years later, how's the eLearning industry?

About five years ago, I was looking to transition my graphic/web design career to possibly include eLearning as I had 15 years of instructor experience. I came here often to absorb as much knowledge as I could. I purchased Captivate and did a couple of examples but found it limiting compared to what I was seeing done with Articulate. I was hired soon after but now find myself in the same position I was five years ago in looking for a possible new career path. 

For those currently in the industry, how would you say things are going? Is there growth? A fear I had back then was that software improvements would make eLearning easier for anyone to create which might eliminate the freelance creator with graphic background.

Also, if just now getting into the industry, what advice might you share. I'm just in the research phase so not committed to any particular software or direction.

Thanks for any advice in advance.

2 Replies
David Rushton

All things in tech are growing!

This is no exception. e-Learning is getting bigger and bigger each year. Don't have fear I mean I can go buy a canvas and some paints, doesn't mean I'm an artist let alone any good!

If you can provide a service that others can't you will get business. Online learning in small companies on specific software, unique topics is always going to be sought after. Build a portfolio online and show off some examples. 

Ray Cole

I stopped freelancing about 2 years ago (because I took a full-time job), so take that into consideration. My perception is that the industry is very slowly improving the quality of the learning interventions it designs, but only at the margins. Most of our industry is pretty much stuck in the mode of creating e-learning that amounts to little more than a narrated PowerPoint presentation, and classroom courses that are mostly modeled on lectures. Many hot trends today threaten to drive us backwards rather than forwards. As an industry, we tend to be distracted by the shiny objects: video, animation, delivering to mobile phone (everyone likes mobile phones, right?), and so on. In doing so, we take our eyes off what should be our main goal: to actually improve learning outcomes.

Improving learning outcomes has very little to do with technology, and lots to do with whether our course designs are giving learners a chance to put what they learn into practice. Without practice, there is very likely no real learning, no matter how high-tech or pretty the course may be.

Modern authoring tools do make it easier to create simulation-oriented courses in which learners are forced to practice the skills they are learning, but creating such courses is still hard even with modern tools. These same tools make it even easier to grind out fancy-looking low-impact narrated-PowerPoint-style courses too. It's not fair to blame the tools for the predominance of these low-impact lecture-oriented courses--they have always been easier to create than courses that ask learners to practice--but my point is that the availability of better tools has not had as much impact on improving the quality of courses as one might have hoped.

Also, the low expectations of some managers, clients, and auditors is just as much a problem today as it was 5 years ago. 

Looked at another way, though, this state of affairs means that you can probably distinguish yourself, even as a new person in the industry, by focusing on creating courses that drive learner practice. Doing so successfully will make your work more effective than most of your competition's, and will also make it look and feel different from the same old info-oriented e-learning that most of your competition probably creates. 

The hard part in the beginning, though, no matter what kind of training you create, is to find clients willing to hire you. If you have graphic design clients that also have training needs, those clients would be a great way to get your feet wet as an instructional designer.

Good luck!