Practice suggestions

Sep 06, 2013

Hello all,

So, I am super in to the e-learning design thing we have going on here these days. I have been doing print and media design for some time now but recently have found a spot in this sort of market. And boy, do I have a lot to learn. 

Does anyone have suggestions how to practice creating both really engaging courses as well as great layouts? Such as complete given tasks and testing ones skills? Or, linking up pro bono with an organization for awhile to take on additional projects?

Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated! 

3 Replies
Tim Slade

Hi Lenae,

If you're simply trying to get some practice on overall graphical design/interaction design, I'd suggest try making some templates. These are fun, because they not only challenge your design skills, but also you get a chance to learn what the software can do AND generate some things that you can put into your portfolio as well.

I did this for a while, and I would post my them here on the Articulate Forum (examples here, here, here and here) and on my blog for people to check out and download. This actually helped me gain a lot of great freelance work.

Best of luck!


Nicole Legault

Hey Lenae!

I really liked reading your comment because (I think) I can definitely relate to how you feel! I was into web and graphic design before I really found out about e-learning... I remember how excited I was to "discover" the field of e-learning, a still relatively unknown industry for a lot of people, and to find out about all these new possibilities, projects, and things for me to learn. I was like, YES! I found my field!! So, if you feel the same way, I say Welcome!! lol If anything, there is definitely  room in the industry for more skilled graphic designers, and I think the people with great visual skills have a competitive edge. 

That being said... a great-looking course won't teach anyone a thing if it's not based on some solid instructional design principles. If you're looking to design GREAT courses, that not only look good but have great content, and you want to be able to complete your own e-learning projects from needs analysis through to post-course evaluation (and do things like complete detailed task analysis, audience analysis, write great quiz questions and meaningful feedback) then you should REALLY look into some Instructional Design certification. Instructional Designer for New Designers was life- and career-changing for me. It's just a short, 3-day workshops on Instructional Design that teaches practical basics, teach you how to do a training needs, how to develop your content, evaluate your course, etc. There's also workshops on Training needs analysis, training managers, etc.  

If you don't take an ID workshop, you should at least start researching online to get a solid grasp on task analysis, audience analysis, story-boarding, etc. Using the internet, (blogs, YouTube, etc) find out as much as you can about technical writing, instructional design, Learning Management Systems (LMS), SCORM, ADDIE, and e-learning development! There's lots to know, it takes years to accumulate the knowledge, but you need to start somewhere and get a grasp of some basic terms and industry concepts. I'd also take a look at Tom Kuhlmann's series of posts on his blog about Instructional Design and Building Scenarios for e-Learning.

You should definitely build yourself a portfolio.. that's my number one biggest piece of advice. A few times I've had to look for potential e-learning candidates for projects, and if there's no portfolio, they immediately go on the No list. Portfolios automatically go on the Maybe list. (Read this post from Tom: Here's Why you Need a Portfolio) If you need sample projects for your portfolio, download some free, informative PDFs from government websites and use the information in the PDF as your base to create a (short) e-learning course. Don't overwhelm yourself at first, keep it simple and do-able. You can get tons of ideas for projects from the Articulate Showcase and on E-Learning Examples.

To summarize, my top suggestions:

  • Research and find out as much as you can about everything related to instructional design and e-learning! The internet is your friend!
  • Take some Instructional Design courses to get a solid foundation (Helpful Post: What Degree/Certificate Programs exist?)
  • Build some sample courses in Articulate Storyline
  • Create a portfolio for those sample courses (Heplful post: Creating an e-Portfolio)

Hope this helps get you on your way!! Good luck Lenae!! If you have any additional questions, let me know =) 

Daniel Brigham

Hi, Lenae, and again welcome:

Offering your services to an organization you value (and that actually wants your services) is a good thing. It will be great experience in dealing with clients (and in my neck of the woods, elearning freelancing, that's just as important as any skill I bring to the table).

I actually didn't go that route when honing my skills, however. I like to build mini-courses on topics that I know a lot about: effective writing, writing for voiceover, elearning freelancing. I share them with this community, and they give me constructive criticism. If you are interested in dealing with clients and freelancing, you might check out the Freelance Heroes thread. If you want some ideas on portfolios and blogs and other marketing stuff, feel free to check out my site.

My biggest piece of advice would be to practice and not get discouraged. There's a ton to learn. The first five courses I built were an exercise in humility. Best of luck, Daniel

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