Question on boosting up my portfolio

Hi everybody. I first wanted to introduce myself. My name is Joe and I'm new to the forum here. This is probably the best forum I've seen so far related to instructional design. I love what you have going here.

I have been in the elearning field for about 18 years. Like a lot of you, I sort of stumbled into elearning. However, I came in through the technology side of it. I am the guy that takes over after the storyboard is already completed by the instructional designer and brings it alive through multimedia, authoring, video, audio, graphics and print.

After so many years of doing this, I now want to make the transition into the needs/gap analysis, storyboard writing and laying it out. I feel I have enough experience to know what a good storyboard vs. a bad one looks like. I have plenty of technology experience but little in terms of implementing adult learning principles and the planning end of it.

I am currently working on portolio to target instructional design jobs. As you can imagine I have tons of courses that I've programmed, but none of them that I've planned, wrote or scripted. So my strategy is to make my own courses. I want to make case studies that detail what the project goal was, the learning gap and the reasons behind my design decisions. So my first thing on the agenda is to find someone that would be willing to sit down with me so I could practice doing a gap analysis with them.

So I'm trying to brainstorm ways in which I can find people that I can interview and offer value back to them by developing a course for them. That way, I can show that I'm capable of the planning side of it.

So my question is, if you were me, who would you approach to perform a gap analysis for and how would you approach them?

I was thinking maybe some non-profits.

Also, what topic ideas for courses would you suggest that you think that would best highlight my planning skill on my portfolio? I'm trying to brainstorm ideas. Thanks.

8 Replies
Tim Slade

Wow Joe! It sounds like you've really thought this out! I don't think I'll be able to completely answer your question, as my experience sides more with the e-learning development as we, and less instructional design. However, the few times I've had to demonstrate instructional design without having a real client, I've pulled a random, everyday topic, and used that to demonstrate that skill set. For example, evaluate the risks of indentity theft and build your stuff from what you research. Otherwise, I think you'd have luck with non-profits.

I'm sure you'll get plenty other responses here. By the way, welcome to the community and thanks for all of the kind words about it!

Jackie Van Nice

Hi Joe!

Yes, the nonprofit idea is very good. I've approached local nonprofits and I've approached large international nonprofits, and so far not one of them has turned me down when I offer pro bono e-learning design and development services.

Your level of success in working with them will probably depend on where they are in their training capabilities, their staffing levels, and their general level of organization (as opposed to chaos), but once you find the right fit it's a great way to expand your skills and experience.

Best of luck to you!

Ashley Chiasson

Joe - It sounds like you have a huge leg up in the industry (with 18 years of experience!). Honestly, folks seem to veer toward portfolio pieces (in my opinion) that look nice - people like, I think you're already in good shape in terms of portfolios.

In terms of adult (and/or just) learning principles, there are a few books I would recommend:

- Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide

- Design for How People Learn

I think non-profits are a great place to start, but another option may be to approach local small businesses and offer your services. When I was considering adding to my portfolio, I had consulted several small organizations who had training needs to see if they wanted to take me up on pro bono work in exchange for portfolio pieces, and the idea was well received.

Cathy Moore

Joe, I think your idea to get experience on the needs analysis side is a great one. I agree that non-profits could be a good market, especially ones that take a somewhat businesslike approach.

One non-profit that likes to do analysis and is concerned with measurable performance is Give Directly.

You might also check the UN Online Volunteers website to see if there are any non-profits with an already identified training need. This might give you the chance to practice the very useful art of managing a client who has already decided that they need a specific course, and to talk them into letting you confirm through analysis that a course really is the right solution.

Joe Kawalski

Wow...Thanks for the great input. I learned a lot and received some ideas from you all and that started to get the wheels turning.

@Tim...very good idea. I was brainstorming topics that I could turn into an elearning course and different ways to find those topics. I also got to thinking that about some of the books I've read. I love reading books about technology, business, self-improvement and have a google doc of notes I've written for each one. That might also be a possibility.

@Jackie...I found your message very encouraging that you've had success in nonprofit work and you brought up some great points that I never thought of about the structure of the prospective organization that I might be working with. I will keep these things in mind.

@Ashley - Yes, I do feel like I have a good jump on the technology end and my experiences. So as you can see, this just seems to be a natural progression in my career. I'm also the type of guy that loves learning a variety of things as opposed to the one-trick pony. Thanks for the book suggestions.

@Cathy - Wow Cathy, great resources! I am checking out that onlinevolunteering site right now and I see they do have opportunites there. Great find!

Thanks everyone.

Bryan Jones


You should consider LINGOs as well. They're a great organization. They pair eLearning/ID volunteers with NGOs and non-profits. A lot of generous Articulate community members have created showcase-worthy courses for them over the past few years. If you need an introduction, feel free to send me a Private Message and I'm happy to make the intro.



Matthew Guyan

Welcome Joe!

Everyone above has given some great suggestions and they are also talented designers! If I could also add that David Anderson runs a weekly eLearning challenge which I've found to be a really good way to develop your design skills (it can be found in the Community Blogs section). You might even be able to use your entries as part of your portfolio too.



Darren D

+1 On Ashley's book choices. I just read "Design for how People Learn" and it was well worth the time invested.

Seems like you've got a great foundation, do you have a website/blog that you can display some of your content on? That seems to help put your name out there.

Since you've read up a lot in your past role on technology, you might want to add some book reviews on the potential blog site as well if you choose to go that route. It demonstrates that you have insight into the field. Some of my best learning experiences and tips came from browsing other people's blogs (including many from users on this site).

Best of luck!