In my experience, few people working in the e-learning world actively sought it out as their first career. While on other paths, perhaps training or Marketing, they find they need to try out e-learning tools – and they fall in love! If the same has happened to you, how do you break into the e-learning world?
The tips in Part 1 and Part 2 of this article aren’t in a “perfect” order. That’s because there isn’t one! We all gain an interest in e-learning due to our own unique exposure to it in the first place. Wherever you first developed your joy in e-learning would be a good line of interest to pursue. Otherwise, I do believe this order will be the easiest for someone just starting out.
My final suggestion is that you overlap the steps to reinforce each other whenever possible. You can do this!
1. Build your knowledge
While it never sounds fun, theory is a fundamental part of doing quality work in the e-learning world. There is a reason educators study their craft, and that is to learn and try out best practices in a safe environment guided by experienced instructors. Community colleges and online courses frequently offer courses on pedagogy and adult learning principles. They will also talk about the methodologies that are standard in the e-learning world like A.D.D.I.E. (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate).
While there is no right way to teach – and good courses make sure to embrace many different learning styles and potential class environments – there are certainly more and less effective practices. This is very true when building and facilitating e-learning courses, since common ground on terminology and process allows collaboration with other professionals. This grows in importance when collaborating virtually. There are also a huge variety of technical skills that come into play with e-learning. So, it can be helpful to have professional guidance as you start to explore them.
Even if you have trainer experience, when you start to dive into e-learning theory, you’ll realize just how much you don’t know! Don’t worry – strong certificate programs will prepare you for all sorts of scenarios. An online option that I did myself on e-learning is offered online via the University of Toronto. If you need more online options or local schools in your community, feel free to contact me for advice!
2. Develop your skills
While the best courses will give you plenty of opportunity to hone your craft (especially if they practice as they preach), the improvisation required in teaching plus the technical challenges of e-learning mean we all need ongoing practice.
Take advantage of access to any software purchased by your current company. Try out small projects in which you focus on different skills. For example, if your company is subscribed to the screen recording and editing software Camtasia, try creating 2 minute software demos where you guide a learner.
If you don’t have this sort of access, the school where you’ve been taking e-learning courses may have software available on library computers, and almost certainly provides discounts on popular products like Articulate Storyline.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the free trial periods on products to decide whether they’re worth the price. You can even learn enough during trials to include the software on your resume. The 30 day period for Adobe Captivate can provide you with plenty of time to gain confidence with the software, especially if you follow along with the exercises in a Lynda.com course or Youtube video tutorials.
Try to make your practice projects relevant to the type of work you want to do. That ways you can add them to your portfolio when submitting proposals to potential clients, or applying for a job in the e-learning world.