4 Reasons You Don’t Have an E-Learning Portfolio

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I find it surprising when an e-learning developer tells me they don’t have a portfolio. In certain industries, such as web design and graphic design, you simply can’t be viewed as a legitimate business person without a portfolio; I believe e-learning is also one of those industries. When I get asked for advice on hiring a great e-learning developer, my top recommendation is always: Don’t hire someone without seeing their portfolio.

If you don’t have an e-learning portfolio, you probably have a reason. But if your reason is listed below, you should reconsider and remember that you’re working in a competitive, global market, where anyone can create a free blog or portfolio website in a few minutes.

You’re Too Busy

The “I’m too busy” excuse is the most common and most overused. You’re too busy to put time into creating something that could well hold the key to your success and potential future earnings? Your call.

Why this isn’t a good reason: Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. Bottom line is: if something is truly a priority, you will make time for it. If it’s not a priority, you won’t. Potential clients don’t care about how busy your life is; they care about hiring a candidate who can show work that is up to their standard and get the job done.

You Don’t Have Any Experience

Maybe you do have the time but you’re new to the e-learning industry and have zero real-world experience or projects.

Why this isn’t a good reason: First of all, don’t advertise this fact to potential clients. For many people “zero experience” equates to “lacking skills and credibility.”. If you don’t have any real world projects to add to your portfolio, don’t despair: create your own samples. Choose a topic that you’re a passionate about and develop a mini e-learning module. Which leads me to my next point…

You Don’t Own E-Learning Software

I’ve heard many people say the following: “I can’t create samples for a portfolio because I don’t own any e-learning authoring tools.”

Why this isn’t a good reason: Just about every authoring tool out there offers a free, fully-functional 30-day trial. Take advantage of that and use your 30-days wisely! Create a few mini 5-slide e-learning courses that showcase your skills. Another option: Powerpoint! So many people have access to this but don’t take advantage of it to create awesome e-learning; you can even hyperlink slides to create branched scenarios and create engaging samples.

You Signed an NDA

This is one I’ve heard quite a few times: “I’ve done a lot of awesome things, but I can’t share any of it because I signed a nondisclosure agreement.”

Why this isn’t a good reason: Anyone can say they’ve created great e-learning, but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. Of course you should never share confidential materials you’ve signed an NDA for, but there’s no harm in asking a client beforehand if you can use a sample of work, stripped of original content and identifying information, for your portfolio. This is a standard procedure in other industries, and often the request is included directly in the contract of work. If you can’t use any of the work you’ve signed an NDA for, don’t panic: you can still create your own samples!

The e-learning industry is getting more competitive by the week and potential clients want a candidate who can demonstrate their skills and abilities, instead of taking a gamble on someone with nothing to show. Don’t give potential clients or employers a reason to pass you over: create that portfolio today!

I’d love to hear your thoughts: are these legitimate reasons for not having a portfolio? Are there other reasons that I left out? Leave a comment below and let me know. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, as well in the E-Learning Heroes community, for all the latest.

E-Learning Examples: Branched Soft-Skills Scenarios

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I recently presented a session for the E-Learning Guild’s Annual Online Learning Forum 2015 about how to create engaging scenarios for e-learning. (The session was recorded and Guild members can view the recording here.).  In preparation for that session I built a branched e-learning scenario, using Articulate Storyline 2, called The Job Interview.

What do I mean by branched scenario? It means that the learner can follow different paths (or different “branches”) through the course, depending how interview questions are answered. For example: if you select the worst choice for the first question in the scenario and arrive to the interview 30 minutes late, that path, or branch, ends right there. Your interview is cancelled and they’ve moved on to the next candidate.

However, choose the option that has you arriving 5 minutes early and you score bonus points. The order and the amount of questions in the interview, as well as the amount of points scored (indicated through the progress meter), is totally dependent on the choices made by the learner. 

Try it out yourself and let me know in the comments, how many tries did it take you to land your dream gig?

The Job Interview | View Demo

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Want to build a scenario of your own? You may be interested in some of these articles I’ve written about creating scenarios for e-learning:

Want to see another example of a branched e-learning scenario? Tim Slade created a great example on his blog for Call Centre Training.  He’s also written a blog post about it and made the source file available for download. Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid E-Learning Blog also has a whole section on building scenario-based e-learning, chock-full of awesome tips and tricks, so check it out!

Got tips or tricks of your own about building scenarios? Have you seen other scenario based e-learning examples that you’d like to share? If so — leave a comment; I love to hear your feedback. And since you’ve made it to the end of this article, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

Why You Need a Professional Headshot

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As some of you may have noticed on Twitter or LinkedIn, I’ve recently updated my profile photo across all my social media sites; I finally bit the bullet and did a professional photo shoot.

I decided it was beyond time for me to do this because a) I want to portray a polished and professional image, and b) I disliked the only professional headshot I had because it was taken right after I landed from 10 hours of travel. In addition to that, I now wear my hair curly and people literally did not recognize me at events with the old photo and hairstyle. (Tip to others: have you recently made a big change in your appearance? If so, consider updating your photos.).

Long story short: I needed some new professional photos, stat. My sister recommended her co-worker photographer Misha Lytvynyuk and I was not disappointed. In fact, the hardest part was choosing just one photo! These were my top 3 contenders:

collageHere are 3 important reasons you should also consider professional headshots:

Shows You Care

Someone who devotes time and money to professional photos shows they care about their image and want to make an investment in it. That says a lot about a person and their commitment to their career.

Looks Matter

Whether we like to admit it or not, people are judged based on their profile photos. Use a photo that makes you look your very best and remember that this image represents your brand and personality to the world.

It’s What Professionals Do

Have you noticed that almost all successful people have a great-quality, professional profile photo? Put yourself amongst that crowd; a great photo make you look like a polished and organized professional.

Do you have any tips of your own about professional headshots? Any thoughts or feedback about my article? Let me know in the comments below!

Quick Tip For Organizing Your E-Learning Samples

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Every week I create new e-learning demos in my role as Community Manager for the software company Articulate. When I help out community members in the E-Learning Heroes forums I often like to share some of these demos to help illustrate a point or demonstrate a type of interaction. Some of these demos were created over a year ago, and I noticed I had a problem: I didn’t have an easy place to quickly access all of my published samples.

I do have an online portfolio, but it desperately needs updating, and typically a portfolio only contains the crème de la crème of e-learning work, not all of the short little samples and demos.  Much of the e-learning content I create isn’t exactly “portfolio-worthy”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable example that can’t be helpful for others.

I do also have a “Projects” folder where I keep all the project and published output files for my demos. But what I didn’t have is what I would a “visual repertoire” of my courses where I could easily see them all and access one by clicking on a quick link.

I recently solved this problem quite easily using a simple table in a Google Docs file. Here’s a sample of what it looks like:

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Now my e-learning demos are all organized in one neat table with titles, thumbnail image, description, and link to published output. This has saved me a lot of time of searching through folders looking for the right link. The fact that it’s a Google Doc means it’s always available to me wherever I am, as long as I have internet access. Just wanted to share this quick tip with you! Now if I could just get around to updating my portfolio…

Do you have tips of your own for keeping all of your demo files and e-learning samples organized and easily accessible? If you do, leave a comment below — I’d love to hear your tips or tricks. And since you got all the way to the end of this article, you might want to subscribe to my blog!

Get Inspired With These E-Learning Samples and Examples

As a lover and designer of e-learning, I’m always on the lookout for cool samples and demo courses that I can use as inspiration; when I’m browsing the web I keep my eyes peeled for fun and engaging ways of presenting content, great uses of imagery and cool examples of typography. If I find a great design that I love, I take a screenshot and save it to an “Inspiration” folder. I also have a collection of sites bookmarked that I’ll visit regularly when I have design block and need to get my creative juices flowing. To that end, I thought I’d share a couple of recent e-learning examples created by me that might help you kick-start the design for your own next project. Click on the title of the demo to view the published output.

Demo #1: Weekly Challenge Compilation Course

This is a course that I created for DemoFest at Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando in March 2014 that compiles some of the awesome submissions we’ve received for the Weekly E-Learning Challenge. What is the Weekly E-Learning Challenge, you ask? It’s a fun, informal e-learning challenge hosted by Articulate in the E-Learning Heroes Community. Every week a new topic is presented (for example: drag-and-drops, virtual tours, results slides) and participants create samples and demos related to that topic in whatever authoring tool they have access to (Storyline, Powerpoint, etc.) and share them with the community. It’s become really popular over the last year and the submissions are super creative and impressive.

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This sample course was developed in Articulate Storyline with the goal being to highlight some of the cool submissions that have been created by Articulate community members for the Weekly Challenge.  I “chunked” the submissions into two sections: by Weekly Challenge and by Community Member. For the Community Member section I was going for an effect that simulated a “network” of connected community members; I used a drag and drop interaction to make it more dynamic. After sharing this demo with the Articulate community several people mentioned that they loved the drag-and-drop interactivity in this demo. Since I aim to please, I went ahead and created a Storyline template that you can download here (you might also be interested in this video tutorial with instructions for using the template).

Demo #2: Herbs & Spices Course

One of the ways I know I’m passionate about my line of work is that I often enjoy creating sample e-learning courses just “for fun”, as was the case with this Herbs & Spices course. I have recently discovered a passion for cooking and as a result, I’ve started experimenting with different herbs and spices. I wanted to learn more about them, and thought to myself “What better way is there to learn something than by creating an e-learning course about it!?” That is how this sample course came to be; I did some online research and investigated the most common herbs and spices, tips on storing them effectively, and which dishes to pair them with. I compiled everything I learned into this mini e-learning course.

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I selected a soft green color scheme for this course because I felt green just worked with the subject matter (herbs!) and the wooden texture background represents a cutting board. I used a casual-looking character as my course guide;  he introduces the course and provides the navigation instructions. I like characters because I feel they give your course personality and a human touch. You’ll notice he’s standing in a kitchen: I also love using contextual background images! The image has been faded so it’s noticeable but not distracting.

The final quiz becomes unlocked once you’ve visited both sections of the course (herbs and spices) and all three question slides were custom-built using Freeform slides with Storyline. Don’t forget to check out the three links at the top of the player to see more content!

Demo #3: Payroll 101

Here’s a sample course I built as part of a New Employee Orientation series using Articulate Studio ’13. I’d like to think this goes to show you can build a great-looking course whether you’re using Storyline, or even if you’re building in a “basic” tool like Powerpoint (as is the case for several of the slides in this example.)  This course also features one of my go-to design methods: using lightly blurred background images to set the context. In this case I used the outside shot of a building and the interior shot of an office. This e-learning demo also uses a character to give a personal touch and pop of color.

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I hope you’ve had fun exploring these three e-learning sample courses; sometimes seeing an example is exactly what we need to kick-start our own creative engine. Keep in mind that building your own samples and examples is a great way to sharpen your skills and add content to your portfolio. And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

Making the Most of Industry Conferences: My Experience at LSCon 2014

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I’ve recently returned from attending my second major industry event, the Learning Solutions Conference (LSCon 2014) in sunny Orlando, Florida. As my regular readers know, I use my blog to chronicle my learning experiences, so I wanted to share my experience at LSCon 2014 here. Conferences and industry events can either be a big giant bore, or a great opportunity to make connections and learn new information. It’s up to you to decide which approach you want to take; I’ve taken the latter approach for both conferences I’ve attended, and they’ve both been great learning experiences for me.

Learning Solutions is an annual event that showcases new technologies for e-learning  delivery. It was an exciting and busy week; I got to participate in the conference in more ways than one. For starters, I manned (womaned?) the Articulate booth at the expo for the full two days alongside some of my awesome Articulate co-workers. I  also had the opportunity to present a 45-minute stage session (Use Articulate Storyline to Create Engaging Scenarios for E-Learning) which was very well attended. Last but not least, I was a participant in the SolutionsFest e-learning demo exhibition where I shared an e-learning project I created featuring the Articulate Weekly E-Learning Challenge. On top of that, I got to meet so many familiar faces that I’ve been chatting with through social media for years (I’m talking to you Patti Shank, Tim Slade and Mark Sheppard!). Needless to say, it was a busy and engaging event for me!

I am writing about this conference because despite the fact that industry-type events can get a reputation for being dry or boring, I really think that these types of conferences are a great life experience for young professionals like me who have so much to see and learn. There are so many new learning experiences involved in attending an event or conference: the travel, the professional development, the socializing.

Here’s a few simple tips, based on my personal experience, that work well for making the most of your next event.

Participate In The Event

The best way to get the most out of a conference is to participate in it. For LSCon 2014 I was lucky because, since I work for Articulate  (who was a sponsor of the event) I got to attend on their behalf and I got to present on the stage on their behalf. However, in the past, I’ve also submitted my own ideas for sessions and I have been accepted and presented as an individual. One of the benefits of participating in the event is the often speakers and presenters get to attend the conference for free or at a discounted rate. Some of the big events can be quite pricey, and when you factor in travel and hotel costs, being accepted as a speaker can determine whether or not some individuals attend the conference at all.

This has been the case for me in the past. In 2012, I was encouraged by one of my mentors to attend DevLearn, and I was eager to attend my first conference and find out what it was all about. My boss at the time told me I could go to the conference, but only if I was accepted as a speaker and my Registration costs were covered. So I submitted three session ideas and one of them was selected (Training Needs Analysis: Would You Like Fries With That Training?). I was SO excited when I got the e-mail. That’s how I got to attend my first ever conference, DevLearn 2012 in Las Vegas. So if you can find any way to participate, whether it’s presenting a session, sharing a case study or example, or even co-presenting with someone else, try to do it. Presenting is also a nice way to gain exposure, gain credibility and expertise, and get practice with public speaking.

Network and Meet New People

I think a lot of people make the mistake of milling around the conference alone, or sticking with their friends or co-workers, and not taking the opportunity to make new connections. Sure you might feel a bit awkward the first few times you introduce yourself to someone brand new, but others won’t think you’re weird: this is a normal part of being at a conference! Most people attending these events, in my experience, will have their business cards at the ready and will be happy to share what they do for a living and why they are attending.

If you’re a bit shy or nervous about meeting new people, here’s a good way to help break the ice: use social media to your advantage!  It’s easy to use social media to get to know people in your industry ahead of time through channels such as Twitter, the Articulate community forums, or LinkedIn. This way, when it comes time to meet some of these connections at an event, it’s less intimidating because you already feel like you know them. When I attended DevLearn, I used Twitter and the conference hash-tag to meet up with a group of other attendees who were there solo and we all went out for dinner and drinks as a group and had a great time!

Find Out What’s New

An industry conference or event is a great learning opportunity and a chance to get some insights into what the next “big thing” in your industry will be all about. Take this as a chance to identify new trends and technologies that are relevant to you and your job, and that you should know about. Be pro-active about your learning and career development; before you attend, look over the schedule and identify the sessions that you’re interested in attending.

Here’s a tip: try going to sessions that you don’t know anything about or that will teach you something brand new, instead of sticking to what’s familiar and what you’re already comfortable with. Challenge yourself!

Those are three tips I’ve learned through personal experience for making the most of business conferences, trade shows and industry events. One last thing: I really think having a positive approach and optimistic outlook is a key part of the equation. We all know about self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe you will learn new things and make new connections, chances are, you probably will!

Do you have any tips or experiences about a conference or event you’ve attended that you’d be willing to share? If so, please leave a comment! And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this article, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

Good Reads: Post-Course Evaluations and E-Learning Analysis

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One of the great things about being a Community Manager is that I get to write new content related to e-learning, instructional design, and training on almost on a daily basis. Some of the articles that I’ve written for my Articulate blog have been quite popular, so I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my most well-received articles here as well. 

Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

If you’ve been in the training industry for awhile you may have heard that post-course evaluations are sometimes referred to as “smile sheets”. This is because as long as the evaluations receive mostly positive ratings, or “smiley faces”, we tend to classify the training as a success. However, the post-course evaluations are almost never a true reflection of how successful the training/e-learning actually really was and what it’s impact is on the bottom line. This article looks at some of the difficult questions you need to ask to help truly measure the success of your e-learning with your post-course evaluations.

Full article: Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

If you have developed a post-course evaluation before you know that it can sometimes be a challenge to come up with meaningful questions for your learners. To help you out with that, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of over 60 questions that can be included in a post-course evaluation. Of course it’s important to refer to the previous article, and keep in mind that these evaluations don’t mean the training had a successful impact on the business. You can select the questions that apply to your specific project from this detailed list.

Full article: Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Here is a look at three of the most common types of analysis carried out by e-learning developers and instructional designers. These are the needs analysis, audience analysis, and task analysis. The needs analysis is done up-front to determine is the training is actually necessary or not. An audience analysis is then developed to identify the learners, their demographics and their specific needs.  Finally, a task analysis breaks down the specific tasks that the learners need to apply in order to improve their knowledge and skills on the job. Having a solid grasp on these three types of e-learning analysis will go a long way in ensuring your projects are successful!

Full article: The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

Have you ever been asked to complete a training needs analysis to identify if an e-learning or training project is really necessary? If so, you’ll know that doing this can be a tricky endeavour, and it can be hard to differentiate between the training that is wanted and the training that is really needed. If this is a task that you’ve been faced with before, you might be interested in reading about a simple process you can follow to identify if training is really needed. It is a straightforward approach that involves comparing your employees current and expected performance, to identify if there is a performance gap that can be solved with a training solution.

Full article: Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

I’m hoping that you can glean some meaningful insights from these articles that I’ve written. If there’s something else you’d like me to share or write about, please leave me a comment and let me know. And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!